The Sublime

            Sometimes one sees them passing by, a rusted hulk or faded relic riding atop a trailer. They aren’t headed to be sold at the scrap yard. Haggled over and purchased, they are on their way to be restored to what they were originally intended to be, or what folks back then would have modified them to be as per the actual practice of everyday life. Refinished, they will amaze with their gleaming renditions of bygone modes of transportation sharing the very pavement with our contemporary fuel efficient, on star equipped versions.

            Permission had been given to set up an apiary on a recently acquired rural property. It was located on a back road, neither here nor there. This was a ruin from the time when farming as life had crested in the US. Young men went off to fight WWII, “the big one”, never to return to what had been till then “their future”. Old age and disability had eventually separated the residents from their source of vitality. With no descendents interested in carrying on, the house and grounds continued on their own, unabated. The neighboring farm down the road, from the same era, had its tillable land sold off separate from the immediate homestead, now occupied by a young Amish couple. Both houses originated architecturally for more utilitarian requirements like having a place to sleep, eat and stay warm than aesthetic or leisure ones. The remains that the bees would now call home were still intact though the surrounding land and barn continue to be leased for cattle and hay. The house itself was added to and modified, both the original and the additions; i.e. a porch, then the porch enclosed, then the porch made into a florida room, then opened up to accommodate a wheel chair ramp, or a lean to shed, then a carport, then extended for two cars, then an enclosed garage, then walls of glass to serve as a green house for starts, etc. The grounds immediately adjacent to the house harmonize with it; a pond surrounded by various nut trees, the dike raised and pond expanded to within yards of the back door, a fir tree forest originally planted as a windbreak now overshadowing many different varieties of fruit trees, fallen down grape arbors and more large nut trees, throughout, flowers and berry bushes of every kind, both intentional and volunteer, crammed into any available nook, cranny or corner. The grass of the grounds has been continuously grass for so long that a layer of hummus is distinctly evident in the sod that was broken for the new hive stands. Life has outlived the folks who lived here.

            It all made me wonder about art, beauty and the sublime. The rusted hulks and faded paint relics that collectors, hobbyist and pop culture artists restore to show off shiny and perfect at car shows, exhibitions and competitions all originated as perfect, undamaged, only to be resurrected as the same. No one would dare restore or resurrect the ruins of this household, pond and garden simply because no one could. The least little detail of any of it embodies, maps, what made it possible; the winds, rain and draught that damaged or nourished it, the pests and diseases that grew with it and are part of it, the economy that enabled or restrained desire. At what point could one hop in and say “this is what was there”? It is a continuance which out raced those that had delighted in it, a continuance which cannot be frozen in the LL Bean catalogue fashion of an art show, exhibition or competition. It is comprised of damaged goods, all the things that fall short, all the inadequacies, dysfunctions, indeterminacies. It didn’t start out as perfection, nor did it originate from perfection. It simply continues. Like the sublime, it outlives us all.

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