live in there
amidst the scratches on a windowsill
and in the triangles of dirt accumulated in the corner of the floorboards pushed there by generations of janitors’ mops
under decades of floor wax
and stained walls
reflecting the colours of the words that once rang within
every action has a consequence, they say
every breath, every movement contributes to who we are
and what we will become
what occurred in that alley or in that cellar or behind that window
skewed the particles of the universe just that much
so it would never be the same
as it was in an instant before
I imagine stories murmuring
in that pile of rubble
swirling in the spaces
and I want to dig in there and find them
before they drift off into the atmosphere
like fine dust
It’s a sparkling April morning and I’m watching some city road workers replacing the water lines along Victoria Park Avenue. I like to watch road workers and construction workers on the job; always with a little bit of envy for their physical work, and admiration for the progress they make in what look to me like impossibly large tasks. These weeks I’ve admired the simplicity of the technology and the relative swiftness with which these giant water lines seem to disappear into the long, narrow holes subsequently filled in a progressive path down the street. And I think about the massive infrastructure that lies beneath this large city and all the generations of workers who have pieced it together over time.
At one spot, a worker is operating a small CAT loader, shoving, spreading and lifting loads of dirt and gravel into a backhoe. Two workers are standing ready with shovels, watching the precision with which the two machines interact. I notice a green pop bottle glinting atop the dirt. The workers and I watch the bottle get tossed about by the actions of the loader – dragged here, flipped there, like it’s performing some kind of dance at the whim of the machine operator.
As I speculate whether one of the workers will eventually pick it up and toss it back into the recycle bin sitting on a lawn a few feet away, the bottle disappears. Buried in an instant the green pop bottle is committed to the ground along with the water pipe for all of posterity. I wonder if the workers are thinking about that pop bottle, standing there with their shovels and hard hats, cigarettes in their mouths.
As I continue on my way I wonder why I feel compelled to write this encounter down. How could there possibly be a story in a green pop bottle? But then I remember – it’s Earth Day.
So I imagine workers in other centuries, committing items to the ground without any mind to some anthropologist encountering them a thousand years hence. I get thinking about the ancient relics I love to look at in galleries and museums, and I wonder: a thousand years from now will they be able to find the relics of our time amidst the masses of green pop bottles and other 20th/21st century flotsam and jetsam? Are green pop bottles the relics that will tell stories about us?
On this Earth Day, I’m imagining some anthropologists a thousand years on, and thinking they will determine us to be a people who had eschewed beauty and craft altogether, and best they keep us and our relics buried and manage as best they can the damage to their resources our waste has caused.