Feature Article: Kennebis - - The Spirit of the Lake

Kennebis - - The Spirit of the Lake
by Gray Merriam

I was born about ten thousand years ago. Like many other lakes, mine was a glacial birth. A thick ice sheet scraped over the whole area. Where I lie, the rock was softer so the ice scraped out a trough. Mostly not very deep but with a couple of deeper holes.

Once my basin was born, I filled with water and from then on, most of what happened to me was related to the characteristics of water – its physics and chemistry. When the water got hot, it got lighter and floated up. When colder, it got heavier and sank. When it was colder, it could dissolve more oxygen except in winter. Then the water near the cold air would quit being a liquid and become a solid that floated and so I could not breathe until spring.

Some time after my birth and I had filled with water, living things found me. As plant seeds spread and produced forest on the bare rock and soils of my watershed, little algae and lighter-than-air plant seeds blew in on the winds. Because there was so much melt water around, fish found their way into my water. Amphibians and reptiles and mammals came in over land from the landscape around me.

As all these things became part of me, ancient natural processes tied them all together and new natural processes developed to regulate their interactions. I became a self-maintaining, living being.

A few thousand years later, something else entered into my being. A very powerful creature but not all-knowing. It believed that it could apply all its power to its own well-being without any consideration for me and my complex and beautiful being.

A few hundred years into their history, these new beings invented something called “money”. To manage this stuff called money, this new human being used its oversized brain to imagine a process called “the economy”. Unlike the many processes that regulated my natural system, processes in the economy were not circular but instead were linear. They assumed that anything the economy needed could be taken and processed to make money and the leftover waste could just be dumped without cost. In contrast, the processes in my natural system were circular. If something was processed, the wastes were cycled back into the system and used in some way.

The big differences between the economy and the natural system confused the humans. They believed that they could do things to help their economic system without having any effect on my natural system. But that is not so. The many processes and interactions of my complex system had been tried and fine-tuned by adaptation over several centuries. The humans expected this system to absorb whatever impacts they might deliver when they pushed their "economy" to gain more money for their personal share of that imagined notion.

Many years later, humans had built some shelters to enjoy the beauty of my shores. Some advanced the idea that if they built many more of their shelters around my shore, the economy would increase the dollar value of their individual shelter. They did not realize how carefully adapted were my complex of natural processes. They assumed that their intense activities around my shores would not affect my natural being. They believed they could impose their infatuation with dollars without affecting the spirit of the lake.

It seems that these short-lived, temporary beings — the humans — thought that they could speak of dollar values without any understanding of real values. They failed to realize that without working fundamental systems and processes, the richness of nature would be lost and so would their dollar values.

Human beings should realize that they will pass through life very quickly. Lakes must live for thousands of years and, along with other natural capital, are the basis for the real economy — the economy of nature. Without a healthy economy of nature, the dollar economy is very temporary.

I have been here for ten thousand years and hope for ten thousand more. My spirit hopes these humans will learn to fit lives into my being and live in harmony with my well-tested system of natural processes.