Sunday, February 19, 2023


Trail Markers

I watched a documentary film on my Kindle, about petroglyphs in the Oregon wilderness.  Called "Middle," it's a terrible film with a single saving moment.  In that moment, one of our two protagonists stops on a trail near a high peak in the Cascades, at perhaps 7,000 feet.  The prospect below, of valleys and lakes, is spectacular.  Our man gathers up seven or eight carefully-chosen stones, and piles them one on top of the other at eye level, on a little ledge.  He has difficulty only with the last, little stone on top, but he has patience and perseveres. 

It seems impossible that they would stay in place; it's like a literal house of cards in a wind tunnel.  Except that there is no wind to speak of.  In fact, the two men on the trail laugh, remarking that the tower of stones will topple with the first earth tremor or strong breeze.  But, for the time being, it will be a signature, and one that will cause others to pause if they should happen to seek out this remote place.

And so it is with words piled one atop the other.  We think that "the cloud" is like the amber that will preserve a dead bug in perpetuity.  But the cloud is a metaphor, and the words reside in a very concrete place, in a particular server in a particular server farm, perhaps in the high Colorado desert.

Earthquake, scirocco, electromagnetic pulse attack from the North Koreans.  A mouse gone mad enough to chew through a cable.  There are redundancies, of course, that can turn these hundred-year events into three-hundred year events, but the arc of history bends towards disorder, more predictably for sure than it does towards justice.

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