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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Passaic River: Written in Concrete

Sunlight flickers off the crests of waves creating tiny crowns as the water gurgles through the rocks from the falls, white heads among the gray stones and concrete blocks and protruding pipes contractors dumped here over night, one more unexpected change to the landscape I had not expected.
On these days, I have become a quality control inspector, studying the details of the river to make sure no one has misappropiately used nature, and here, one more abuse appears in this so-called age of environmental enlightenment, shards of concrete laid down on the river bottom like too many chocolate chips stuffed into this moving brown cookie.
From here on the dock or from above the falls, I have contantly admired the texture of the land below the falls, where the stony bottom forces the surging water to spread out and seek avenues unimagined before, where trees root right in the middle of the water anchored by the stones. I have always found a symitry in that jumble, shaping patterns of behavior for the water and the wildlife that have settled around it, red-wing black birds, wrens, even occassional egrets setting up shop at convenient locations, dipping their beaks in the water as the fish swim by.
These newly deposited retangular objects have no place in that world, already drawing pieces jetsum that would have passed through at other times, fallen branches suddenly tangled in the narrow passages, causing more things to clutter behind them, and then eventually the water to back up. While the water will never get so deep as to swallow the falls, the pattern has altered and the foot holds birds used have vanished, leaving many winging over the top, settling on the too-high perches to work out the details of these new horrors.
Stealthly, the river rats work their way out, finding this more condusive to their way of life, giving them new angles behind which to hide. Even the muscrats make their move, stirring from under their reed protection to peer out, as perplexed as the birds.
Over time, life will work around the intrusion, the birds will find some new way to use these as they had used the stones. Even the water will eventually make smooth the hard edges, sculpting the odd shapes into smoother, more acceptable images. Yet, something fundamental has altered. The tree-filled, stone-cluttered world of yesterday has vanished, and even time, chiseling at the concrete, can never bring that place back.

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