Monday, March 8, 2010

Ugly Damage

Between mid-November and now, vandals have nearly destroyed my favorite folk artifact as well as destroying public property, apparently so they could build fires on the beach. I can only guess but their probably purpose was simply to have a little noticed place to party because I also assume these were young people.

My favorite place to walk by the ocean is a small nature reserve called Long Beach, a spit of land between an inlet and the ocean that is a mile long and only 50 yards or so wide except toward the end where salt marshes make it a bit wider. Years before I moved here my daughter took me walking there and we admired "the shell tree", a dead fir tree with branches festooned with conch shells which had holes in them so they could be threaded on the dead limbs.
In many places of the s I have seen folk artifacts which I liken to the impulse that made unknown walkers wish to add shells to this dead tree. In the Himalayas I usually saw cairns piled at passes, the higher the pass, the bigger the cairn. Some cairns had latse [prayer flags on poles] stuck into them, others were just piles of stones. The passerby added a stone of his own and so did I when I passed by. On the rolling steepes of Mongolia similar cairns are called oovos. Stones are fewer, of course, but they often contain prayer flags too and tokens of respect, including empty bottles from Chingas Khan beer. I understand other mountainous areas also have cairns.

Last summer I made a point of picking up shells that had been too near the ends of branches and fell of in the wind and replacing them as safely as I could. I began to feel like one of the people I thought of as "local Druids", caretakers of the shell tree. So it was with great sadness I saw that all the branches had been torn from the tree. [A few other dead trees had suffered the same fate, standing now as merely dead trunks.] This is sad and feels like a desecration of nature.

Last summer and fall I noticed that occasional laterals from the split rail fence beside the board walk that leads to the beach area, had been broken and removed. I was also aware where an unburnt end of one such lateral was beside the ashes and char of a fire. My first indication of change yesterday was noticing many laterals were now missing. I didn't count but I think 12 or 15 -- sturdy lengths of wood that of course, was well cured and dry and no doubt burned warmly for those gathered around. They are public property. I suspect they will not be replaced any time soon.

The original Vandals were a large part of the barbarian hoards that destroyed Rome and ushered in the Dark Ages in Europe. I'm not going to draw parallels here but I am deeply sorry that civilization, even into the 21st century and in this very civilized area, has these hiccups back into the dark ages when young people revert to pure selfishness and casual destruction of what was intended for the safety and enjoyment of the public.


Conda V. Douglas said...

Awful, June, I've never understood the narcissistic attitudes of vandals. But maybe the answer is in the word narcissistic.

Interesting post, thanks.

Kass said...

I consider myself a pretty even person, but when I observe this kind of vandalism, I start fantasizing about doing harm to thoughtless people.