Sunday 30 May 1999


Pic of the day: The road to summer.

They say there is overpopulation. They say Earth is crowded. I say, let them come here and look for themselves. Sure, Tokyo and New York City are pretty crowded. And I guess people like it that way, that's why they run for the cities. But it isn't exactly crowded here.

Along the road lie houses, side by side, with a small garden and a lawn. And where the lawn ends, wilderness begins. Step over the fence and you are in the wood. Walk on, and you could get lost. Seen from above, the roads and their occasional fringes of homes snake like ribbons of civilization through a vast, primordial wilderness. Stray from the path for a short while, and you may walk where no human foot has trod before.

The exception is when you arrive at the farmland. Wood and mire and boulders give way to plain, rectangular lots in green or brown. For as long as it lasts, it looks like we humans have enslaved nature. Then suddenly it stops again, and the fertile chaos of nature takes over.

Leave the black road with its painted lines, where cars rush by, and select instead a small sanded road in among the hills. Trees heavy with foliage lean over the road, where ruts have been worn by horse-drawn carriages longer than by cars. As the fields and orchards disappear from view, the road ceases to strut and dominate. You get the feeling that it remains here more at the sufferance of nature than as some artifact of power, like the highways far behind you. And soon you see why. At the side of the road is some curiously flat stretch of young wood. And there, at the end of the flat patch, is the ruins of a small house. Once this road connected a tiny farm to the world; but no one wanted to live twenty minutes extra from the bustle of modernity. And so the house fell into disrepair, and the wood reclaimed what humans once carved from it with steel and toil.

There is an almost humorous patience to the wood. It has seen off beetle infestations worse than these humans. They come, they slash and burn, they build and sow and reap, and then they disappear.

Here where I live, new houses are being built now and then. Slowly, almost too slowly to notice, wilderness is pushed back. But not too far away, further inland, the youngwood grows on forgotten fields, and a jumble of stones is all that is left of a foundation.

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