Tuesday, February 11, 2014

But Wait ...

European and Eastern ruins have fascinated us for centuries (perhaps in much the same way swords do – crumbling castles and all those sites on which we’ve done battle … or Henry VIII simply did “dissolution”).  American ruins, though, have barely passed beyond our daily life.  Many of our ruins still make a home for the homeless – or, at least, a night’s squat out of the worst of this winter’s deadly cold.  There is a sense, in images of our ruins, of “but wait” … that these places, or their contents, are not wholly irretrievable.

That there may be redemption.  The beauty in our ruins is that our past is still so close, still so small we must surely be able to bring it back, to take back our failures, to NOT obliterate memories still sighing their last.

This is the reason one of my new favorite shows is Rehab Addict – perhaps the only series on HGTV which doesn’t glory in unrecycled destruction of the material parts of our lives which have sinned no further than to go out of style.  Rehab Addict is about a woman who buys decaying homes and restores them – not as artistic antiques, but as functioning domiciles, which may still function very much on their own original terms.  She holds up tiny artifacts – a tooth brush holder, the hardware of a generations-old window – and revels in the workmanship, finds life and beauty in bringing them back to their own little life, letting them do their own little jobs.  Some of her completed works still show pockmarks and scars.  But all of them end up fresh and lived-in again.  They don’t crumble away.

As beautiful as crumbling-away may seem … when you look at the scope of this country, if we let everything go that could be on its way out, we will waste resources beyond monetary, and even cultural calculation.  We will become the most prodigious archaeological site in history.

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