Over the Planks

April 14, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

A Bridge is as important as can be found.  All the gold in Fort Knox is without value unless it can brought to and from those who value it.  A Shepard's  flock can't be tended across a river,  Farmers can't farm, preachers can't preach, merchants cant get their wares without the service of a bridge.  The promise of Love and Grace provided by Christ, a bridge between the chosen people and G-D.  The Telephone a Bridge of words between two who's connection wouldn't happen otherwise.  The Internet our bridge between our curiosity and the knowledge of the world.  The Warm Embrace of lovers the quiet bridge of affection of the human heart. 

Bridges are as important as can be found.    Over the planks we transport the fruits of our toils.  Over the planks, Our hard work is manifest in goods and services finds a home.   Over the planks, we reveal and share our knowledge and beliefs.  Over the planks we create our culture and our heritage.  The planks,  bear witness to travel of the heart, the soul, the desires, and the needs of our culture.

Nothing could possibly be more important than bridges.  Spanning the gap between sinner and salvation.  Spanning the chasm between Mother and daughter, father and son.  Closing the space between neighbors.  Transporting Water to the thirsty, Food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, medicine to the sick, and the lonely to their families.  It seems only fitting that bridges become the object of our obsessions.

Roadways, and communities have been built strictly on the fact that there needs to be no bridge built.  Days of labor are required to span even a small stream with a short stone and earthen bridge.  Moving the heavy materials, preparing footings to support the weight of the arch necessary for the spaces underneath.  It is no surprise when a large bridge over a river became a necessity, that our early American counterparts made structures out of local materials, and covered them for their protection and for a long service life. 

green bridgegreen bridgeGreen Bridge between Plymouth and Holderness replaced in 2007 conpositeconpositeGreen Bridge between Plymouth and Holderness replaced in 2007

It was an old bridge in Plymouth that first inspired my curiosity.  "70 Years of Service" the name of a photograph I made when 'the green bridge' that spanned the Pemi' River between Holderness and Plymouth was ready to come down.   The green bridge a large steel Through Arch Bridge built before WWII for it was joined with rivets, and not welded in place like steel was after the war.  The bridge deck laid between large green arches, with a pin truss support for the deck to span the river below.  It was beautiful for its engineering, steel work an the work it did connecting the two communities, and the University that spanned the river.  But it had a few flaws, it had been built a bit lower than it should have, and flooded from time to time.  And the road leading to the town was at a funny angle for the bridge, So it became just one of the bridges in a long line of structures that spanned the river, as a new stronger and 'better' bridge was put in its place. 

I was equally impressed with the temporary structure put together with pre-fabricated sections and huge pins.   It moved LOTS as traffic went over it, but held fast during the two years it was in service.  The new bridge is a marvelous piece of civil engineering.  Straight and true, Compact and strong, But it seems to me that something is missing.  The lights installed harken back to a previous era, the ornamentation in the concrete a throwback to bridges of yesteryear, but honestly these design details leave me wanting.  Created by the hand of man, and with the tolerance of fractions of an inch, it is truly a marvel of modern engineering and construction methods.   What is missing is the fine craftsmanship.  We are missing something from our modern buildings.   The flair of finely crafted workmanship where the craftsman puts himself into the work, not as a job, but as an extension of himself.  The little details put into the ordinary things in the lives of yesteryear.  Details put into buildings, bridges, cars, doors, chairs, you name it, are just remarkable.  In a time when we had so little, we spent so much making everything not just functional, but visually interesting and tying that into our lives, making everything an integrated  part of our existence.   We gave up so much more of our time to enrich our world through the embelishment of finish and detail.  That is what our bridge is missing.

Blair Bridge InteriorBlair Bridge InteriorBlair Bridge Campton NH

Our covered bridges are a look back to that time.  A time when it wasn't just about crossing a span between the two sides of a river.  A time when it wasn't just about covering the deck so the structure would last longer.  A time when community was as important as family.  A time when travel was measured in days, not in miles.  A time when every structure was a landmark.  A time when a romantic vision of travel went hand in hand with the utility of the connections the bridges made.   "Over the river and through the woods to grandmothers house we go.  The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifting snow"   And how could it not be a romantic vision.  Snow covered, Bundled together against the cold, and the warmth of the hearth at grandmothers were the embers of love burning within the travelers.  The covered bridge, the embodiment of Love for community, for family a safe place to take refuge if even for a brief minute.   The incredible amount of toil of man and beast over countless hours, days even years, to create not just a link between two sides of a river, but a link through history.  A beacon along a journey not just to grandma's but through time. 

Over the planks, life has come and gone,  Too and Fro, Back and forth, here and there.   Over the planks Life has happened because Over the planks Love has stood the test of time, through the men and their toils that put them there.

 


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