Furthest Right


It looked like a small job: raccoons broke the step on one side, so I started pulling away the rotten wood.

Then I pulled away more. Then I removed a few boards. Then a few more…

Before long I could see the main support beam, and that was when I started to appreciate what I was up against. It had all the structural integrity of wet papier-mache.

The entire deck had been built with common-lumber, untreated, in this very rainy area of coastal Canada. Only the boards, themselves, were Cedar, and so relatively rot-resistant. Oh boy.

Demolition continued apace, leaving, finally, a huge crater in front of the house. Nothing of the structure could be saved.

A week later, new treated 4×4 treated main beams were in place, treated joists secured with hurricane ties, old decking reversed, screwed down and pressure-washed, before oiling and staining. The boards had previously been nailed down with ridiculously long nails, which, up against the house siding, could not be removed. That was a challenge! Reciprocating saws are rarely of much use, but when you need one, nothing else will do.

And here the boards are in place again, prior to staining. Nice Humbug effect. Leaving a step, each side to be invented and built. Simple. Job done. A week and a half…

Well. A major job, really, and one only I could undertake, having experienced the results obtained by hiring someone to do something for payment. Nobody can do anything, any more. But they sure want to be paid for doing whatever it is they do.

Everything has its day. It is born, new, strong, true, and from that point on, starts to wither and die. Nothing is immune. Entropy, I think this is called. A running down. A span of days, then oblivion.

Civilizations are no different. They have a lifespan. All of them.

The really mystical thing about all of it, is this:

Almost nothing really needs to expire, the way it does. Begin it well, use the best materials, cut no corners, invest what is necessary, then maintain and renew, as the need arises. Whatever it is can last and last. If not indefinitely, then at least for a very long time. Yet this is almost never the case.

Humans: The Great Corner-Cutters. The Skinflints. The Good-Enoughs. The I-Don’t-Cares. The Morons.

I like raccoons, for the most part. They wreck stuff, but they don’t build junk to begin with and then get drunk while it rots away. They are a part of the great forces of entropy. They are bad, sometimes. Very, very bad. But they do what they do in good humor, and honestly.

Had the raccoons not demolished the first step, the whole deck might have collapsed, with my wife on it. I always knew the beasts had to be good for something. They will probably out-survive everything, even cockroaches.

Everything has its time. Even with the best attention paid, somewhere there is an end point.

One can be sentimental and filled with regret. Or one can be philosophical. I understand, at last, I fancy, what Nero was doing, fiddling away while Rome burned. He saw the inevitability of a process impossible to avert. And fiddling was the only thing left to do.

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