Lately I’ve had my mind on a place that I don’t know if it ever existed. Actually it’s been with me for a while, and when I fell hard for a Russophile last year it came more to the fore. I must have mentioned it on this blog before though.
It’s a place somewhere in central Asia, perhaps Russia and perhaps elsewhere. It’s a particular biome of wide, flat grasslands between mountains and crisscrossed by narrow, slow-moving streams that are incised into the land with very little in the way of a bank. Along these streams, burned into my thoughts in vivid detail, are groves of birch trees that harbor all manner of plant and animal life.
The plant where I work has a landscape not unlike that… or it would have, if it hadn’t been paved, landscaped, and developed to hell. Now only a single creek with a few birch trees remains and they’ve cut down a good many of the birches recently. But generally all around the area west of Beaverton there are many ponds and creeks where birch trees cluster and it tugs at my heart to see the creeping spread of murdered nature.
It brings to mind images of living in such a place perhaps 11,000 years ago or more, seeing the desert gradually devouring the grass, drying the streams, and killing the plants. Everything dying within the course of a few months. A drought so catastrophic to the hunter-gatherer inhabitants that they’re forever traumatized. It carries with it an archetype almost like that of Adam and Eve driven from Eden. Perhaps that’s exactly what the story was, a half-remembered recollection of a gentle land beyond the Caucasus that was swallowed up by desert, retold by the children of migrants who fled into the Fertile Crescent until that collective memory became the very fall of humanity.
I don’t know if this is a past life or not. I’m inclined to think it’s not simply because I’ve tried not to trouble myself with the notion of past lives lately. But the other night I stood in the doorway of my guard shack, gazing at the waning moon while listening to Borodin’s “In The Steppes of Central Asia” and shedding a tear as I thought of those birch groves, as I thought of the murdered nature all around me now buried under asphalt and gravel. I long for those birch groves, if they ever existed elsewhere but my own romantic notions. I long for that subarctic eden in a faraway land. And if I can’t have it there, I hope one day I find some place in North America that looks halfway similar where I can learn to live in harmony with the land. I’m getting so weary of city life.