Monday, May 24, 2010

What the Paper Mill Left Behind

On a hot muggy day, when the air around us shimmered with midges and collective sweat, we followed the canal off the path, into the woods. Ohio woods are mild. They break into open meadows and lazy river bends whenever they can. They are sweet and young, because once their ancestors were flattened, hacked, burned into industry, but they don't yet know this history. Ohio woods only know how to grow green and pleasant. But insistently still. Pervasively. Overwhelmingly. Youth is intense.

We came across the corpse of a Great Beast the men had abandoned. Once, the Beast had been their favorite weapon. Chained in a dark warehouse, fed only scraps and prisoners, they kept it keen and hungry. When war threatened, they would lead it in the night to the enemy camps, tight on a leash until suddenly it wasn't, and with it's creeping silent whirring and grinding, it slid across the landscape with glacial mentality, to eat and eat and eat some more, to move and move and keep moving some more.

The prize Beast. The feared Beast. The loathsome Beast. The efficient Beast. The industrious Beast. The insatiable Beast. The invisible Beast. The deadly Beast. Scary Beast, the nightmare of grown men Beast, respected and abused Beast. Best kept out of sight until needed Beast.

But empires crumble, it's like the only thing they do well. The men went away, and the Beast was left in the dungeon, until the dungeon walls fell away, and it was left in open ruins. Then it ate the ruins, and it was left in weeds. It tried to eat the weeds, but they grew faster than it could manage to chew them. It slouched slowly around the river bed, finally settling on a bare foundation, tired from the effort, starving, until the elements took it's will to live away.

Poor Beast. It was only doing what the universe had made it for. It had only ever been loyal to purpose. We touched it's rust and murmured, wishing too late we had brought some oil for it's frozen heart. Unfair then, to be abandoned here. Unloved.

We saw the spine in the background, and followed the tracks till we came upon it's rotting vertebrae. The woods were enthusiastic to have us, eagerly leading us deeper and deeper, flaunting it's colors like a drunk cheerleader at a pep rally. Come over here, the trees pushed, come over here and see what this is!

This is ours, the trees bragged, we found it!
This is mine, the river gloated, finders keepers!

More photos here.


  1. "But empires crumble, it's like the only thing they do well." *swoon*

  2. Elly, the day I stop making you swoon, I will lose all faith in my ability.

  3. "This is mine, the river gloated, finders keepers!"

    that made we want to write poetry
    also I so need to be the weird guy who tags along with you
    and probably is the first to be killed by the evil we unleash accidentally.
    a risk I'm willing to take.

  4. Well my current weird guy is going to MIA thanks to grad school, and my weird girl got some cool internship in DC, so I'll be on the look out for stragglers to initiate.

  5. It's not what I suggested that you do with it, but it 's better. It's really good in fact. The Beast of things the beast in things.

    I don't know if any of our trips has so successfully juxtaposed the end of things and the permanency of things. Maybe we should look for a glass factory, or a ceramic foundry?

  6. wow, girl. really beautiful stuff. i absolutely love the picture of the overgrown train track bridge. as unsafe as it likely is, it is definitely calling to me to take a couple of steps just a leeeeeetle bit closer.
    amazing work, keep it up!

  7. Oh god, my friends were climbing like monkeys on it. I was all like "I'm not calling 911 assholes". I may have just said that to myself.

  8. Woo Hoo for Ohio. Southern Ohio here.. for the last three years. I have found there are so many things here that seem to be untouched by time. I like the beauty in the disrepair.

    Found your blog on studio 30+ - hope you don't mind, if I put you on my blog roll.
    Come over and see me sometime if you like...... Holly

  9. Soo many great lines. I LOVE THIS.

    Hooray for the trees!

  10. This one really reminds me of "Grendel" by John Gardener. The sympathetic beast, the savage beast, only doing what it was brought into the world to do. Poor beast.


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