Monday, September 25, 2006

Freight Trains and Bridges

Bridges fascinate me. They always have. Many years ago when I was 10 years old I almost lost my life on a bridge. It was a bridge specifically erected to allow freight trains to pass over a road. This particular bridge was wide enough for the train and little else, just room enough to stand sideways against the steel side barrier and not be run over. You literally could not stick out an arm without losing it because the standing room was so tight. As you might guess, a train came along while I was meandering across it one day and I had no other option than to stand sideways and hold my breath for what seemed like forever. The next available option was to be totally smushed at ten years old. I had more imaginary home runs to hit, so I stood with my butt tight to the railing. I never used that bridge to cross the road again.

There are bridges that impress me for their remarkable engineering, others that make their mark on my imagination because of their beauty, or conversely, their simplicity.

I also love hiking through wilderness. Often I have seen the obvious signs of human wanderings because of a tree trunk laid carefully across a ravine, or a primitive style bridge engineered ‘on the fly’ by some one needing access to the other side.

In military schools thick textbooks are used on the subject of taking out enemy bridges. It disrupts supply lines and transport of troops to key areas. If they were not vital, why bother? One hundred more military textbooks are devoted to temporarily re-building the bridges that were destroyed so we can use them ourselves after the enemy territory is secured.

So we build them in peace and we destroy them in war. Does this sound familiar? It sounds like a lot of our personal relationships to me.

I find myself analyzing some relationships of the past, wondering about bridges burned and sacked.

Some bridges I wish were still in place. Others, well lets just say I’m thinking I never needed to be on the other side.


patti_cake said...

I am so glad your ten year old self did not get smushed...
There are some beautiful old covered bridges up in Pennsylvania that I miss.
Oh and remember, never burn a bridge you might have to cross it again in the future :)

Robert Shapiro said...

Well said, with humor and poetic wisdom.

Jenn said...

I'm with Patti on this one. I prefer to turn around and walk away from certain bridges when it's necessary to 'un-cross' a bridge. I've burned some in the past and even though I haven't really regretted it yet....who knows...I'm still young.

Burning is just so final.

Great post though.

Silent One said...

Very well put!
I am amazed and fascinated with Bridges... their meaning and symbolism...

so glad you weren't smushed...

Enemy of the Republic said...

Why are bridges one of the first things to be blown up in war? To isolate the enemy and stop any form of supplies. I think it serves as a metaphor as well for how people tend to interact as well.

Ilias- said...

Ooh, good click into the relationship metaphor. Really liking the imagery.. it is shifting always right? The bridge thing with people. I mean, there are all these interconnections we have on a daily basis, then more profound ones too that are really wide or strong bridges, and then ones with people in passing like the checkout girl or something. And I wonder what happens to the bridges when they are sacked, or do they stay in place. Is there still a bridge in place between me and the Wal-Mart cashier?
I am very glad you survived the train Seven. It did remind me of that movie Stand By Me though. Have you seen it? Thanks for the good post.

Seven said...

As I said there are some I wish were in place, others, well I should maybe have never crossed in the first place?

Thank you Robert, as always. Your consistency in kindness remains a goal for me.

Burning can be final. And some realtionships are OK to be finalized. It keeps the enemy on the other side, eh? A bit pessimistic perhaps, but I think the idea that some people are healthy for us and others not healthy is a second post on the subject?

Silent Girl,
I'm glad I wasn't smushed too. I told my mother about this train incident, but I waited until I was 47 years old. She still looked completely horrified since she had ordered me never to be on that bridge for any reason!

Yes, I intended the bridge and my fascination with them to be a metaphor for the relationships that occur between people. I have a weakness in this area that I will talk about in my next post.

A thorough read and a thoughtful expansion as always. Thanks to ya.

Angie said...

Beautiful metaphor. Admittedly, there are some bridges I burned in the heat of battle that I wished later could be rebuilt. Somehow the rebuilt ones never worked as well...

Reach said...

wonderfully written.
I like to think of communication as one of the bridges continually under construction. It appears the harder I work on one's construction, another tends to fall in dis-repair.

About the train bridge- I could only imagine the eyes of yourself and the Engineer as this moment was unfolding.


Anonymous said...

seven, I'm reminded by your story that my son (42 yrs old) told me just recently that he used to hop the train that runs near our house and ride a mile or so near a friend's house. I feel for your mother. I was horified. I'm very happy that you and he both escaped the possible outcome with those trains.

As to burning bridges, I realized as I read this that I rarely burn them. I frequently back off, waaaaaay off and take a breather. After some thought, I do burn some, or at least find an alternative crossing, but often I simply leave the bridge alone. I'm usually glad I did because I've reconstituted some of those relationships with nice results.

A friend recently reminded me that I attempted to patch a broken bridge but he rejected my efforts. He now regrets it. 45 years later, we have rekindled our friendship and it is very nice to have him back in my life.

But there is never one answer to anything, is there?

Seven said...

Thanks for the kind comment. No question that it is always difficult to put the bridges back just like they were. We have to earn that knowledge though, don't we?

Yes I see your point. Just as real bridges can be neglected we can also neglect the personal bridges. Excellent observation!

Wise of you to be so cautious. The bridges we like and need can be precious indeed.