This past weekend, I got to spend a lot of time in one of my favorite places – down by the riverside. On Friday, a friend arranged a lovely evening by the Schuylkill in Philly where we got to walk and talk and see the way the lights reflected in lines of wavy beauty on the water. We walked for hours, and it was amazing. That river has some great bridges made of stone, these arches overhead that just linger there in all their solidness. My friend said that people built things to last then – and I would add they built things to be beautiful, too.
Then, on Saturday, I jetted down to my parents’ place in Virginia for Easter, and that afternoon, my dad, my cousin, her friend, and I put our kayaks in the river and rowed for a couple of hours down the James. We skirted up a little tributary and passed under another railroad bridge made of stone. Dad said they had put it up when the railroad came through there in the late 1800s. My cousin said, “they built things to last then.” An call-back of the night before that echoed as we passed through the tunnel.
Yesterday, as I drove home along the illustrious I-95, I was struck by how interesting but uninspiring the highway overpasses are. Just south of my house, they’re (who is it that builds highways exactly?) building a huge traffic jungle of ramps and overpasses and underpasses where two major highways meet. The engineering is magnificent, but somehow, it doesn’t cause me to pause and marvel (partially because if I did, I’d be creamed by the traffic). I don’t think these bridges will last that long. We’ll be out doing repairs on them in 5 years – we seem to, now, need to build in fallibility in our constructions. Are we trying to keep ourselves busy? Or are we trying to prove we’re still necessary?
Somehow, in all of this speed, we seem to have lost the desire to build things that last – relationships, bridges, memories. Everything is so quick – communication online, traffic, our days. I wonder what we would get if we simply did the things we loved with slowness and deliberateness. Would we have wonderful weekends like I did that were full of strolls and deep talks, where we would float down the river and see an otter and an osprey and where the great blue heron stood so close I could see it’s eyes as I passed by the island where it stood? Would we have bridges of language and experience that last long beyond us?
In a little over a month, I’ll be trying to live this out. I can’t wait, but then, I’m hurrying again, huh? Maybe I should slow down in this month, too, and see what there is to see. Maybe I can build something to last even now.