Tuesday, September 24, 2013

To Be Alive Is to be Changing

Why are we surprised by change? The world around us is ever changing. Leaves are falling. Children are growing up fast. I am growing slower. The idea that things always stay the same or some things never change is a myth.

This summer I visited the town of Thurmond, West Virginia. Thurmond lies just five miles from State Highway 19. Yet it takes forty-five minutes to drive the ever narrowing winding road down into the New River Gorge to reach it. The last sign assuring you that you have not made a wrong turn is ten minutes into the forty-five minute journey.

Some things in Thurmond have not changed. The rail station is still there. Trains still barrel through three or four times a day carrying loads of coal. Many of the old buildings still stand. But the rail station is now the park ranger station and a museum. The trains are now electric diesels and not the steam engines that ran these tracks fifty years ago.  Less than half a dozen families now live in Thurmond.  The train stops in Thurmond but only to let another pass not to load or unload anyone or anything.

Even as late as the early sixties Thurmond was a thriving town. The long trek to the highway didn’t matter because people and goods came through the valley by train. All along the valley were other small towns and small mines. All are gone now. The small mines have been replaced by major industrialized mining operations. The coal fueled steam locomotive was replaced by sleek new diesel locomotives. Coal furnaces for homes and buildings have been replaced by oil then gas and electric and in some places geothermal heat.  I don’t remember ever seeing a steam locomotive actually in commercial use but I do remember what an exciting thing it was to see the beautiful new Santa Fe Chief.

For the people of this valley life changed quickly. The mines closed and the towns died. The day before as we floated down the New River on a raft the guide pointed several times to vine covered foundations that were the remnants of other towns now gone.

Most of life changes slowly and incrementally but be assured it is changing, that is how we know we are living.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

On my Summer Vacation I Went to the Beach

One of the best parts of my summer was a week at the beach in Ocean City, Maryland. We had not been to the beach for the past two summers so this was a welcomed time. The towns of Maryland and Delaware along coastal highway are each very different. We start with Lewis in the north which has a large historic district and identifies itself as the first town in the first state and head south.

Following Lewis is The Midway which isn’t really a town and is most significant because of its 100+ outlet store.

We visited them on our one cloudy day. Then Rehoboth which has a large retired population and a large gay population. Right next to Rehoboth is Dewey Beach which traditionally has a younger population. Heading south you have a few miles of salt marsh and few houses before you cross the Indian River Bridge. We started going to the shore about 20 years ago and I believe even then they had begun construction on the Indian River Bridge.* I am glad to announce that it is finally finished.

This is followed by Bethany Beach, which is less commercial than Rehoboth and has some lovely homes. Unfortunately Bethany’s major landmark are six or seven ten story brown condo buildings that appear to have been built using an architect who primarily designed condos for a soviet block nation. Then we come to the small town of Fenwick Island which does not appear to be an island and finally ocean city which has a resident population of 15,000 and a summer population that can reach 300,000.

Our condo looks out on the Atlantic. Almost every morning between seven and eight we saw this fox prowling through the dunes. (The fox is a little down and to the right of center.) All I could think was what an interest habitat that is fifty feet wide and maybe ten miles long, also the wonderful way that some wild life has adapted to our encroachment on their habitat. 

*Actual construction on the bridge only started in 2008. Prior to the the 'construction" at the bridge site was to address erosion that threatened to collapse the bridge. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Treasures, Memories and Lessons

I've missed two weeks of blogging. Sorry. I've been on vacation. 
So I am going to wrap up my box blogs

today and then next week start some mandatory back to school blogs, ‘What I did on my summer vacation.’

I really have many boxes and here are two more today. One is an old wooden cigar box that I believe I got from my Pop Pop fifty years ago. The only reason I doubt that memory is that my Pop Pop smoked a pipe and didn't smoke cigars. Among the things in this box are coins, a railroad spike and some locks. The coins range from silver dollars to pesos to some uncirculated sets with Kennedy half dollars. I don’t remember where the railroad spike came from, but I wouldn't admit it if I did. I found it beside the tracks I didn't pull it out. Some of the locks have keys and some don’t. There is also a ball bearing. I once had a ball bearing that was about 21/2 inches in diameter. It was fun to play catch with. Maybe I lost it because it was too big to keep safe in a box.

I have these treasures because my mother did not completely clean out my childhood bedroom until after college so I had a chance to collect these things.

The second box is newer and mostly post college. Yes I still hold on to things. There are several non- working watches. There is an expired long horn credit card, probably my first foray into consumer debt. There are some miscellaneous jewelry like tie clips. And there is that long white knife. When I was 15 I ordered it from the back of a magazine for a few dollars. I had only had it a few days, but my father saw me brandishing it around inappropriately and took it away from me. Having learned my lessons I got it back 35 years later when we were cleaning out my mother’s house after she died.

So maybe my boxes contain memories, treasures and lessons learned and unlearned.