The Building Game
While I am out and about I sometimes play a little game for my amusement.
I find an old building, and cast my eyes up so I can see the top of the building, the sky, and nothing else.
My objective is to block out anything new. I want my line of vision to be a view that has existed for many years. I try to recreate a vista that someone who lived long before I was born could have observed, and perhaps did. I want to feel part of a great timeline of people seeing the same view through the decades and centuries, to be part of something bigger than just the now.
It is a futile task. But I think that is why I enjoy it, through its impossibility. The view can never be the same.
Buildings are in a permanent state of change. They gradually gather dirt and then that dirt is lost much more quickly than it was accumulated, blasted away. The dirt gives a building character, and that character is irrevocably changed when the dirt is cleaned away.
Brickwork cracks, stonework chips. Windows and guttering are replaced. Tiles move, break, are replaced. The weeds poking out are not the same weeds that grew before.
Every day a building is different, in many tiny ways.
There is a constant cycle of decay and renovation that makes these buildings feel more human, relatable somehow. But also harder to capture, harder to pin down and understand.
Then beyond the building, the light is different. The street lamps have changed over the years, the backlit signs nearby change things too. Is a sky ever the same? A wisp of cloud is unique. There is an infinity of grey skies.
So, I cannot recreate the past, at least not accurately. But I can feel closer to what has changed, and what remains the same. Even landmarks shift, but there will always be someone stopping, looking up, wondering.
We’ve gotta get you out to northern New Mexico one of these days. I think the history and architecture here would either quell your sense of history or drive you bonkers. The city planners are very conscious of preserving history, so much so that even new cell phone towers can be controversial. But time marches on etc.
If I ever come into some money I’m definitely heading out, seems like a fascinating place!