For almost a quarter-century, almost every week, I’ve sat along one of the benches along the park here on Mill Dam road, under large leafy trees, listening to birds in the pines.  I’ve seen them in cold, and snow and storm and sun.  It seemed they the scene had been there forever and would continue well after I could no longer return.  Alas,  time catches up to parks as well as people.  The trees, the benches, the grass _ all gone.  Who knows what comes instead?

Admittedly there was no choice.  The same storms and cold and snow and sun had done their work on the bulkheads, and the earth was crumbling into the bay.  For a while it looked quite picturesque, but of course there was danger, and in any case the situation was rapidly growing worse.

So even in the short time I keep these notes, change presses on massively, and what once was is no more.

In Halesite, the stream from Hecksher and the pond outlet empty into the harbor.  This has long been a difficult area prone to flooding, since there is a constant stream of mud and water silting up whatever pipes are constructed.  The latest greatest project had ripped up big chunks of the former roads, wiped out the former ancient dams, and apparently is going to create a new lake as a kind of large settling pond.

The point is simply that such changes, no entirely dramatic, happen all the time now everywhere.  There is no place, however remote or forgotten, that is not touched often by one of the seven billion.  There is no parcel of land, however forsaken, that might not suddenly sprout an office tower or shopping mall or mansion.  I can always lament the old days, and rue what is going away, but the only real lesson is to appreciate what is here while it is here.  Trying to preserve is a lot like trying to hold back the tide.


Until a decade ago, this barren little patch had a concrete pier with a cute abandoned red shack, something that would not have been out of place in Maine or on one of the tourist towns on the Massachusetts coast.  But, like many such unused pieces of history around here, some lawyer deemed it dangerous and convinced the owners it must be destroyed.  So we get a different view, perhaps a bit more natural, but less attached to the open world as it used to be.

America still destroys its history wholesale.  We tend to see the heritage of our country as preservation of wilderness, rather than celebration of the people who lived on the land.  Preservation costs money, and although it is useful for everyone in general, is useful for no one in particular unless it can be fenced off and admission charged.

Not all changes along the harbor are for the worse.  This property formerly held a rather nondescript house, which has been replaced by quite a handsome and well-done dwelling.  The entire area, of course, is going upscale, regardless of possible rising water.

For an old guy like me, it is far easier to complain about all the bad things I see around me and the way the world is going to hell than to appreciate some of the good things that also occur.  For example, at least global warming and climate change have entered the realm of political, social, and economic discussion, instead of being ignored as they were not long ago.  I need to smile and enjoy wha
t is, especially when it is fine, rather than scowl at how much better it could all be.

The gold coast magnificence of the Ferguson Castle _ before my time _ can only be inferred from the survival of its gatehouse, preserved when the land was transformed into condominiums at the end of the last century.  Like many such artifacts, it was hardly worth preserving.

Some might argue that except for nostalgia, that is generally true of just about everything around here.  There is little of historic significance or substantial world heritage.  I would say, rather, that just as a tree or blade of grass has a certain amount of rightness in simply existing, so does the land and the works of the past.  I believe we are wiser to change carefully when possible, rather than simply level to zero and arrogantly assume that our shiny new design is wonderfully better than coexisting with previous obstacles.


Storms have torn a big chunk out of the sand bluff on which West Shore Road is built at the bottom of our hill, resulting in the sag in the chain link fence.  The erosion of the next big northeaster will no doubt crumble part of the pavement.  The town and county are supposedly fighting it out to see who, if anyone, has responsibility for trying to fix it this time (there have been a series of such incidents over the last thirty years.)

Life in general is relatively stable and constant, but in detail is chaotic and transient, every bit as brutal as the “nature red in tooth and claw”  interpretation of the meaning of evolution.  Sandbanks are not themselves immune to the process.  In a way, I guess, we are fortunate in having such a short personal window into infinity that we can exist in the illusion that we have some certainty and control over our world.


Some things have not changed yet, but probably will soon.  With advances in transportation efficiency gas stations around here are already becoming somewhat scarce, as evidenced by the closed business across New York Ave.  It would seem only a matter of time before others such as this one will also be gone forever, replaced by something, maybe better, maybe worse.

It’s playful to think of the savage battles that will be fought by preservation groups to save the last vestiges of cheap oil as part of our heritage _ declaring this station or another part of our industrial heritage and keeping it operating with public funds.  Many of the things I took for granted have already gone away forever, and should I live a few more decades, or even years, this view will probably also join them.  Is it a loss?  Who knows _ but it will certainly be a change.

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