Bright New World
Fresh from the old world, our eyes are trained to scan the horizon for castles,
moats and ruins. And so we see them everywhere here, in these monuments to times long past: majestic, imposing, not formed by centuries of culture and civilization. This, the raw new world,
crude, powerful, instantly recognizable as the land that shaped us. I can see why Americans feel they can conquer anything, coming from such a land.
The Kennecott copper mine, nearly a mile deep, man’s largest excavation, visible from space, reflects that drive to dominate our environment.
In 1906 this was a mountain. Now the overburden and slag piles from the excavation make new mountains where once there were canyons.
That line of trucks, traveling across the face of the mine, twenty four hours a day? Each one is 44 feet tall, just about the height of the tallest buildings in our small town in France.
And of course the French appreciate good copper as much as anyone.
We think a lot about France. Yesterday, as we were picnicking, a man walked by us and said “Bon appétit,” wishing us a pleasant meal. Nothing more natural in the world, a perfect stranger passing by wishing us bon appétit. Except, we’re not in France. Startled, I asked him, in French, why he had said that to us. “Because you’re eating” he replied. “But why did you think we speak French?” I asked. He just shrugged, as if of course everyone speaks French. Which turned out to be almost true yesterday
as we kept passing French tourists on the trails of Arches National Park. Finally I asked a pair of ladies why there were so many French people in the park today, thinking there must be a huge tour group traveling together. “We were just wondering that ourselves” she said.
I have to say that speaking French in a place that looks like this gave me a funny colliding -worlds kind of feeling. But that’s ok, because in fact my worlds are colliding, and it seems only normal that the universe is conspiring to remind me of that.
Even here, on the shore of the Great Salt Lake, if we squint our eyes and click our heels, we can almost imagine ourselves back in Europe.
Except that in Europe this would be a Brancusi.