The Art of the Possible: Leave Chilkoot Be

 Last night as I was sliding along the snowy roads to the Haines Borough Assembly meeting, a commentator on the radio, speaking of some other bigger deal far away-- not the hydro-electric dam proposed for a little lake in the upper Chilkoot valley-- quoted Bismarck, "Politics is the art of the possible." Since I have just completed studies for my MFA in creative writing my mind leapt right to Emily Dickinson’s poem,  "I Dwell in Possibility":

I dwell in Possibility-- A fairer House than Prose-- More numerous of Windows-- Superior--for Doors--

Of Chambers as the Cedars-- Impregnable of Eye-- And for an Everlasting Roof -The Gambrels of the Sky--

Of Visitors--the fairest-- For Occupation--This-- The spreading wide my narrow Hands to gather Paradise—

Is it a coincidence that the meeting was to discuss an industrial project proposed for a wilderness paradise? Maybe. What happened was that the mayor held the assembly to strict procedural rules. That meant instead of discussing a resolution supporting a study for a dam that doesn’t sound like a very good idea, and that doesn’t have, as far as I can tell, a whole lot of benefit to our community (rates won’t drop) they struggled over the wording of amendments to the motion that took the teeth out of their support, without really addressing the heart of the matter. That was the downside. The upside was that it kept the interaction civil, even friendly. The whole tone of what could have been a contentious meeting was somehow gentle, less charged, because of the enforcement of the rules of order. But when I went to bed last night, all I could think of were the possibilities. I make a habit of seeing the good. It is the only way I can get up in the morning. The good here is that we have an assembly who can speak and conduct business without rancor. And we have a new study in the works, which surely will confirm what we already know. That there are lots of great waterfalls in our area that can run hydro-electric plants, and only one Chilkoot Valley, and that it belongs not to power companies (even very nice power companies like AP&T) but to the salmon and bears and to the people who depend on them for food and livelihoods in fishing, guiding, and tourism—but most importantly to that unquantifiable spirit that sustains us here, and has, since, as my friend Tlingit elder Marilyn Wilson would say, “time immemorial.” That’s the possibility I choose to dwell in.





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