Landscape Gas Tanks

by seth o’donovan

I have a growing collection of photographs I’ve taken of rural gas tanks. Aesthetically I am drawn to the image because of the way the industrial metals and colors meet the landscape.  I also cannot stop looking at them when I happen upon one.  Transfixed. Meditative.  Obsessed.  Resigned.  Our house on the ranch is situated right next to the gas tanks – the picture with this blog is taken from our kitchen porch. 

They hold the reality of where we are now and where we can go, or will go inevitably.  For every ranch and farm in the United States, except for a very rare exception of communities who have taken a stance against the petroleum economy, the gas tank is a necessity.  Used to fill the tractor, the ATV, the wood splitter, and any other gas powered tool on the ranch, the gas tanks quite literally fuel the tasks of the ranch.  The alternative is to run your entire operation on horse-drawn machinery or human-powered machinery that you can begin to imagine carries its own set of questions related to time and labor force.

We are all pretty deeply in touch with the costs of an extractive economy and the results of a petroleum economy.  Well, probably not “in touch” exactly.  We all at least know cognitively the problem.  Its not affecting much change at all in our behavior, so it reveals how much we actually believe.

But we don’t believe here at The Guest House that our daily work finds motivation in denial of the current reality or shame about the tools we access.  We aren’t interested in a self-righteous imaging of our property that would pretend our lives aren’t built on a dependence on an unsustainable extraction.  We face the current reality bravely and full-facing the picture.  And we also know that our daily work is about living into a reality that is more representative of what we all desire, necessitate, and require for good stewardship of our land, our relationships, and our resources. 

What I desire is to live in a less extractive way.  What I desire is to do work that uses more of my body.  What I desire is to live on a scale that requires less mass storage of resources.  What I desire is to do more tasks in a way that requires help and cooperation from another human or an animal.  What I desire is to be reminded more frequently of my own interdependence with the land, my co-workers, my neighbors, my family, and maybe most importantly with people with whom I think I have no other common ground. 

So I stare obsessively at the gas tank outside our kitchen window that sits on the edge of the pasture field.  We are here now.  We are living into what is next.  And we are brave and humble enough to capture both of those realities in this moment. 

seth o'donovan