Tilting at Turbines

I was sick of all the news saturated with senseless violence and political mayhem; I was feeling burned by the reality of drought and floods and frequently occurring “thousand year weather events” across the globe. I could not get used to the fact that the water levels of our regional trout streams had dropped precipitously while their temperatures rose to dangerous levels; I knew I had to get over it all, if only for a little while.

Our old kitchen was getting torn down and totally updated and renewed. Maybe I could take a hint and have my “soul kitchen” reinvented, so to speak, renewed with a visit to elsewhere. And where was that– Montana, Maine, or northern Michigan? Not yet. I headed for the evening woods in my front yard.


The forest climb and the meadow vistas were relaxing and serene. I could look into the forest gloom and see the brightness of a soul at peace with itself, at peace with the ringing carols of the hermit thrush; I could gaze across the hilltops and perceive the place where I languished when the blues afflicted the mind and heart. I could see that solitude can be a time when we are in the company of nature. I could put my place of life in perspective by absorbing the sunset and the quiet onset of the stars above; I could do these things but there was no escape.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What I had in mind for a series of evening walks was to do a natural inventory and to do it because the physical landscapes that surrounded me would soon be changing thanks to mankind and the need for increased  energy consumption… The turbines were coming and would likely be installed within two years.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve got nothing against wind power. We need to shift our use of dirty fossil fuels to cleaner, more sustainable energy alternatives. I’ve seen the giant turbines in numerous locations near and far and, frankly, prefer their use over coal extraction, hydro-electric and nuclear energy (25 years ago I fought tooth-and-nail against a federal and state proposal to dump nuclear waste here at the rivertops, but that’s another story). I like wind power and, for better or worse, I’ve been recognized as a wind generator myself, but that’s another story, as well.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I like it, but wind power has to be installed correctly and with all the best environmental studies incorporated. We need to use it in conjunction with an increased sense of social and global responsibility. I don’t want to see turbines set up on the bat fields or on the major migratory routes of songbirds and golden eagles; and I don’t want to see them from my back yard.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Okay, I’m a NIMBY. When it comes to the installment of 500-foot turbines, I say not-in-my-back-yard. And why not, you ask. A lot of people like them in the neighborhood. They look metallic, brilliant, futuristic. They make us look richer, more middle class, aspiring toward the upper crust of society. And they’re helping us save the Earth. Oh, really?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Unless we lessen our consumptive habits, our increasing use of… dare I say it… computers and electrical gadgetry and such, we’re only increasing our ability to consume more and more of what’s left to be consumed. So, the turbines are here. I won’t wax Quixotic and go tilting at those giant blades; there are easier ways to get scalped these days.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m a NIMBY on this issue because I moved here 35 years ago to get away from such industrial reminders. I moved here to find some rural peace, to be near trout streams and hermit thrushes, as far from the madding crowd and the “ignoble strife” as I could afford to be. And it’s been good so far. We dodged the spectacle of a nuclear waste dump in Allegany County; we dodged the bullet from hydro-fracking of Marcellus shale in New York State (though not, unfortunately, in Pennsylvania).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The turbines aren’t so bad, comparatively speaking. But they’ll change the land and skyscape that I’ve loved; they’ll always bring to mind the world of mass murder and political mayhem that’s around the bend. They’ll have yet another major impact on the hills and valleys (and no, this out-of-state industry won’t be putting many of our local guys to work).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m doing some inventory for the head and heart. My camera is ready, too. I’m enjoying the summer woods and meadows, seeing them in ways that give me peace. To paraphrase a biblical sentiment, I could say that here the grey coyote dwells with the spotted fawn; here the black bear of the body lies down with the singing thrush of the soul; the kitchen of the spirit is renewed, for now.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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22 Responses to Tilting at Turbines

  1. Brent says:

    I’ll start by saying how beautiful and impressionistic some of these pictures are. Did you edit them on the camera or use an effects shot?

    Also, I feel for you on the windmill dilemma. I’d probably have mixed feelings seeing them on the hilltops too, although I know they represent a better way forward within the confines of the energy status quo. We’re all in quite a pickle, it seems.

    • Thanks Brent. I wanted impressionistic effects on some of these pics, experimenting with tones that more closely resemble the feelings suggested by the narrative. The small Olympus “Toughie” is a good instrument for this.

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    Amen, brother – you’ve put it succinctly. Regarding the last paragraph, I drove by a camp tonight named “A Peaceable Kingdom”.

    • Bob, I’d say that’s a great name for a camp in the PA wilds, incorporating both a spiritual and a physical element. Reminds me of a favorite camp name down on the Oswayo. “We Tried” suggests that, well, achieving the peaceable kingdom ain’t always so easy.

  3. JZ says:

    For the record., I don’t like them. They dot hillsides and mountain tops like popcorn scattered on a theaters floor. They block majestic views that see a sunrise and sunset across a horizon. I am not a fan, (pun attended).

    • I hear ya, JZ, I don’t like their appearance either. Given our alternatives though, we’re probably stuck with these view-busters till we figure out how to extricate ourselves from the mess we’re in. We probably shouldn’t hold our breaths.

  4. As I leave my house and head west to fish Clear Creek you get the first glimpse of the future. A “wind farm” framed by the beautiful Rockies in the background. Can you see an oxymoron?

    • Howard, I see an oxymoronic landscape there, for sure. Maybe in the future we won’t even have to leave the door to do our Rocky Mountain fishing. Maybe we can simply take a digital fishing trip right on the big screen!

  5. Grandpa says:

    Walt, I just want to say how moving and well written this piece is. Beautiful pictures and words that surround the feelings you have blended into a meaningful post!
    Howard mentions a “Wind Farm”. Colorado windmills are a common site, particularly east of where we both live. I have mixed emotions, but, know it is a sign of the times in our country.

  6. Mel, Thank you for the kind words; I do appreciate hearing from you. Yeah the windmills are up and coming closer all the time. I’ll have to try getting used to them. They bother me the most when I see them on the high ridges.

  7. Grandpa says:

    Walt, I forgot to mention that I just changed the link address to my blog. Would appreciate your thoughts. http://flyfishintimes.blogspot.com

  8. Doug says:

    Yeah brother. They’ve already made their intrusions into our world well known. I went to a place in PA, near Frackville called Centralia. I have photos upon photos of the damage coal mining has done to the land and the air. These wind alternatives really aren’t any better. But, they are being used. I can only say their alternative to hydro-fracking, oil extraction etc…is minimally better at best. Great blog. Awareness is really just a first step.

    • Doug, I know what you mean about Centralia; I’ve been there, too, and have seen the damage from coal that never seems to stop burning. Yeah it’s one blow after another, it seems. The turbines are minimally better, but the fact is, they intrude into our lives visually and sometimes audibly when we don’t want to be reminded of them and what they stand for. Sort of like TV when you can’t shut the damn thing off. Anyway, thanks, bro, and have a good one.

  9. Grandpa says:

    Hi, Walt. Hope you are having a nice day. I just checked the link on your Blogroll. It is not complete for some reason. Here it is again: http://flyfishintimes.blogspot.com

    Thanks for your trouble!

  10. plaidcamper says:

    I’d be a NIMBY too. Wind turbines are the lesser of many evils – but your point about dependency and consumption hits home (he says, on an iPad…) As for the wider madness, mostly, we’ve been off the grid the past week or so, and catching up with recent events has been depressing. Can’t hide, don’t want to, but the temptation to head back where we just came from is overwhelming – put some distance between us and certain aspects of the world. Anyway, hope your inventory of all that is good in your area helped revive the soul somewhat. Nothing wrong with tilting – it’s not always in vain, and sometimes what else can you do? It’s restorative!
    Thanks, Walt.

    • Welcome back to the Grid Life, PC; it’s tough getting readjusted, isn’t it. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing of your recent adventures (soon no doubt). Yes, my continued inventory and “tilting” seems to be doing some good as I try to come to terms. I hope it’s just not short-lived. There’s a real price to pay for all of our electrical consumption. Anyway, thanks for your great support, and enjoy those new reflections from a recent trip.

  11. rommel says:

    I never really get why people dislike these windmills. I always think of windmills as more traditional. alternative power source. I only thought that people complain about it because they are loud. But you really enlightened me so much more on why people do oppose it. These really awesome scenery and the images you get out of it are something to cherish, and worth fighting for.

  12. There’s an old romantic idea about windmills, as you point out, Rommel: Don Quixote tilting at them with his sword, the simple blades spinning around with Holland landscape and flowers blooming everywhere, but these behemoths are a different story when they’re planted on special landscapes for our eyes and hearts. Thanks so much for seeing my point in the text and for taking the time to comment here!

  13. Salla says:

    I sometimes just have to take a break in all media and social media. The news the past couple of weeks have been way too much and I tend to take it all personally, frustrated and angry because I can’t fix it by myself – we need all the people for that.

    • I’d say it starts with doing just that, Sal. Cutting out the media for a while, getting some 1-on-1 with nature, then demonstrating ways that show others how to dwell in peace.

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