Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Landfill At The Bottom Of The Day

One more day slowly tumbles the last twenty yards down the hill into the darkness, and I have no choice but to turn away and let most of it go.

What a wondrous, depressing scrap heap must lie down there at the bottom of time's hill, a bottomless bottom full of wrecked hearts, exhausted marvels and miracles, wishes, busted dreams, goodbyes, regrets, forgotten thoughts, good intentions, memories of first meetings, wasted fairy dust, failed attempts, triumphs and all manner of disasters great and small; cribs, coffins, lost love, training wheels, castoff fashions and fads, dismembered dolls, yearbooks; shit that no longer worked or was no longer needed or that just hurt too damn much to keep around.

And under and mixed in among it all --if you were willing to dig long and deep enough-- you'd surely find entire civilizations and layer upon layer of the sort of prosaic trash and nothingness and empty, wasted hours that we all just allow to roll off and away from us at the bottom of every day. All of it gone, gone for good (whatever that could ever possibly mean).

Your first smile, first giggle, first rock t-shirt, first kiss; every forgotten memory, a million stories received from family, friends, and strangers; every bright morning and long night, every moment of ecstatic, extinct passion, all your faded dreams: They're all there now.

Your beloved old moon globe is down there somewhere as well, along with the first John Denver record you bought at Sterling Drug, and the Schwinn stingray with the sparkly green banana seat and gleaming sissy bar that you pedaled to Sterling Drug to buy your first John Denver record. The ruins of at least a half dozen of your old forts are there, and the Alvin and the Chipmunks coloring book that was once one of your most treasured possessions.

Things and memories and moments, though, not the people who are gone, not the precious people who've moved on in a different direction, into a darkness that is someplace beyond but not below. People, you need to believe, don't just roll down the hill at the bottom of the day and disappear into that landfill of everything gone.

To think of all your own contributions to the scrap heap at the bottom of the day is almost more than you can bear.

In many ways this bottomless landfill is a collapsed Tower of Babel, an immense, sprawling repository of discards from mankind's collective library of experiences, desires, and wasted time and money.

No living person who ever hopes to truly return can visit there, of course, but it is nonetheless often rumored that at least some of the most abject human specimens --living, if barely-- have made that long journey, and spend their days in darkness, roving over the mountains of the past, searching with sticks and improvised or broken rakes or shovels for some reminder of the happier people they had once been. A resonant scrap from even a single wasted, otherwise wholly forgotten day must surely be precious to these scavengers in that dark place. And how much more precious must be the rare discovery of personal photograph, a familiar toy, or a love letter written in one's own hand.

It's a landfill lottery, obviously, with very long odds, but it's what keep these wretches going.

There must be millions upon millions of love letters down there, written in every language ever uttered on earth, and I like to imagine that while the scavengers are stumbling through the piles of sad detritus they are startled time and again by the sounds of laughter and happy, disembodied voices rising up from air pockets in the rubble, sometimes from someplace that seems tauntingly close, sometimes from far below, but always sounding eerily like vaguely familiar voices carrying from a front porch in a long ago August twilight, the voices of mothers summoning their children to a home that no longer exists, voices and laughter from a dock on a dark lake. All manner of lovely voices moving on the wind of any number of perfect summer nights, in places far flung yet always far, far away and long gone.


  1. Beautiful and so very sad. I find peace in knowing that "now" is all there ever is.

  2. I wish like hell I could accept that "now" is all there ever is, but I find there's so much "then" and "someday" standing in my way. I guess I'm a zen failure, but I'll keep trying.

  3. It tears at one's heart to imagine all of the love letters not sent, for want of an envelope, or a stamp, or nerve.

  4. That would make a heartbreaking anthology.

  5. Regret gets deeper than what's past, in multiple ways.

  6. Not to sound like a therapist, Laura, but I'd like to hear more about that.

  7. Beautiful.

    Reminds me of Walter Benjamin on the "Angel of History":

    A Klee painting named "Angelus Novus" shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

  8. Possibly my favorite of all my all-time favorite quotes. I have a copy of "Angelus Novus" by my desk, and think of "The Angel of History" at least once a week.