Mother Lode: Holding Fast to What Matters.
I weave worlds and words.
I have been mostly drifting since I finished college, and intensively so since 2013 when I devoted myself to writing poetry and prose in witness to mass species extinction and genocide, and what might end the massacre.
Among the enjoyments of moving about are diverse gardens tended by my generous hosts. Everywhere I landed in 2016, there was fruit to pick. Beginning with serviceberries at Frog Song. Then blackberries along the roadsides in the hills above Cazadero. Raspberries on Olive Street. Later, figs and apples back at Frog Song.
I imagine no greater pleasure than this in life: to happen upon something supremely edible as the blackberry so complete when picked ripe, and still sweet to know when picked sour. And there seems to be a chronic rage rising through me that seeks only to protect this freedom from further destruction in the rush for gold and more that I don’t understand though I see the root ills.
So, my writing largely bears witness to unresolved communal trauma. August 5, 2015 was the 70th anniversary of the United States atomic bomb drop on Hiroshima, Japan. And on that day, an estimated 3 million gallons of contaminated water and sludge flowed from the retired Gold King Mine to Cement Creek near Silverton, Colorado.
In response, and after cooling down from my reaction, I wrote the poem Live Rust. In Summer 2016, to honor the one-year anniversary of the Gold King Mine breach, Live Rust was recorded and set to film in Mother Lode, a collaboration with filmmaker Kristin Tieche, artist Morgan Rua, and photographer Mor.
A sweeping yet short poem, Live Rust is my attempt to articulate rage for unnecessary, senseless violence in order that I and others may enjoy extravagance. Of all that’s been built and destroyed since gold was first extracted from the ground, nothing has lasted but ruin reflected in the bitter eyes of the forgotten child.
The Gold King Mine is one of near 500,000 abandoned hard-rock mines that mark land now comprising the United States. The majority of these mines are found in 12 Western states. The photograph below of the Berkeley Pit, a retired open pit copper mine in Butte, Montana, was captured by me in July 2016.
Highly acidic water laden with heavy metals has been rising in the Berkeley Pit since the mine’s closure, Earth Day 1982. Pit water is anticipated to reach critical level of 5,410 feet above sea by 2023. At that point, pit water will reverse flow back to groundwater, poisoning Silver Bow Creek headwaters of Clark Fork River.
Easily, I am one among the many who have benefited extravagantly from the extraction and use of mined materials, while laborers, many of them young children, and local communities, comprised of many more than members of a single species, bear the heavy burden of mineral extraction’s grave harms.
I want to see the mining era end now in a universally compassionate, unified sweeping motion.
The 2015 Gold King mine breach to Animas River and the November 2016 mass death of wild geese, who unfortunately landed in the Berkeley Pit water during a late migration, are among the tragedies that could end mining.
Whether or not the tragedies matter, as in note the beginning of mineral extraction’s abrupt end, depends on whether or not the tragedies are fully felt and grieved. With enough feeling engaged, it’s possible to keep what remains to be extracted underground, use frugally what’s been pulled from the ground, and dismantle judgment in the case of past negligence.
We’re all in this together. Once that reality is felt, it’s lived — the talk is the walk. The real cost of mineral extraction is a dizzying pain. Resistance to feeling this is understandable. But resistance is fruitless, as in depressing. To know the pleasure available at any hour is to know intimately that hour’s pain. And my impulse is to experience and express it all.
Mother Lode was filmed spontaneously one early evening in the Marin Headlands at Battery Spencer overlooking Golden Gate Bridge. Kristin Tieche and I thought this was a fine location, given San Francisco’s boom from small to big town during the California Gold Rush (1848–1855), and because we were there.
Fierce, changing winds presented that day. Through the film session, I felt mostly just very cold while working to maintain my balance and hold on to the scarf in my hands.
In the fury, I wish everyone simply this balance and a holding fast to what actually matters: the possibility of dancing with sheer delight, everything, and much more than a gold neckless or cashmere scarf.
Megan Hollingsworth is a mother and keener with near-Irish Quaker, English, and German roots. She is writer and creative director at ex·tinc·tion wit·ness, a collaborative peacemaking project engaged in creative witness to unnecessary loss, pain, and suffering, with resolve to forward a grand wake-up and universally compassionate marketplace. You could contact her via her website or ex.tinction wit.ness.