Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Factory I Didn't Know Was There: Strange Platypus(es)

These fragments I have shored against my ruins.
-T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland

There was once a Tiffany Glass factory in the town where I grew up.  I didn't know that.  It's in ruins now, but apparently you can still pick up handfuls of brightly colored glass if you know where to look.

Brightly colored glass.

From pieces of brightly colored glass came all the amazing works of the Tiffany studio.  I've seen them in Boston, Ohio, and even Redlands California.  Wherever I have seen them, Tiffany windows are remarkable for their beauty -and my home town played a part in the making of that beauty.  Much of the downtown is in ruins now and those ruins are slowly being cleared away in a decades-long process of urban renewal.  Whatever once flanked the downtown has been covered by the woods and is now a state park.  I don't know what will happen to the old glass works.  Maybe they've already been cleared away.  What is certain is that those pieces of glass will disappear back into the soil taking their beauty with them.  In the long run, so what: they're just broken glass?  But from those pieces of glass came light and glory that still graces palaces and cathedrals.  What will replace them?

Towns are like that.  One layer of human settlement builds upon the buried remains of another.  The Puritans built upon the old Indian fort.  The Victorians built upon the Puritan township.  The Moderns reorganized what was left when the mills faded into a quaint little suburb.  The suburb stagnated until it found its equilibrium by cutting taxes and luring in a little light industry.  Each generation shores up the ruins of its ancestors; from the fragments a history is made.

I was a little piece of glass picked off the pile and brought far away.

Be mindful of these bones,
Be mindful of these bones.
Wash them, cradle them,lay them in the earth
Till they lie as thick as glacial rock,
In the twinkling of an eye
They will be changed.   

No comments: