Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Here today, gone tomorrow

I’ve long been a fan of Stephen King.

Oh sure, he can scare the bejesus out of the most stout-hearted reader, and he has the knack to make even the most ordinary events unseemly or downright creepy. But at the base of it all is the undeniable fact that he is one heck of a writer.

For me, one of his most memorable scenes involved the simple interaction between a mother and her son. I think this appears in The Stand. (He’s written so many darn books I often have a hard time recalling in which book a particular passage occurs!)

What happens is that a young boy runs into the kitchen one nice summer day to show his mother the bird he’s just shot with his pellet rifle. He is bursting with pride at his manly display.

But then his mother says, “Okay, now make it come back to life.”

The boy’s pride is wiped away in an instant. He learns a hard lesson that day, that destroying things is easy, so incredibly easy that anyone can do it. And thus destroying things is not special and is not to be admired.

Creating is hard.

My Precious Daughter and I had a discussion about this the other day. The big white brick house that has stood dominantly on the corner of our street for as long as we have lived here got knocked down this week. It was methodically pounded and smashed and broken into “bite-sized” chunks suitable for lifting by a backhoe and removal by truck.

A New Orleans house prior to demolition, October 2006.

It’s a safe bet it took a year or more to plan, design and build that house. It took less than two days to destroy it.

A New Orleans house 48 hours later, October 2006.

This is the nature of our existence. I’m currently reading Flags of our Fathers, the story of six Marines who climbed that blood-stained mountain on Iwo Jima to plant the flag. They are just a sampling of the thousands who lived and loved, hoped and dreamed, worked and struggled for years, only to die suddenly and violently on a tiny Pacific island.

It took so much effort to get there; it took less than a second for a bullet to strike and kill.

This is the nature of life. It took decades of effort to build these houses, this neighborhood, this city we call New Orleans. But one hurricane, one flood, one awful day in August was all that was required to wipe out most of that productive work.

And for what remains, these structural shells of houses, these tombs of family memories, it takes no more than two days to finish what the flood began.

Are we surprised that a mere 14 months later the city is not rebuilt yet?

Work on our new house proceeds. We received a preliminary set of drawings a few weeks ago, made comments and changes, and we are now waiting on revisions. It’s going to be a while before we get out of this FEMA travel trailer.

We’re creating a new city here. These things take time.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a calm, hopeful influence you are. Please write more often!

Anonymous said...

Another great post but the comment I want to leave is that I am also a huge Stephen King fan. I wonder if that's why I'm so drawn to your writing. The Stand was the best. I think the quote might be from Pet Sematary but I get all the passages confused, too.

Mr. Clio said...

Dr. Norman Francis of Xavier and the LRA, when someone asked him what he thought about the "slow pace" of recovery, replied, "Compared to what?"

Can't say it any better than that.

Happy Boitday, bra.

Sophmom said...

I've come to catch up and you've been so busy writing! YAY!

That's what we call it, "knocking it down". We also say, "it's on the ground" when referring to the transition from demolition to debris removal. One moment it's someone's home, damaged, done, but still a house. Then a few hours with an excavator later, it's debris. *sigh*