Of Time and the River

It’s a cool overcast morning here on the front porch. Light rain sprinkles down like holy water from the wooly, gray blanket of clouds. It’s hard to give a damn about much on a day like this. I’d just like to crawl up into my head, curl up with my imagination, and take a nap. The way I used to in grade school.

Day dreams are an interesting thing. I think humans must be the only creature to willingly imagine themselves in a reality outside of the one they inhabit. I’ve found no better day dream fodder than the Library of Congress online photo collection.

I could wander for hours through the digital archives, and lose myself in the depths of the photos, and the faces of a forgotten past. Looking through photographs of Minneapolis from the 1880’s-1910’s I am struck by what has changed, and what hasn’t.

The man made world of the 19th century was built on a different scale. The natural world still shows the scars of the rise of the industrial revolution, and the creation of the world that we inhabit. Buildings stand in empty fields like obelisks to a new god, their new bricks shining in the sunlight. Smokestacks poke skyward, and plumes of black coal smoke paint streaks across a cloudless sky. The landscape is still less than one generation removed from a native prairie peopled by Indians.

In the photographs of people, there is no mistaking the changes. People pose awkwardly, as if the clothes they inhabit are foreign.  Their fashions, hairstyles, and faces make them look like a different species. Homo-sapiens-victorianus.

Of all the photos, the one thing that doesn’t change is the underlying landscape. The bones of this land survive beneath a different skin. Look at the river then, and now, and you cannot mistake the place. We move like shadows across this landscape, our works no more permanent that the clothes we wear.  Time flows like a river, but the land beneath it is eternal.

But enough words. Come with me now, and climb into our time machine.

This and all photos from the Detroit Publishing Co. collection in the library of congress

This old depot still stands on Washington Ave.

Minnehaha Park Pavillion

Boulevard around Lake Calhoun

Lake Harriet

The Stone Arch Bridge of the Great Northern Railroad

Minnehaha Falls

Looking across Bohemian Flats, and Mississippi River, at the East Bank of the University of Minnesota,

Fowell Hall at the University of MN

Lake Harriet Twilight

16 thoughts on “Of Time and the River

  1. Oh My stars! My Linda’s gone to Mars
    Well I wish she wouldn’t leave me here alone
    Oh My stars! My Linda’s gone to Mars
    Well, I wonder if she’d bring me something home
    -John Prine

    • Now I ain’t seen no saucers ‘cept the ones upon the shelf
      And if I ever seen one I’d keep it to myself
      For if there’s life out there somewhere beyond this life on earth
      Then Linda must have gone out there and got her money’s worth.

  2. Love it. I see the Stone Arch Bridge every day on the bus, walk by The Depot every day on my way to yoga.

    Minneapolis is a great city.


    • I bike through that area all the time in the summer. One of these days we’re bound to run into each other. I just hope it’s not while you’re riding a bus.

    • You should check out Shorpy.com too. They sift through thousands of these images, and post really hi res versions of the best stuff. I have a link in my side bar ===>>>>>

  3. I feel like I take the maturity level and overall feeling of beautiful swirling imagery and wordplay down a few notches every time I open my mouth.
    Perhaps I should find Wicked and we should begin a dialog speaking in only the most refined King’s English ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s