What is it that we love about very old things? I like nothing more than stumbling upon an old well weathered piece of wood or a rusty hunk of iron. Last night I talked about God’s perspective of time and how time carries us along as it flows. Tonight I’m thinking about our perspective. As time pulls us ever closer towards a destiny we cannot see clearly we can only measure the progress by looking back. Those things were once shiny and new now serve as landmarks. The old rusted trucks, crumbling stone and this old barn are like anchors that help us navigate the raging river of time. It’s even better if there’s a personal connection with the object. I have to wonder if anyone ever passes this barn and relives a special moment? Was there a first kiss that happened here? Was this the place where a spark grew into true love and then into a family? Was this the place where a parent answered a child’s important questions about life’s mysteries while doing the daily chores? Did a grandparent tell stories about when the parent was a kid? Do these stories still echo across the river of time? Yes. I think that they do. These very old things are the sentinels of memories that are still being made today.
This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.
– Gollum’s Time Riddle, J.R.R Tolkien
About tonight’s image. The truck is part of another old drilling rig. This one is in Victor, West Virginia. It’s been in this spot for as long as I can remember. I have watched it erode away from the effects of time and I suppose it was that observation that inspired tonight’s post.
I have been thinking a great deal about the passage of time and the true nature of eternity. I’m not sure that Gollum had it right. We perceive time from the perspective of a mortal. This means that we see the flow of time from the inside of the flow. We’re carried along with the current like a cork on the river with little or no control over the speed or direction of travel. We see only the river with its peaks and valleys. But God sees time from the outside. He sees where the flow starts and where it it ends. He knows our exact position at what we perceive as any given moment. He knows where the current will carry us. In God’s eyes, there is no difference between yesterday, today and tomorrow. Sometimes when we’re praying and searching for an answer we wonder why God hasn’t answered or why he allows suffering to go on for so long. I think that the truth is that he’s already acted on our behalf but the flow of time hasn’t carried us there yet. And, that if he had acted in the wrong spot the flow of time would have carried us away from his provision. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Tonight’s image is the remnant of the old bridge at Gauley Bridge. If memory serves me it was burned down during the American Civil War. To me it not only represents history but also a lost future. The fog that surrounds the old pylon gives me the feeling of something ethereal like a visitor from the past has come to the future to check up on things. Is it a manifestation of a memory or am I a vision of the future? It’s in these moments when the past and the future seem to collide that fascinate me. Maybe it was the fog on the river and maybe it was the contrast between the old stones and the seedling trees that are growing out from it that seemed to suspend and warp time for me. I can imagine that I can hear a lament echoing out from the fog. It’s a voice from the past warning not to burn bridges and be quick to reconcile with those on the other side of river.
When I was a kid I was fascinated by petroglyphs. Being of the Indiana Jones generation, I wanted to be the one who cracked the code and uncovered ancient secrets. I just knew that there had to be a golden idol at the bottom of a cave close by. I would study the markings on the cliff and I could even see the hunters stalking some strange dinosaur. (Left side of the image behind the small bush. ) This had to be a map! Right? There’s a pod of dolphins in the center. And strange symbols throughout the whole thing!
The unfortunate thing about gaining knowledge is the loss of the adventure. What we see here is pretty common in my area. Painted Sandstone. The stone was formed when different colored mud ( in laymen terms ) came together and mixed, then turned to stone. The result was these wonderful patterns in the canyon wall of Summersville Lake that resemble some prehistoric record. There’s other spots like this and even some real petroglyphs but I haven’t found one that is as realistic as the one here. If you find yourself in the Summerville Lake area the best way to see them is by boat.
Every so often I find that my curiosity gets the best of me. I’ve always been an explorer at heart and when I see a piece of junk left behind my inner child wants to play Indiana Jones. I have passed this old drilling rig for thirty years and kept telling myself one day I’ll go down into the overgrown field and check it out. It’s not as simple as it sounds. I live in rattlesnake territory and they absolutely love to make their dens in old machines. It was still winter I figured that they were still hibernating if not frozen stiff and so I made my way to the rig. Since there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity, I moved cautiously through the briars and winter grasses. I used my tripod to push back the brush and make sure I actually wanted to step there before moving forward. When I finally reached my goal a took a few minutes to appreciate the object before my eyes. I was touching history. Maybe not Earth shattering history but someone’s history. The drilling rig was more than likely used by miners to get core samples for the coal industry. I looked over the broken gauges and switches. The key that turned the machine on was still in the ignition. Levers that were frozen with rust had not been touched by human hands in decades. The steel cables sagged and the wheels had rotted away. I think about the men who operated the drill. I imagine the hot July and August days on the job site. The dust rises from the bore hole turns into mud when it lands on their necks due to sweat. The type of men who do this kind of work are hardy and take pride in the job. They deal with the misery of labor by laughing when it’s over. I would not be surprised if break time included some pranks here and there. There always at least one person on a crew like this who is afraid of snakes and a cheap rubber snake left near a lunch box is better than T.V. These men are not just coworkers. They’re family. They say that history is really his story . But it’s their story and our story. And when you come in contact with one of the relics, it’s your story too.