An hour before the yellow wrecking excavator grabbed the roof of Colleen's Cottage and bit it off, I ducked under a board nailed across the back door and walked in to take a look and say goodbye to a good neighbor. LEAD Agency's parking lot backed up to that door. We shared shade trees along our fence line.
What I found inside and saved were images of the artist's touch on the walls and sitting on counters and framing the windows and doors. A gentle place it was and how many beautiful and stylish clothes and beautiful accessories were found there, season after season. People who shopped there left with a new look and knowing no one in town would have anything like it. It was a magical place in so many ways. The Cottage had closed and reopened as Colleen's at the Coleman, with a most desirable address but still with the flair and special touches one would have found at the Cottage.
Hayden is nine years old and a typical boy, watched the building be demolished for hours making sure his grandmother Mary Daugherty knew when spectacular moments occurred, so we can attest there were witnesses to the event.
Gladys Keeton, our renown elder poet wrote me a letter this week. How special is that? We don't write letters anymore, sometimes we send a card, much like the ones I made for Colleen with the photos of the images from her cottage, but to receive a handwritten letter has become rare and in my case treasured occurrence. Photos are special, rather a captured blink and June Taylor has brought a packet each time she has come showing the work the Boys and Girls Clubbers had done the previous week in the garden.
With Henry David Thoreau's 200th birthday, the author of my steady friend of a book, Walden, a book with no illustrations, no photos, but with words he illustrated the world he encountered during his years living near the pond in his homemade house in the woods. I live in the homemade house my dad and I built on the plains but now surrounded by planted and volunteer trees. Thoreau lived only to be 44 and died with tuberculosis, as my dad did when he was twice that age. And one of the ponds on this land became part of an adventure last weekend.
A Cherokee potter came out to dig some clay. We struggled to make a path across the pond dam which had grown up with tall weeds, sumac, poke and blackberry briars because the beavers had extended the dam creating a moat of sorts making the crossing with a brush hog impossible for the last 2 years. Since the rains had let up, she was determined to dig some clay to make a few pots to take to a show in Santa Fe. It was hot, much like it has been all week. We made it across the dam by cutting a path by hand and to the clay bank and we both dug. I paused to take her picture, only later reflecting on our day when reviewing the photos. Crystal Hanna is her name, but there in the photo, it appeared she had worn her pearls to dig the clay. How would have Thoreau written about that?
Lots of people get published and it happened to me this week in a journal, Environmental Health Perspectives with an article about maternal cord blood manganese. The author Birgit Claus Henn actually added me as an honorary author to the list of contributors. The article is important to us here because it demonstrates the importance of the real cleanup we need to occur at this superfund site. EPA lists lead as the "contaminant of concern" but there are other elements in the mine waste and found in our local dust. Her article is about the manganese found in MATCH Project mothers and the cord blood of their children.
We know that lead can affect the way children can learn, but so can manganese, as her research proves. Our children need to be protected and her research indicates the best way we do that is to protect our mothers who are exposed, too. And to do that we need to push for real and protective cleanup of this site and this site is big. According to the law, it is as big as "where the contaminant comes to reside." In some cases you follow the money in this case, you follow the contaminant. That is why every residence in Ottawa County is eligible to have their yards checked for lead and have it removed if the levels are high and replaced with clean soil.
But as we learn more about lead and how little it takes to damage our children, action levels on cleanup are changing in the country. We are still using an old standard for cleanup and that will remain what happens unless people demand a change. There are some great chances to learn more and ask questions at the Ottawa County Fair and at the 19th National Tar Creek Conference September 26 and 27 at NEO in the student union.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim
— Rebecca Jim is executive director of the LEAD Agency