The End of Things

THE END OF THINGS
 
            Look. It isn’t my intention to upset anyone, or ruin a perfectly beautiful day. I just think it’s necessary to speak of a couple of things.
            To begin with, I don’t read the newspaper on a daily basis. I let papers stack up on a chair during the week, and the Tuesday night I go through them, looking for interesting articles about subjects which I am following. We toss the newspapers out Wednesday morning early for the recycle pick up. (Yes, we recycle.)
            So it is, that Tuesday morning, April 17, I was out in my garage studio, working on an edition of prints on my small press. When I work out there, I like to have the classical station – WETA – on, because I have found that it is the best music to have on when I’m working. On one of their hourly news briefs I listened as the announcer described the scene as thousands of people were gathered at the Washington National Airport (I still refuse to use the unwanted name tacked onto the airport by that hillbilly Alaskan senator) to see the final flight of the Discovery Space Shuttle n its way to a berth at the Smithsonian museum at Dulles Airport. The Washington Airport is in the East; Dulles is West of the metro area.
            I continued working, assuming it was another one of those historic moments I’ll never get to see. I am pulling a print when I hear the noise of a large, low-flying jet (I know the sounds of airplanes over our house) and I said to myself: “It couldn’t be, could it?” I stepped out of the garage door in time to see the Jumbo Jet with Discovery piggy-backed on it fly low over the house.
            Wow! All I could say, as I watched, was “Wow!” It was a similar blast of excitement like the time Gerri and I were up in the West Virginian mountains one January night, with a couple of astronomers, showing us Andromeda and the Plieades. (Spelling, sorry!) When they turned the telescope to the western horizon, we got to see Saturn with its rings and a couple of moons! Wow!
            With our industrial culture, so dependent on as it is on dwindling fossil fuel, and a crumbling economy that will never fully recover, I knew I was seeing the passing of an era. It’s doubtful we will ever have as extensive and expensive a space program again. It was a sad realization, but still so very exciting to see something for real that had only existed for me before in magazine photographs and television footage. And I had to thank NASA for the treat they offered by flying it low overhead like that for us groundhogs to appreciate.
            Later, as I thought about it further, I realized it was a more significant symbol than I had first understood. Peak oil, an already-reached bench mark, along with environmental degradation, and an economy about to go fly, it looks like more than Rocky Jones, Space Ranger is coming to an end. In the future, we could ultimately see massive population die-offs, from starvation, border wars fought over water, and rampant, uncontrollable pandemics burning through the dense population. Survival will become our most important focus.
            In the last couple of years, both Gerri and I have experienced medical emergencies. Mine led to a life-changing diagnosis. Gerri’s was a false alarm. But it indicated to me how close to the finish we are approaching. I’m not really upset about that, just a little sad, Being an amateur historian, I am always curious about what happens in the future. (Hence my excitement about the shuttle.)
            Well, it’s foolish to think I can escape getting older. There’s only one way to do that, “to be forever young,” and that’s just a song to me. Not on my agenda. But I still see a few dreams die. I realize that I may not be in shape enough to survive the arduous rigors of life in Duluth, Minnesota, where I have long hoped to settle, once our mission here was completed. Subversively, DC has in the meantime wrapped me ‘round with attachments that will be very wrenching to leave. There is enough stuff to see things through right where I am.
            So that’s it. Epics of history cease, eventually; youth runs out, and dreams die. The finish of my personal race is approaching, sooner than I would want. I don’t know when, of course; it could still be a long way off. My curiosity about things makes me hope so. But its inevitability is right in front of me these days.
            At any rate, when the time comes, I’ll let everybody know.