Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Reflection on the Future

The old man saw out the window a plastic representation of an owl. And he remembered the past, what it used to be, where it has gone.
"We had bicycles," he said.
The nurse nodded politely.
"And we rode them along Cherry Creek."
She puzzled for a moment, and asked, "You rode bicycles along Cherry Creek?"
"Yes, and there were owls. They would sit in the trees, you could find them at night."
She paused in her ministrations, lost of the vision, unbelieving. Then replaced the pan before preparing to leave.
"The owls, they would sit up high in the trees and discuss with each other in their hooting voices, as we passed below," he said, "and there were foxes, and beavers, eagles, trees, rocks and cliffs, and the water would rise so high that it would overflow the banks and flood the trails, leaving huge piles of flotsam and mud. But one summer we had such a drought that you could step over the creek in many places, or cycle right through it without getting your feet wet."
Struggling with the picture, "Cherry River?" the nurse wondered, aloud.
"Creek, Cherry Creek," the old man corrected, "it used to run right through Denver, toward the southeast and eventually out onto the plains...we rode bicycles through the woods there, for miles."
"Were you afraid, did you carry guns?"
"Afraid of what?"
"The wild animals-wild animals used to eat people and pets, that's why we had to take away the places where they lived-in order to protect society."
"You don't have any idea what I'm talking about, do you?"
"Is it near Cherry Flat Park?" asked the nurse, still unbelieving.
"Same thing. Cherry Creek, Flat Park, same thing," he answered.
"But, there is no river there, no trees, just the Flat Park," she described.
"You can't see it, but the river is still there. What is left of it runs underground, through a usually dry concrete pipe. And underneath Cherry Square is a giant reservoir that holds the water not used by the city, which isn't much, actually, and the creek as it was once known is gone. Unused, unneeded. Perhaps too many people were trying to camp there during the depression, and it got to be crime- and filth-ridden. But the creek is still there, in the form of that pipe, which is actually underneath Flat Park, and hasn't been wet for decades. By now it's certainly collapsed and filled in many places. Those huge concrete slabs and rails you see there today cover up what is left of the creek, it being an important transportation corridor and open space. How Orwellian-there's a term from way back, 'open space,' which has come to mean something entirely opposite from its previous use. There used to be streets running on both sides of the creek, then buildings further out, but now those streets are gone and buildings have been erected right up to where the beaches and palisades of the creek were, and Flat Park is now how you get from downtown to Cherry Square. They've covered Cherry Creek, improved it to the point that it has vanished. Improved the hell out of it, I'd say."
"I don't believe it. You can't ride a bike there, it's against the law. And there aren't any trees or rivers or owls, that's for sure. I've never seen any animals there except for those little housedogs people bring, and pigeons of course. You're just imagining all that, you senile old coot." And then, having loaded her cart, she left.
"Exactly," said the old man.

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