Sunday, July 22, 2012

Post-Apocalyptic Beauty

          Lovell Island where we set our camp has a post-apocalyptic feel to it.  The islands, filled with ruined forts and bunkers, are a testament to American military history and nation-building.   As part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Parks Area they have guarded the port of Boston from pirates in the early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, to German U-boats in World War II.  Some of the more notable inhabitants were the prisoners, from early Indians to confederates and deserters in the Civil War.

          On an eroded drumlin near our campsite rested an enormous block of concrete, the remnant of an underground bunker that housed the soldier who watched the harbor for enemy ships and submarines, ready to set off large, hulking mines stuffed with tons of TNT.

          This urban archipelago is a geologic relic of the last ice age when the area was covered by a mile-thick glacier.  As the ice came and went it deeply scoured the land, leaving behind the great lakes and long valleys.  In others places the retreating glaciers left an impressive variety of mounds of rubble and earth.  The Islands arise from a drowned field of drumlins.  The term itself comes from the Irish word droimnín, meaning a "little ridge."

          The beaches are covered by gray mounds of rounded slate of beautiful shapes and configurations.  We wandered around on the intertidal zone picking up some of the more curious stones, pieces of sea glass, bits of shells and other interesting tidbits, including an old whiskey bottle with a message inside, which instructed us to learn history and be grateful, among other things.

          Before the nearby skyline of Boston lit the evening horizon with city lights, the sky put on its own display of colors.  The wind blew gently and was fresh, salty, and cool.  And I was indeed grateful to have found such a beautiful place so close to home.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I was really getting into my novel when...

          “I was really getting into my novel when I saw I had a message from Socrates on facebook.”  Before  I clicked on the little icon on the bottom of my screen I got to thinking, why did I buy an e-reader that is also a web platform?   It’s pretty distracting.  Multitasking is supposed to be bad for us, at least according to a lot of new studies on human cognition.  Why did I buy an e-reader at all?  There is something to be said for losing oneself in bound, foliated wood pulp.  Some people argue e-books will ultimately relegate traditional books to being niche items, sort of like vinyl records are today.    
          I’m not convinced…
          Future predictions are usually notoriously off kilter.  When television came along, movies and radio were supposed to go by the wayside, and both media are fine and well today.  When computers were adopted we heard predictions of a paperless society, when in fact the use of paper quadrupled.  In the same vein, robots were slated to take over all of the menial tasks that debased the human condition.   And then there were all of the predictions of a 21st century world run by fusion energy and airborne cars dotting the skies around cities like lines of flying ants. 
          On the other hand, occasionally futurists get it right, and it just may be that paper books will be relegated to being novelty items.   
          What’s ironic is that over two thousand years ago, Socrates, one of the West’s greatest and most revered intellectuals, was disturbed by books.  He thought books were static things, not able to interact as human beings do, and that made them so inferior as to be a detriment to thinking and learning.  Considering the intellectual history of the last millennia I think he may have been wrong.  Although I wonder, if Socrates was around right now he might happily be reading a treatise on an ipad, from time to time checking things on google, and perhaps texting me about a good place to get falafel sandwich.