Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Passing by the new building site has been almost a daily event for several months. Each phase of the construction was duly inspected; razing of the old structure, the framing of wood and steel, the plumbing and wall-boarding, wire and tar-paper, stucco and plaster, glazing, and more to come. The crews usually wave to me from across the street and when the second-story roof was set in place the waving was even more celebratory than usual. Perhaps this camaraderie was partly due to the fact that as I lurched by with my walker I frequently assured them if they needed any help they could call on me.

The new structure is squeezed into a row of similar small apartment houses facing the bay and the morning sun. It is mostly of the Modern style, or perhaps because of Spanish type details here and there it could be called Moderne. In any case, with its straight and angular lines the rounded tops of two large windows and the entry-door insures that it will feel at home with its older, more venerable neighbors. Speaking of neighbors a young woman who lives nearby informed me that she grew up in the house that was demolished. Her grandmother had owned it for years and finally sold the property to renovators. I wonder now if that woman ever thought about what had been left in the rubble--or the layers under the latest rubble. What about the wells of Abraham or Jacob, built over older wells, or like Tells and digs of Egypt, and the whited sepulchers of old, what of dormant blessings

“…because of the Shepherd, the Rock
Of Israel,
Because of your father’s God, who
Helps you,…”.

I suddenly wanted to know, too late, what relic or lost art lay under the older structure. It is rumored that the Chumash of early California were no great shakes at building houses and the Clam-diggers, or the Wailiki were reportedly uninterested in architecture, but the centuries must be made of more than that. It occurred to me that soon the bright new place would be lost in the obscurity of its rows of counterparts along all the streets—in all the towns around, hiding perhaps forever what had been there before. Is it like that with people? Each one of us may indeed cover over ancestral lives that are now lost, but surely only in earthly rubble are things of value hidden. Fortunately no child of God is lost in eternity. The newcomer is welcome to stay too.

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