Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Flowers In the Ruins...


These fragments I have shored against my ruins...
T. S. Eliot

...for a little while, worked on a trail crew in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia...where some hundred and thirty or so years earlier John Brown tried, and failed, almost single-handedly, to free the slaves....since it was late fall, rapidly turning to winter, the Park Service let us use an building in the old section of town...people crammed three or four to a room, and, when I showed up, the only available bed was in a room with an older guy who snored like a rhinoceros with a bad case of gas....as it turned out, though, there was another room...practically a suite...with its own bathroom...and a couch...empty in the basement...apparently somebody’d drowned a hundred or so years earlier, and everybody said it was haunted....I dragged my mattress down there without a second thought...

...we were dragging these massive slabs of rocks down a hill to build this great big staircase on the Appalachian Trail, right below an old graveyard overlooking the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers...where Thomas Jefferson said something really impressive...and, a few years after I was there, Bill Clinton and Al Gore pretended for the cameras to lay the final stone for the project we’d actually completed that winter....what I liked, though, was the way the ground was like waves, swallowing up the gravestones...just like they’d eventually end up swallowing our gigantic slabs...and all of Harper’s Ferry, and every last trace of John Brown or the guy who died in that basement, and me...

The first glance of this scene hurries our senses into the opinion that this earth has been created in time, that the mountains were formed first, that the rivers began to flow afterwards, that in this place particularly they have been so dammed up by the Blue Ridge of mountains as to have formed an ocean which filled the whole valley; that, continuing to rise, they have at last broken over at this spot and have torn the mountain down from its summit to its base.
Thomas Jefferson

...I’ve always had a thing for ruins...ghost towns...cliff dwellings...pyramids....is it morbid of me to find it kind of comforting to see peoples’ proudest accomplishments gradually crumbling into dust...the best laid plans of mice and men reclaimed by dirt and grass?

...when in Rome...this was the spring of 1987...I loved walking around the Forum...seat of the Roman Empire...where, according to Shakespeare...who I have no reason to doubt...Mark Antony, standing over the multiple stab wounds of Julius Caesar, yelled Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war, That this foul deed shall smell above the earth...by that time, though, it was nothing but ancient ruins covered with wildflowers...revealing that, though sticking flowers into gun barrels may not have ended the war in Vietnam, flowers will, in the end, win out...

...it's all too easy to become anxious about being anxious...just as I can become depressed worrying about getting depressed...all in all, it all comes down to lingering remnants of the past....the question is, what kind of flowers am I letting grow out of my ruins?

16 comments:

jehannie said...

An energy from the past can be felt through ruins and ancient grounds. It's amazing. I can feel the vibrations of past lives.

And interesting questions to pose at the end of your post. I like it.

Kikolani said...

I don't think it is morbid to enjoy seeing ruins. I look at it as kind of paying tribute to the memory of something that was once so important to others who have since passed. Keeping the memory alive. Appreciating the fact that the physical things we put so much work into may last or may crumble, but the the spirit and memories will always be alive.

~ Kristi

Nancy said...

"...I’ve always had a thing for ruins...ghost towns...cliff dwellings...pyramids....is it morbid of me to find it kind of comforting to see peoples’ proudest accomplishments gradually crumbling into dust...the best laid plans of mice and men reclaimed by dirt and grass?"

No. To me it is evidence that people live to see progress and die with their proud accomplishments intact. Others who come after them, take what they have learned from previous accomplishments and build a world all their own - until their own accomplishments become dust. I see it as a human building block - one on top of the other, never ceasing - always progressing.

Brooks Hall said...

Blog-tunias? Bloses? Blaises? I hope that they're perennials...

I understand the metaphor of a life in ruins, though. It is an opportunity to do something new. Like maybe one of the species of flowers that comes from the nourishment of all that old rubble is one that will help others. And people will take a clipping from your garden so they can propogate it in theirs.

earthtoholly said...

Drjay, I found this post kind of...romantic. I like these old things, too, especially graveyards and don't think your thoughts are morbid at all. I believe it's meant that the flowers "win out" and maybe they should. Afterall, we hoo-mans haven't done such a great job with the space. Personally, my ruins may beget weeds...though I'm hoping for those brightly colored 60's power flowers.

The last time I was in Harper's Ferry, I was climbing over a rocky cliff at the edge of a graveyard and I think there was a large house there. It looked over the town as well as the river and I believe Jefferson's rock was there. Just wondering if this was the same graveyard you mentioned.

I totally get your claiming the basement. Ghosts? How exciting! Gas? How nauseating! Holy cow, you really had no choice there...

louloulovesbooks said...

Scarlet pimpernels.
{I don't know why I said that, just the first thing that sprung up there}

Lumen et Aperio said...

Very thought-provoking; no incident in our pasts, either individually or collectively, is isolated. Every act of commission or omission bears flower and fruit of some sort...

AD Miller said...

A particularly beautiful post, Jay.

RB said...

This kind of reminds me of the concept of "rememory" in "Beloved." A way of conjuring the past to exist in the present. Nice post.

the walking man said...

The flowers that grow from the runs of our past are the colors we see in the moment of this heartbeat. Beyond this moment and what knowledge we take forward from it to the next...what really matters?

Erin Davis said...

I can so relate to how easy it is about getting anxious about being anxious, or getting depressed about being depressed. I am going to examine what kind of flowers I am letting grow in my ruins.

Kim said...

I think your relationship to ruins is completely understandable. People feel connected to death sometimes more than they feel connected to the living things within death (the flowers you describe). The last line of this gave me chills. Loved it.

Lydia said...

It was great the way you mentioned Jefferson, then described the amazing wave-simulated ground around the place, then gave us Jefferson's quote. That's surely a quote of his that I'd never have read otherwise. In a sense, you seem to be sharing your thoughts with him, which is a fitting underscore of the fact that our proud buildings decay into ruin...but great thoughts live on if remembered. And maybe, even if not remembered, those thoughts would rise again worded differently by someone new. Maybe thoughts are our flowers.....

Rhiannon said...

"Where have all the flowers gone?..when will they ever learn when will the ever learn"..that song came to mind..but the flowers always manage to bloom,come back and hang around longer than any of us.

I love ancient ruins, the mythology stories of Gods and Goddess's, ghosts "Stuff" and often wonder about aliens from other planets. Like the book "Communion" read long long ago..very interesting read. All these things I feel open us up to growing and learning on a spiritual level of some kind. We "search and seek" and continue on..how wonderful that we do.

I was born in Huntington W.V. but don't remember much as we moved to southern calif. when I was just a babe. However I have visited the historical battlezone graveyard places in Washington D.C. Virginia and I swear I felt spirits all around..spooky! I had to get out of there quick! It wasn't the same feeling as when I visited so many Native American Indian gravesites and cemetaries in other states..I got good vibes when around them....eeerie..but very spiritual feeling of "strength and peacefulness".

They always plant flowers and lay wreaths at Jim Morrisons grave in Paris..and there are weeds and flowers and hand written poems, signs..another historical site in my opinion..one day I must go there before I go up to the big sky.

This is a very good post..I enjoyed reading your insightful thoughts.

Yoga to your hearts content..just don't push yourself so much anymore..enjoy the ride or should I say "enjoy the stretch"...:o)

I'm celebrating the 4th year of my blog..maybe you'll drop by?

Blessings and Namaste'

Rhi

G. said...

Ruins leave this sense of nostalgia for events that I've never experienced, but I can imagine. That I can see a point in history where people said and did great things. And while they may be in ruins, they are still there as physical proof of the person's deeds. That must have been interesting... knowing that a piece of their minds would continue to exist long after their own demise. But as you described, the acts of humanity have yet to raise the bar higher than that of Nature. There's almost something comforting about it...

What an insightful piece of thought. Great post.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

Your last three posts seem to hover around the concept of impermanence. It is comforting to think that no matter how bad we screw things up here, that eventually Gaia will swallow it all up and make it whole again.