Friday, April 13, 2007

Complicated Shadow

Image taken from The Town That Was
Chris Perkel and Georgie Roland

I am not feeling like a writer today, my good plans to work on several projects today abandoned in favour of a little light melancholy that I could not, or did not want to, quite pin down. No matter, this too will pass.

Instead of writing, I pass the day in a little beach-wandering and a lot of reading, interspersed with some soulful horizon gazing. All I need is the costume and I am the French Lieutenant's Woman.

At an ideal time for a little poetic intrigue, I stumble in my internet wanderings across Centralia, Pennsylvania, a mining town abandoned in 1962 after a devastating mine fire. The website for a film called The Town That Was outlines the story:

In 1962, a trash fire ignited a seam of anthracite coal beneath Centralia, Pennsylvania, a once thriving mining town of over 1600 people. By the mid 1980’s, giant plumes of smoke and deadly carbon monoxide gases billowed from fissures in the ground, the local highway cracked and collapsed, trees were bleached white and petrified, as the fire continued to rage unchecked. It wasn’t until a young boy nearly died after falling into a smoldering mine subsidence that the government was pressed into action. After estimating the cost of extinguishing the fire at over a half a billion dollars, the government opted to raze the town and relocate its residents.

Today, 11 die-hards remain.

The Town That Was traces the story of one of the remaining 'die-hards', in fact the youngest of them, and his refusal to accept the death and declining memory of something he loves. Surely we can all relate, or am I cursed with tragedy this evening?

I am away over the next two days and not returning until Sunday. I am spending the weekend in Hull touring some of the exhibitions there on Wilberforce, the abolition campaign and the slave trade. Apart from our very own Chasing Freedom (now open at the Naval Museum, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, and showing until January 2008), and the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, these will be the first major stop on my bicentenary tour this year. I'll post here on Sunday and tell you all about it.

I keep thinking about journeys. The peace and relief of a train or a plane to an unknown destination and experience. G has recently been inspiring me with her own thoughts of taking some short breaks around the UK on her own and I am inspired to follow suit. It seems as if the long confusion of the past few months that has affected so many people I know and love is beginning to work itself into something new. I see many of those closest to me taking chances with their future, making risky decisions in the pursuit of their dreams. I am minded to follow suit, and should I not find a pot of gold at the end of the travelling rainbow, I may yet find some respite from the memories the Heights has lingering in its darker shadows.

Just in case you were worried I was losing my sense of humour.

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