Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The meaning of life

One day on the jobsite Doug asked Seth and me,
“what is the meaning of life?”
and I said, “work is the meaning of life,”
and Seth said, “I’m not sure I agree with that.”
I would have added, “love, too, of course,”
but there are just some things you don’t say at work.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Down by the mills

So, it seemed like a good afternoon to do some exploring: just chilly enough for a jacket and tuque, overcast with a slight mist of rain, quiet on the streets. I decided to walk down to the abandoned mill on the Connecticut river, in Turners Falls. I was alone, and in one sense, that was nice. When you're taking a walk alone through a post-industrial landscape, it gives you a little sense of adventure, allows your mind to wander, and you're free to just take in the crumbling beauty (or the beautiful crumbling, perhaps) of what sometimes seems like a post-apocalyptic town. But on the other hand, it would have been nice to share it with someone, too--to walk through the damp leaves by the river bank, looking for a possible homeless encampment on the other side of the river. But I took some pictures so I can share it with you now. Here is the view while crossing the bridge over the diversion of the Connecticut River, called the Power Canal:

Power Canal (mew)

The water is always high here, just as it always seems to be quite low in the river. I'm still not sure how clean the Connecticut River it, but I assume not very clean. So, perhaps no swimming when summer comes. But right now, it's got that late-winter beauty, hibernating. I walked on and came to a lovely mill in decay. It reminded me a little of the coal town in Oliver's Travels, which he says is in government Category D: do nothing.

Category D (mew)

Here is a close-up of two of the windows on the mill. I seem always to have a picture like this, no matter what the location. I must like the symmetry of two windows in the frame:

Two mill windows (mew)

I walked on, saw from the other side just how much of the interior of the mill had collapsed. Once the roof is compromised, the inside of the building seems to go rather quickly. And what's left is the exterior shell of brick. It's masonry that lasts, just like the ancient castles and abbeys in England, the ones you can go wandering around, communing with the stones. Why not do that here? Take away the fence, and clear the rubble and danger from the center, and then let lush grass grow all around and inside. An old mill as the American ruin. About 50 yards past the ruins, I came across a piece of inscrutable graffiti:

MonkyTurkey (mew)

At last, I came to the river. In fact, this was part of the reason for my expedition. Earlier, I had seen the person who dresses in a suit made entirely of plastic bags stopped on the side of the road coming into town from Greenfield. Her bicycle was parked on the side of the road, and she was partway down the hill towards the river. Perhaps she stops there out of necessity, of course, but I also thought she might have some kind of shelter there as well, and it occurred to me that if there was one, I could see it from the other side of the river. So, I picked my way through the leaves, acorns and coal clinkers strewn about, with the light mist growing a little stronger against my face. After much searching, I could not find any sort of encampment. However, I did spot this strange looking tree. And then I headed home.

Tree by the river (mew)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The moving target

You were a moving target
and I the arrow, embedded.
You always liked to drive--
when you were angry you'd
drive all night from Sacramento
to Salt Lake City, have breakfast
and drive back home. Of course,
home was wherever you were.
It was where you worked.

One morning I stumbled out of you
while you were downstate working.
I was drunk with new life, and I
was born on the move.
What emerged from necessity
flowered into beauty.
I have always loved the freeway,
the salty desert, the faded motel.
A place that the wind might sweep up
and carry away at any moment.

When I get up in the morning,
on my way to work I think:
"I'm just going to keep driving."
In a few hours I'll be somewhere entirely new,
a place free of the weights of the past.
And in a few days I'll be somewhere old,
a place that brings tears unaccountably.
I'll slip that old tape in the deck
and feel the waves of memory
crash around my head like a breakwater.

Sometimes I drive all night,
looking for something, and then
coming home in the darkness I see
two points of light, inexplicable, unwavering.
Two lanterns holding fast
though you'd expect the inky night
to wash them both away.

Friday, March 05, 2010

A couple of days in Chicago

abbott hotel
The old neighborhood (mew)

Downtown (mew)

Wells St., Spade and Archer (mew)