are a hundred unique and compelling stories that make up the
transformative magic that is Riverdale. Here’s just one: A young man who
lived in the park with his wife and children, who works for a
fracking-related company, and who has become one of the most
industrious, imaginative, and just plain helpful members of the
Riverdale Community. I cannot offer this man’s name–this might
jeopardize his job, and he needs the money to pay for the move forced
upon him by Aqua America/PVR. But I can tell you about the
transformation I have witnessed in him. Let’s call him “Evan.” Evan
works in an auxiliary capacity for “the gas.” Doesn’t matter what he
does really–he’d rather, I think, be doing almost anything else. But Evan loves his wife and kids–like lots of husbands and fathers do, and
he is trying his hardest to take care of them.
Evan came out
early in the resistance of Riverdale–angry, frustrated, pained at what
had become of his home. Not only had he been forced to evacuate his
family he had lost his community, his friends–and he wasn’t having it. He kept coming back to Riverdale–and pretty soon it became clear that it
wasn’t just to retrieve his stuff. He wanted to talk. He wanted to DO
something. And Evan thinks pretty big. Indeed, one evening (well, wee
hours of the morning) Evan and I, and another community member found
ourselves chatting about what could be done with the remaining shambles
of his mobile home–about how the roof could be transformed into a really
big mural with some text about Riverdale–and he simply came alive with
ideas about how this could all be done.
So this morning,
6.8.12–and the eighth day of the occupation–seriously EIGHT DAYS (Yeah,
that’s YOU I’m talking to Aqua America), I found Evan, his daughter, and
one of our young adult community members working on our a plan for a
series of brightly painted panels–each of which named a profession of
one of the park’s remaining residents. “Mother, ” “truck driver,”
“school bus driver,” “veteran”…all painted in sky blue, iris purple,
buttercup, and blade-of-grass. These “murals” were a magnet of
activity–from young folks painting out the letters, to little kids with
their hands all-a-gigglin’ elbow deep in paint buckets–to make sure they
got enough to make nice big vibrant handprints.
This morning was simply magical: under the sun,
occupied and laughing, with some excellent breakfast in our bellies thanks
to the Riverdale cooking team.
And what made it even better was that yesterday many of our barricades
were destroyed. We could have become demoralized. We could have become
lethargic. After all, living in a deliberate community of conscience is,
while awesome, not easy. We could always just give it all the hell up.
But that would just not do. It would not do for Evan–who is now as
essential a member of this community as are any of us. And it would not
make any sense. Instead of becoming demoralized we got paint. We made
plans. We DID something and when Evan gets off his shift today, well I
really wish I could just be there to see his face when he sees the
handiwork of his own beautiful children on the face of the new
barricades. Whoever could deface these–I just couldn’t understand.
And I guess that’s the thing–I said to someone today who had asked me
when I needed to head home that I needed to go and spend a little time
in my “real life.” But I could not have been more mistaken.
Riverdale–like my life with my animals, talking to my mom, Skyping with
my kids, teaching my students, or holding hands with my squeeze IS my
real life. In fact it’s becoming painted–just like those
handprints–right into my soul.
- Wendy Lynn Lee, Professor of Philosophy, Bloomsburg U.