In the here and now, time confuses me. It seems to creep by in the here-and-now, while the past flies in my memory.
A trip to Pennsylvania pushed this thought to my mind. There the back roads meander through well cultivated fields while tidy historic homes and moderate suburban housing developments break the monotony of greenery. If I recall, the Pennsylvania landscape, the environment, is the product of only about 300 years of man’s presence.
Then I remember I’m connected to five generations myself. My grandfather was born in 1897, my younger grandson in 2011. That’s more than a century, the equivalent of five sets of generations in this amount of time. So a relatively small number of generations separate me from the beginnings of contemporary civilization in this country. Time doesn’t just fly, it zooms.
The strange juxtaposition in my thoughts comes from thinking how I’ve missed my opportunity to gain information about my family.
I knew my father had lots of stories because he told us some of them. One frequent narration concerned his hanging on to backs of trucks to joy-ride when only three. What I don’t know, because I never asked, were details like: was he with a brother? Did his parents find out? Was he punished?. Most likely. I think perhaps he was very like my second grandson. Always ready to try something risky, always laughing with a full body guffaw. I remember my dad this way in my childhood but not after I grew up. Then he seemed gruff, even angry. After seven children, a divorce, the rebellions of those children, the failure of a business, he surely had enough reasons to be frustrated and angry. But why didn’t I ask more questions when he was still here? Now I never can capture these details or get to know him as a person, not a father. This is my first lesson learned too late in life.
Then I think about our country. Three hundred years ago, pristine waters and air, burgeoning plants and animal life crowded the continent. Of course if we’d halted any development at that stage, I wouldn’t be here. But comparing my idyllic view of the past with the crowded, frantic, even destructive landscape I see now, I shudder for our future.
In one area of Pennsylvania, a pipeline has been proposed to carry high-pressure natural gas. This development would go near lots of residents and businesses. According to a homeowner, there are no methods available to individuals or local government to question the proposal or insist on safeguards. Once the pipeline’s in place, like any other creation, it might be destroyed or explode, endangering locals.
This isn’t a fantasy. In Colorado, just last year a house explosion killed two. This was caused by odorless gas seeping from a cut-off underground pipeline into the house through French drains and a sump pit. The pipeline was too close and not regulated enough to prevent the accident and subsequent needless deaths. New legislation will, I hope, rectify the situation. Too little, too late.
Is this the case in Pennsylvania example, too? I don’t know. All I know is that some opportunities don’t reoccur. Over and over and over we’re told development and growth are “progress.” We’re told we must sacrifice landscape, native flora and fauna, even human safety for improvement. In less than 250 years, since the establishment of the U.S., we have managed to make human presence felt everywhere
Is continuing in this manner wise? Will this become another lesson learned too late in life?