Hot Metal Bridge

Current Issue : Number Twenty-Five

Autumn Collage


Autumn: any period of maturity or of beginning decline.

In Utah a man has three wives and 21 children. His wife recommends it—polygamy—she indicates it lessens her sex load. In Paris, over fifty percent of couples with children are not married. Some have been together for a quarter of a century. Yet here in the Old Dominion folks felt the need to change the legal definition of marriage. Some single sex couples uprooted themselves and fled to Maryland before the law passed.

In northern Virginia, where I live, some want the state to divide, a twist on that age-old tradition, they want the north to secede. That didn’t make the ballot though. Instead, there was billions of dollars in bonds needed for the snazzy new infrastructure, and also that pesky narrow-minded unnecessary marriage constrict. It sure got the vote out though. We waited in great snaking lines, longer than when we were electing a president.

Are we blue or red, I can’t remember, I think half of us are one, half the other. At our little round elementary schoolhouse where I vote, there was only one electronic machine, which I gladly used — those bond issues alone were mind-boggling. My cheat-sheet was a full-page long. Most people settled for the hand ballots and our votes were counted although we had to go to page x of the newspaper to find our district results.

I’ve heard tell there used to be a law on the books that prohibited excessively ugly people from being seen in public. The new marriage code strikes me as the same ilk. Though, I have to admit, it was interesting to see a woman holding the sample ballot with the big bold VOTE NO circled, as she chatted amiably with a woman holding the sample ballot with the big bold VOTE YES circled.

The best thing I saw while waiting to cast my ballot was a hard-working, middle-aged farmer leaving the polls, hand in hand with his elderly father. Along the way he assured one young fellow that, yes, he still had some hay left, and, as they passed another elderly gentleman, he said, Here’s Harold, Dad. Both men said their hellos with genuine pleasure, as if they hadn’t been out in a long, long time.

Though the demise of the real estate market was pronounced earlier this fall, the billions of dollars in bonds passed in Loudoun County. Now 54 houses are going up at the back of our property — up from the 34 previously proposed. Nineteen are also planned for across the street. The new houses will start at over half a million, no doubt. They’ll have the multiple bedrooms and bathrooms that keep the Maid Brigade busy, yet according to the mattress delivery man, a lot of these new houses are practically void of furniture. Just beds, of course, a few big-screen TVs, and vehicles for one and all. Certainly a new SUV for the solitary teenager.

A few farms still remain, real farms, as someone recently pointed out, where muddy plateaus of dung are strewn with cattle. I wonder if the fine print on the new house contracts will stipulate that this is farmland and homeowners cannot complain about the smells. Ours did back in 1999, and we have 35 acres and an old house! One day I might see my new neighbors on the evening news railing about the stench that surrounds their tony enclave just as people who knowingly move next to airports soon complain about the noise.

As winter approaches, our Blue Ridge Mountain sky is often filled with flocks of blackbirds; blue birds tussle on the fence lines; geese no longer just winter here, but stay year-around on the myriad of golf courses. Border collies no longer herd sheep, they chase geese while golf employees follow on ATVs. Gunshots fill the air as hunting season erupts. Sunny hilltops are flush with horse trailers as fox hunts afflict the countryside.

Compare it to the Eastern Shore, where geese migrations are so spectacular a formation way up in the sky resembles an immense fish skeleton. There’s another kind of migration happening at the bird refuge, too, when photographers ascend en masse, some with lenses that resemble missiles. Or fishermen who set up three or four fishing poles each. Then there are the surfers in wetsuits who bound into the ice water, to fly, to sail, to crash.

So much doesn’t make sense. My cherry tree is blooming blush pink though it’s less than forty degrees right now. Manatees are coming north, whales are going south. Somewhere people are still clubbing dolphins to death. I won’t even mention the wars, or genocide. There are lesser curiosities to ponder. A house in the heart of the city that has a full-fledged garden bed on the porch roof. It cost a lot to establish, and it’s nearly impossible to water, but it helps keep the heating and cooling expenses down. Or the local government official who has over a thousand Christmas decorations she keeps up year-round.

But back to our infrastructure. What a great word. Doesn’t it say it all? My daughter came through town recently and saw all the new housing developments that had popped up since her last visit. “What’s happening?” she cried in distress. Indeed.