Looking back over my notes, I must turn over in my mind the considerable lengths that I have gone to in order to make a record of often one-sided conversation. The reasons for this only took shape in the closing days of travels, and in the cross-space between conservation and conversation. Despite their outward similarity, the terms seemingly lack any deep etymological connection. Certainly, they share a particle “con” and birth, having both emerged from Old French and Latin in 14th century England. Still, the temptation to link them grew in my mind, and I found myself vindicated on this count some time later upon consulting an etymological dictionary, which charted conversation’s evolution from “manner of conducting oneself in the world or “living with, keeping company with” and conservation’s own origins in “a keeping, preserving”. In light of this, I could better understand why I suffered his rambling: in conversing, he conserved something of his being in my own. But the gift cuts both ways for, in recording and reproducing, the conservation becomes conversant in unforeseen ways. Simply put, distortion lies upon both conversation and conservation. Perhaps the destructive character makes itself felt in me in more subtle fashion.
The first place in which I could recall such a thought occurring to me proved the bridge above Rocky Gorge in the White Mountain National Forest. At the passing of each visitor, I felt the bridge quake, as though it were now an extension of my body. I did my best to ignore them, to think on anything other than my body giving way, trying my best to appear a mere melancholy onlooker on a rickety bridge over a gorge rather than a melding of animal and inanimate.
The memory of that bridge brings with it those of their covered brethren, the function of which I had better come to understand over the course of prior days. For, to understand the covered bridge and its predominance in these parts, it sufficed to understand the intersection between economics and craftsmanship. Economically, timber was in great supply in the surrounding woods and hence more readily available than steel, more easily transportable than stone. Steel required considerable industrial build-up and heat; stone sank where logs floated. Craftsmanship accounted for the craftsman’s recognition that wood decays more quickly than steel, which, when combined with passing traffic, would make short work of the supporting beams and planks. From this recognition there developed the covered bridge’s walls and roof as the cover served to take the brunt of the weather and lengthen the bridge’s lifespan.
In time, all problems open themselves to those who are willing to prod at them long enough.