Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Digging in the Dirt of "Egypt's" Past
...By the lakes that thus outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead,--
Their sad waters, sad and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily,--
By the mountain--near the river
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,--
The day after we moved in to our new place, our neighbors-next-door graciously offered to show us part of the lake we now call home from a boat owned by our landlord, a businessman in Chicago. We occupy the upstairs part of one of his two houses here. Our gracious neighbors live in the downstairs part of the other house. It's rather an unusual living arrangement, I will admit, but these times we live in sometimes call for unusual tactics. Our neighbors call Springfield home and own property there just as we still own a home in Florida. They have decided, as we have, not to sell in this dismal real estate market. We are trying to remain optimistic about the future. I took the picture above of a coal-fired electric plant across the lake from us as a representation of optimism. The people of this area have a longstanding acquaintance with downturns and so must constantly look forward to a brighter day. The power plant plays a key role in making that dream a reality by providing energy, cleanly and cheaply, from an abundant area resource--coal. Clean coal technology, employed by this recently modernized plant owned by Southern Illinois Power Cooperative, aims to reduce emissions, and--despite what some ardent critics of modern living choose to believe--it succeeds. The plant provides hundreds--if not thousands--of jobs in the area for miners, electricians, plant operators, administrative staff, truck drivers, and maintenance people.
By the gray woods,--by the swamp
Where the toad and the newt encamp,--
By the dismal tarns and pools
Where dwell the Ghouls,--
By each spot the most unholy--
In each nook most melancholy,--
I am thankful to have ready access to electricity. Without it, we would be left in the dark, feel darn cold here this time of year, and our bellies would not be filled with warm, home-cooked meals.
There the traveler meets aghast
Sheeted Memories of the Past--
Shrouded forms that start and sigh
As they pass the wanderer by--
White-robed forms of friends long given,
In agony, to the worms, and Heaven...
You may be wondering about the prevalence of Egyptian sounding names on these street signs. The area--variously known as Greater or Little Egypt, depending on the perspective--has an interesting, often dark, history. You know me. Like another blogger you should know by now--if you read the comments and follow their links--I feel compelled to dig a little into the history of a place, especially if it seems to be covered in some "dirt." My digging uncovered some online articles like this one by Jon Musgrave, who admits that there are differing opinions about the origin of the area's name--Egypt. I like the fact that there is no one single "right" or "wrong" answer to the question of origin. As one of my new blogger friends (hope it's all right to call him friend!) admits, even absolutes like temperature can sometimes be relative. History is no exception to that rule (?!), and the southern part of this Land of Lincoln has a lot of it--history, that is. Some of it involves things like massacres, and I'm not even referring to any involving Native Americans. Unions have played a large part in the region's dark past as well as in creating a bright future for many residents of this state--even newcomers like us. Oh wait. We aren't newcomers. Hubby was born and raised not far from where we live right now. His dad and grandfather were coal miners. Several members of his family are or were members of various unions. So you could say we have a stake in what happens to the natural resources so abundant in this region and so important to its future, as well as the future of this entire nation of workers.
Of course, here on the lake even hard workers find time to relax, and what could be more relaxing than casting a line and maybe even catching a few fish? Another one of my favorite bloggers has asked me to prepare and share some recipes for freshly caught lake fish after I asked her for her own fish curry recipe (you will need to read her comment section on that coral jasmine post to find it). Hubby would like to be doing some of this kind of casting about pictured above, but his boat--at least one as nice as this--will have to wait for some time in the future. We will learn to be content as bank or kayak fisher-people for a while. This blogger who likes to play in the dirt of history will be returning to school soon and working on her Master's degree in--what else?--Workforce Education and Development at Hubby's alma mater. I will eventually have an even bigger stake in the heart of this region known as "Egypt."
For the heart whose woes are legion
'T is a peaceful, soothing region--
For the spirit who walks in shadow
'T is--oh 't is an Eldorado!
But the traveler, traveling through it,
May not--dare not openly view it;
Never its mysteries are exposed
To the weak human eye unclosed;
So wills the King, who hath forbid
The uplifting of the fringed lid;
And thus the sad Soul that here passes
Beholds it but through darkened glasses...
--from Edgar Allan Poe's poem "Dream-land," 1844--