My grandmother had the worst luck with back yards. Every year, she expected something to grow. Not even grass seemed willing to venture out into our backyard. What we were left with was a bunch of dirt. Between the two houses that she lived in most of her life, she was blessed with two boys who were willing to try every year to make something grow, as well as a few trees that brought more shade than we deserved. The roots dug deep into our backyard. Nothing grew for the entire time that I lived there.
One day, the landlord decided the trees were too much of a liability. He sent in a crew to cut them all down. He cut them in half and leaved the broken halves to rot into our backyard. It was such an ugly ornament, but my grandmother decorated the nearly seven foot corpse with flowers and hanging plants, as well as some solar lights and some other things to make it nice.
The thing that happened can’t be described as a miracle. I think we all understand that without such a massive obstruction to the sun, the grass, the weeds, the various plants that she attempted to sustain throughout the years, they all came back in a flash. Within a few weeks, her backyard was overrun. It was beautiful and terrifying. She had weeds running across her five-foot chain-link fence, so much so that we couldn’t see anything on the other side. Even the grass grew a much brighter shade of green.
Something had to assume control. There was far too much light for everyone to share. The weeds, I admire and detest. They grow with little difficulty and strangle the life out of everything in their path. That’s survival. That’s all they know. I wish we could click off that instinct in their DNA. They’d be much prettier and easier to appreciate. Instead, I resent the weeds, because they made my grandmother a fake tree. She loved it, but I saw the roots. It grew out of the weeds, which seeped into the ground, like poison. They jutted out and… I have to say, were quite convincing as a tree. It took a keen eye and some examination to understand that it was taking advantage of us.
When I wanted to cut it down, grandma wouldn’t have it… so, it remains. That’s how life works. It’ll grow out of control, but unlike the trees, it will provide no benefit to the world around us. In a few years, maybe more, the fertile soil will have been changed by the weeds and the narrative will change. Fertile soil gives birth to so many possibilities, but if we don’t do our best to seize these rare opportunities and make them a benefit for the good and righteous, it’ll all collapse into the earth and be forgotten for all eternity.
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Magic might seem like nonsense, but that’s only to those who haven’t been poisoned by big business. If you have poison in your water supply, chances are you’ll be witness to many a splendid miracles. And, for those who have been laced with myriad chemicals, what would be the difference? Am I to say that I feel blessed for seeing angels on the streets, demons around dark corners and… god forbid, trolls under our bridges? It’s important to believe in magic, because Flint, Michigan isn’t the first and won’t be the last place that the vile nightmares that inhabit this plane of existence do their best to pollute. They want us believing. They want us seeing angels… UFOs… bloated carcasses of poisoned seals that made it too far down the river. If we believe in angels, we’ll believe in miracles. If we believe in miracles we’ll believe there’s hope that humanity can make it out of this festering nightmare it’s created for itself.
Belief is essential if you want to survive. In this day, it’s taken on sheer atavism. It lost those rough edges of sincerity. No one questions themselves. We question each other. We attack one another for every stupid thing, but we never expand on ourselves. I’ve had such difficulty believing and, as a surprise, for all I’ve seen it makes it that much more difficult. I refuse to believe, because of all that I’ve seen. These are but minor excursions, miracles of no more affliction than a magician pulling a rabbit from his hat. The true miracle often looms beyond our grasp, but we know it well. This talk of angels helps to detract from the darker reality of sustainability and the fact that life is constantly tilting toward doom and yet, somehow, maintains. If not to truly believe, than to at least pay respect. The forces that govern and protect this world control the balance.
It’s important to take some rituals seriously, although we know they sound moronic and quite possibly insane. For example, some of us who make our journey walking over the Dunn Memorial Bridge, make it a point to spit into the wind. You turn back from Albany and get a good look at Rensselaer. You’re facing oncoming traffic and then you spit into the wind. Don’t aim for a car, but if it happens, well… these things have to happen. It’s far better not to upset the spirits that protect us than the man driving to work in his once pristine Prius. If you walk far enough along, however, the bridge loops around in a circle around Riverfront Park. Legend has it that if you can spit into the park across the road, you’ll be granted one wish. I wished for world domination, but my phlegm struck an oncoming Hyndai with its windows down…
The bridges of this city, which are several, possess their own spirits and therefore must maintain certain rituals. One of the most important is the bridge in front of the laundromat between Broadway and the Dunn Memorial. It’s important because the water is flowing to the river. It’s making its grand escape from the city. All friendly spirits make their path through the city and are making their way to the ‘great beyond’ where they’ll be greeted by the seven hands of fate. They must choose one in order to find their destiny.
Before they can cross over, they must pay the ferryman, which is a troll, who also lives beneath the bridge. He’s made his home under there, which is nothing more than a ‘bird’s nest’ constructed of sticks and twigs. From far away, it looks like a massive bee hive. The sticks and muck are glued together by the grime in his spit. It remains suspended beneath the bridge, rattling with the ongoing traffic, which is like a soft lullaby to the troll. He hears the constant cries of the lost souls. He comes to them, because this is how he will make his living.
He collects what he can from the lost souls, but it’s up to us to help them. Whenever you pass over the bridge, it’s important to throw a nickel or dime, really whatever you can to save him. In fact, some appreciate it if you skip throwing it to the troll entirely and just give it to charity. Apparently several bridge trolls are invested in local charities. I’m sure you can find one to appease them. I like the mission along South Pearl Street in Albany, which is just over the bridge. I’m not one for religious causes, of course, but it’s hard to find places whose only intent is to help people survive a rough, treacherous life out on the streets.
If you can, say a prayer for the spirits that protect us. Light a candle. Tell those that you love that the crying in the night is not their ancestors seeking fulfillment in some unforgiving afterlife, but the stars rotting away with heat and rhythmic vibrations from an ever-expanding cosmos.