Longfellow Farmer on Patrol suggests a police officer, in the male role of law enforcer. The Matron of the River Gorge, on the other hand, suggest a mother figure who watches over and takes care of others. Both men and women play these roles. I use both titles to describe myself as I walk along the river gorge.
This morning as I walked the river gorge, I noticed tents set up along the most beautiful bank of the river, the part that offers a great view up and down the river. Marsh grass grows along it, and there is obvious signs of beavers’ work, gnawed and felled trees. Somewhere, no doubt, is a beaver dam/house. What disturbed me on my walk was the plastic bags and bottles strewn about by the campers. The obvious disregard for the beauty of the environment and the assumption that this was a place where these people could homestead here and trash it bothered me greatly. As the self-appointed patrol officer and matron of the gorge, I said out loud to the two tents which I assumed held sleeping revelers: “Hello, anybody here? ” No answer so I asked again. Finally someone in a very quiet voice answered me. I then said that they were causing a lot of pollution here in this spot. I informed them that this garbage would end up in the river and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. I then issued a threat: I said that if it wasn’t cleaned up by tomorrow when I returned, I would report them for camping in a national park where it is prohibited to camp.
The river gorge is part of the national park system. It is the only true gorge along the river. Over and over again in the spring, I have seen people leave their garbage, including human waste in seeming ignorance of the ramifications of their actions. This lack of self-discipline is indicative of the apathy and lack of global awareness that people in this country have come to represent around the world. As a patrol officer, I remind them of the law. As a matron, I look out for the gorge and its needs. We need beauty in our lives. Without beauty and places of beauty we can physically visit, we humans lose our sense of humanity. Beauty keeps us connected to higher values. It encourages love and a vision of ourselves in our world.