Harry Enoch’s new series, Abandoned Clark County gave me pause to think about abandoned places I have been to in my life. I made a few notes.
When I was a boy, some of my most exciting days were when the farmer plowed his fields behind our house. After the first rain we would roam those furrows looking for flint arrowheads, spearheads, and some lucky times, find a piece of broken clay pottery left by a civilization long departed. Imagining those ancient people having once lived there made me feel like I was walking on hallowed ground.
I used to stand where once stood the pioneers of Fort Boonesborough and I thought of those who had died defending and exerting their powers to make a place of their own in the wilderness. I was awed by thoughts of those settlers’ marvelous abilities at crafting, with their own hands, the necessities of their civilization without the machines of my days.
A bit to the side of a gravel track on my friend’s farm was a dilapidated wood frame house his grandparents had built and begun their life together. The structure was rotting, collapsing, and unsafe to go poking around within. But it still served as a home to bees and wasps, snakes and mice. In a couple of spots, there were torn scraps of wallpaper still hanging on, still holding touches of fading color. Sometimes I thought I could still hear the joy of their laughter, but it was just the echoes of dogs playing on another part of the farm.
Once, I walked on the stone-cobbled streets of Ephesus that were over 2,000 years old. I marveled at the intricate carvings on sculptured doorways, the partially collapsed stone walls of libraries and temples – not a trace of concrete or steel, yet remaining. I sat in the seats of a theatre that could hold 24,000 people, but now, there was no one to attend performances. Whole generations of this marvelous civilization had long passed.
Whatever we build but can no longer maintain, whatever we make and abandon – however noble and magnificent our accomplishments – it all only stands for a while as the earth takes back our ruins. Vines creep in, water dissolves, soil blows over, and grass covers.
Seeing these things does not prompt me to diminish the efforts of survival and living, but rather gives me pause to reflect with reverence and humility. Perhaps there is some understanding to be gained from these places about our own place and space of time in this world.