The Chilean Miners

The morning after the incredible rescue of the Chilean miners, I was taking my daily walk around the property, checking on the cattle. At night we hear coyotes and even an occasional mountain lion shriek. Since we have a heifer expecting a calf, I worry. I found the little herd up in the Buckeye grove, munching away on new grass.

I stopped for a minute, listening to the contented breathing of the cows, and looked up at the Sierras—the mountains John Muir called the Range of Light—

photo by Pat Cassen

and felt I was taking in the air and seeing the sky in a whole different way.

Was there anyone anywhere in the world who was not awed by the strength of those miners, living 2000 feet below ground in 104 degree heat? No light? No sky?

I suppose there was one man, watching this from above—the poet Pablo Neruda—who was not at all surprised that simple, working men would show us the way out of a dark, deep hole, literally and figuratively. Certainly, it hasn’t been the titans and CEOs of mining industries.

In Neruda’s 1971 Nobel Prize speech—Toward the Splendid City—he tells of his own dark journey and how working people, cowboys not unlike these miners, saved his life.

Maybe you saw the movie The Postman a few years back? It was based on the novel A Burning Patience by Antonio Skarmeta. The title came from the last paragraph of Neruda’s speech:

“I say to the people of goodwill, to the workers, to the poets, the whole future has been expressed in a line by Rimbaud. ‘Only with a burning patience will we reach the splendid city which will give light, justice and dignity to all mankind’.”

In the garden later that evening, I looked up again, thinking how the miners must not be able to get enough of light and sky. I hoped for a long while the mining companies would stop using their workers as disposable machines, that these men would now be afforded light, justice and dignity.

Then I went back to my ordinary tasks—planting the lettuces—but with more gratitude than usual.

I’ll leave you with part of a Neruda poem for all women who are now planting their bulbs and winter greens.

Ode to the Woman in her Garden/Oda a la Jardinera

Yes, I knew that your hands were
the flowering clove, the lily
that you had something to do with dirt, with the earth’s flourishing…
I saw you dig down, dig down,
to push aside the stones
and finger the roots,
I knew right then
my farmer girl,
that not your hands
but your heart
were of the earth,
that you
were making
there of your own…

photo by Jeff Cuzzi

3 responses to “The Chilean Miners”

  1. I can attest to the fact that the whole world was watching. We were in Prague when the rescue efforts bore fruit. The current count of rescued miners held the total attention of everyone who walked through the hotel lobby. No one paid much attention to the TV or the current news except during the hours in which the rescue took place. We all marveled at the endurance of the human spirit, the tenacity of life, and the technology that could produce a successful rescue. A brief time-out from our own self-focus. Then attention reverted to travel in foreign lands, having a good time, and for me, looking at my roots, soaking up history.

    • Hey Julie,
      The thought of being buried alive for 69 days flips me out! And then that rescue tube! OMG! Amazing they all got out. I think I read somewhere the men were copper miners. Their pay? Roughly $1600 US dollars a month. Makes me look at my copper pots and pans a little differently. You know what I mean? I really, really don’t want anyone risking his life just so I can beat my egg whites into higher peaks.