The land here is flat except near Spring Creek, where it ripples like paper that has been rained on and has dried. The creek meanders west to east in a sinuous wave, resisting the imperceptible southward tilt of the land until it merges with a river in a greater hurry to commingle with Galveston Bay. It only recently occurred to me that this creek charts my life for the last forty years like some sort of hydrological EKG. It’s not that I’m particularly unobservant but that the creek is hidden among the trees—the western portion of the pine forest that begins in the Appalachian Mountains and peters out where Spring Creek’s waters first gather. The creek is concealed like the fossil fuels that drew my family to Texas in the 1970s.
We moved into a community developed by the oil company for which my father worked, near the town where the oil company first spurted into existence and where Spring Creek joins the San Jacinto River. The company reserved land for parks and greenbelts and nicknamed the development “the livable forest.”
Now I teach at a college towards the other end of Spring Creek; the former cow pasture slopes into wetlands of the creek’s floodway. While the seal of the town in which the campus resides depicts an oil derrick and pump jacks, it makes no reference to the creek.
My wife and I live between where I teach and where I grew up, in a community that straddles the creek and that was developed by the father of hydraulic fracturing. He dedicated over a quarter of the development to green space, part of which along the creek was donated to an effort to create the “longest contiguous urban forested corridor in the nation.”
The oil company for which my father worked has built a huge office complex along Spring Creek, accelerating development nearby. As I cross the creek on my drive to class, flying past the trees at canopy level and spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, I wonder how long we’ll assume that we can have both.