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Tibbett’s Brook

Tibbett’s Brook

After years of being resigned to the sewers of New York, the Tibbett’s Brook will see the ‘light of the day’ once again, writes Jennifer Scarlott.

A portion of Tibbett’s Brook in the Bronx that still splashes in sunlight. Photo Courtesy: Jennifer Scarlott.

Here is the story of a brook…

For thousands of years, the brook arose from an underground source, and splashed and gurgled through woodlands and wetlands, over smooth rocks, in sunlight and moonlight, until it reached a large creek. Fish swam in its shallow depths. Salamanders scurried along its muddy banks. Native people lived, walked, hunted, and fished along it. The brook was made by the Creator and the people held it in sacred trust.

One day, new people came. They “bought” the land. The new people dammed the brook. A lake formed on the downstream side of the dam. The brook no longer flowed freely. But at the far end of the lake, away from the dam, the brook resumed flowing in its usual way. Though things were different, and the brook was no longer free, the lake did become rich with birds, fish, and other aquatic life.

Quickly now, more new people came, and more and more. They cut down trees, built houses, and used dynamite to build roads for their carriages and then for their cars. Concrete, steel, and asphalt became far more common than grasses and trees. People became far, far more common than wolves and owls. The “old” people died, or were killed, or walked away.

There came a day when it was not convenient that the brook came gurgling out of the lake, running its course to the creek. The creek was no longer convenient either. The new people captured the brook, digging a hole to send it into underground tunnels. Now, the brook below the lake created by the dam disappeared. It was still there. But it was underground, in the people’s sewer. Meanwhile, the creek was deemed too small, and men spent years making it straighter, wider, and deeper. The creek no longer meandered. The southern part of the brook was simply gone.

Today, Tibbett’s Brook, in a part of New York City called the Bronx, has many challenges. The “old” people are long gone, though some of their descendants occasionally walk along its banks. The brook arises north of the city, flows into the Bronx, and meets the old dam. Stopped in its course, it pools to form Van Cortlandt Lake, in a park with one of the few remaining wetlands, but also a golf course. At the southern end of the lake, the brook disappears into the sewer. Its once clear waters, mixing with the sewer’s contents, flow to a “water treatment” plant, where they are sort of cleaned up.

An ancient brook, is now in the sewers, but some New Yorkers are determined to ‘daylight’ it again! Photo Courtesy: Jennifer Scarlott.

Now, it is 2016, nearly 400 years since the new people “bought” the land around the brook. People are beginning to wonder why the city is so hot, so hard, so grey. They are beginning to wonder why their ancestors sent the brook underground. So the people have developed a plan to “daylight” the brook. They will shift its course out of the sewer, and allow the brook to gurgle along under the sun and moon again. They will not fully restore the brook. It won’t be allowed to follow its old path. The trees along it will be planted. It may have concrete banks. But the waters will be in the daylight again. They will be restored to the air. That is a step in the right direction, for the brook, and for the people.

Author: Jennifer Scarlott, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVI, No. 5, May 2016.

 
 
 

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