Friday, June 19, 2009

Building Bridges, and Corkie at the Bridge - a tale of heroism and self sacrifice.

The wing bridge: the curved form looked like a birds wing, so why not fledge it!

Building Bridges.

Have you ever noticed how so much of the richness of our language hangs on expressions incorporated into it in the past. What happens when the population using them no longer have any real connection with the original experience? All those Biblical metaphors stemming from a five thousand year old pastoral and farming tradition, - a lost sheep for example. What about all the nautical expressions that are meant to give vivid images to the language but which are just so much extra freight for modern people. We are ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea’, yes, but what exactly does that mean and how alive is it if I have never caulked that particularly difficult seam on a ship`s hull? There will be ‘the devil to pay and no tar hot’!

Recently I built two bridges across our seasonal stream and as I hammered and sawed, mixed and poured cement I was experiencing the reality of the expression we use on a casual basis: ‘building bridges’ between opposing opinions, tribes, points of view. Well, it turns out that the reality, like the metaphor, requires a fair bit of sweat and creativity. It imagines first and then works with the materials at hand to convert them into a new and useful structure to serve the people on both sides of a divide.

The concrete and masonary bridge with Corkie standing guard.

Corkie at the Bridge.

A while ago we were browsing through the local thrift store and while I waited for Heather to select her purchases I casually glanced through the used stuffed toys shelf. The usual collection of mindless, fuzzy, characterless stuffies. Squeezed in their midst was a sorrowful looking brown fellow who was definitely of a different breed. The prices was a little confusing: was he a one dollar critter or an expensive five dollar one? On such considerations lives can hang in the balance. Off the shelf, into my arms, and up to the counter where the lady at the till told me a sad tale.

There was a woman who had a very bad drinking problem and she also had a dog. The dog, in an attempt to save his mistress from herself, would force himself to lap up her drink when she was past noticing. For a while he managed to save her from an alcohol overdose and keep her alive but at a terrible cost to himself as you can imagine. This was taking ‘man`s best friend’ to a new dimension, but in the end the story ended unhappily but predictably. The woman died and the dog went to new owners. What a terrible load of sorrow and guilt this dog must have carried on his furry shoulders. Life is cruel a lot of the time and the most difficult burdens to shed are the ones we place on our own shoulders.

The new owners soon noticed something odd about their noble but sad pet. Whenever they opened a wine bottle by pulling the cork, the dog would come running!

“Yes”, the cashier said, “ That is a true story, and that will be one dollar! “Ok”. I replied, “Then we`ll call him Corkie”.

Corkie now lives with us and he is an ideal pet/companion, if still a little serious and apt to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. ‘Corkie at the Bridge’ for example: we know that he set himself up there to guard the bridge just like in ‘Horatius at the Bridge’: to be a guard dog. He is trying to find a new noble sacrifice that he can perform in his new setting. Even though there are hungry cougars around who love dogs to bits we let him do this - let him transfer to this new role. We suspect that his fuzzy brain will not be able to retain the old sad story once he has his new persona well established. No popping corks from wine bottles though, ever.

* ‘Horatius at the Bridge’ by Thomas Babington Macaulay

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