October 17, 2018

fracking and juniper trees and dreams and history and colonialism and horror and harvest moons

By Erin Gould

Did you know that the roots of the juniperus monosperma (one-seed juniper) species of juniper trees, one of the many, have been found to reach 200 ft below ground, making it the plant with the second deepest known root systems on earth? Isn’t that amazing?

Did you know the average fracked well is 8,000 feet deep?

Did you know that there are 40,000 wells in Northern New Mexico?

While we camped at Angel Peak in the Greater Chaco Region of Northwest New Mexico, I slept under the limbs of a juniper tree on the top of a hill. Just on the other side of this hill was a fracking well. The sounds of it, mixed with the whisper of swaying juniper branches, slept with me every night. I cried every day when I told that juniper tree that I was sorry.

I am so sorry.

Junipers grow very slowly. A five foot tall tree could easily be 50 years old. The average juniper lives to be 350-700 years old. The oldest known juniper tree, a Western Juniper, lived to see 2,675 years.

How long has my friend lived on that hill? How much has changed there? What did that hill look like when New Mexico wasn’t a state? Before European colonialism reach it? Did they know Juan de OƱate?

Gas was found in Seven Lakes, New Mexico, about 20 miles south of Chaco Canyon, in 1911. This tree was already huge by then. How old do you think that well is?

Oil and gas companies don’t have to disclose the chemicals they inject deep into the earth.

Did you know that two thirds of a juniper tree’s mass is underground? How sensitive do you think those roots are? Did this tree feel it when that well over the hill was being drilled? Does it feel the roar of the compressors?

During a discussion about self care, Asha had us root our feet into the dirt and asked us to imagine being a tree. I did this and could not stop crying. After this exercise, I hiked back to the tree under which I slept and explained why I had thrown myself into its branches and was leaking salty tears into its leaves. I told this tree about my horror, my disgust, my grief over the pain and suffering caused by human greed on this place, on the people who live here, on cultural traditions already ravaged by hundreds of years of racism, on the trees. I cried in the arms of a friend and felt better/ cared for/ loved.

I read that the Hopi believe that juniper trees carry the spirit of the caretaker of the earth.

How many collective years do you think the juniper trees in Northern New Mexico carry between them?

I am so sorry.

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