Cars and Time’s Tricks

One of the landmarks on my regular walks along the river is an old car frame, belly-up and tires attached, half-submerged at the bottom of a steep bank. Over a year ago, when the brown turf of winter was beginning to green, I took a photo of the wreck.


Today, stepping carefully into a flowering of touch-me-nots, I took another, wondering whether I would note any change.


Despite the several minor floods that have occurred between then and now, it appears the only real changes are the cosmetic sorts that seasons bring: grass where there was mud, a darker, clearer hue of water, and the dappled light of a leafy canopy. As a former archaeologist, I keep hoping to witness its gradual burial, until it is entirely consumed by the earth, a curious artifact rather than a niggling eyesore.

But time works at its own pace on the earth, building and eroding in thousands and hundreds of years rather than months or days. Or, at least, it has in the past. It seems, lately, that we may not be able to rely always on what we have known or taken for granted when it comes to the shape and speed of time’s passage as it plays out in currents, storms, and the creeping of tides. For now, though, that old car is suspended in time and mud, exposed and broken, watching the seasons wash over its carcass. Slowly, to my eyes, but quickly, to others.

I find time treacherous and slippery. Some days I wish away before they’re over, but others I want to magic alongside me forever. Sending my boys to school today reminds me of this. One is in high school now, the other only two years behind, and they are changing, growing up, less willing to be part of my ramblings. They measure time in minutes and hours — it stretches out before them — and they have little patience when I stop for a moment just to look.

Especially at a rusty, abandoned old car.

The Worst Kind of Trash




I referred in an earlier post to my past identity as a Classical Archaeologist, but I failed to mention my favorite subject and place.  Researching my master’s thesis, which focused on ancient cultural perspectives on drinking, brought me to Ukraine, where Greeks settled on the Black Sea and came into contact with the native nomadic Scythians, who ruled the steppes from the 7th to 3rd centuries B.C.  The Scythians, and the gorgeous golden loot they left behind in their graves (burial mounds called kurhany or kurgans), have been the subject of many exhibitions, including “Sycthian Gold” at the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland in 2000. Ukraine’s history is fascinating, but its countryside, cut through by the Dniepr River, is equally so.

The issues that the country currently faces are far beyond the scope and focus of this blog, but there is one glaring overlap of concern.  On April 28, 1986, almost exactly 30 years ago, an accident occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, in what was then Soviet Ukraine, that spewed contaminated radioactive waste over a large swath of the surrounding region. The people that lived in the region (which includes part of modern Belarus) were eventually evacuated, and the subsequent “exclusion zone” has existed without humans ever since.  Other, wilder animals have since returned and multiplied to fill the void.  It is an amazing place to see now, but we still don’t know what it will really mean for these animals to live in a place that we have, so literally, trashed.

I feel as if I’ve strayed far from the Monocacy, but looking for beauty in disaster, questioning our human influence on nature, those are some reasons why I write.  And when someone shared with me this story from Reuters, although it focuses on the zone in Belarus, I felt that I should pass it on.  The pictures and video are, like Ukraine, heartbreakingly complicated and beautiful.


Trash from the Past


I guess I’ve always had a thing for trash: digging for it, documenting it, and treasuring it. While the blog’s subtitle calls me a “girl,” by now it should be obvious that I’m long past being any such thing, at least in externals. I’m old enough to have accumulated  a number of identities, and one of my favorite ones, one which I thought was never to be picked up again, was archaeologist.  In my twenties, I got an advanced degree in Greek, Latin, and Archaeology and did some digging for a few summers at some classical sites. It’s actually not as exciting a job as most expect.  While I was in the trenches, tourists often asked whether I had found any gold.  I smiled and said, “no,” because I understood that they meant the shiny mineral, but I had found some of my own gold: potsherds, pieces of glass, dirt floors, roads, foundations, and even a tiny marble head. In other words, I had found ancient trash. And, to me, it was fascinating.

The trash I’m finding today could be the treasure of tomorrow.  So should I feel bad about picking it up?  I’ve decided no.  What I find is shreds of plastic, tin cans, agricultural waste, bits of clothing, machine parts, et alia (see, I do know Latin), that has floated down the river.  Its lost its cultural context and, therefore, is of little future value for those who may wish to understand us, say, 1,000 years from now. In other words, there’s no need to give myself a pat on the back for leaving a yogurt container to be buried in the sand.

There are active archeologists (note the different spelling for those who work in North America…wow, I am such a geek today!) working along the Monocacy River.  In fact, there is a large Native American settlement off Biggs Ford Rd. that has been excavated multiple years by the Archeological Society of Maryland.  From approximately 1000-1500 AD, it was occupied by peoples of the Montgomery and Keyser Complex. For more details and pictures from the 2014 expedition, see the link below.

Oh, and it’s April, so happy Maryland Archeology Month!