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Ordinary

It is a soft gray day, permeated with the kind of cold autumn dampness that cannot be stopped from eventually soaking into everything, even the bones of men. The area hardwoods have lost about half their leaves, and the unobscured limbs of the two big maples in front of my old house are shiny wet. The narrow farm access road that runs east and west out in front of the house looks like a glossy ribbon of brand new ice.

 

The crown of the road is about the same elevation as my living room windowsill. The pavement rests atop countless truckloads of gravel dumped in a four mile straight line across the fertile wet bottom land, in order to form a solid road bed in the mud. In some places the road is six feet above the fields it divides and accesses, like a raised asphalt spine connecting the ribs of corn rows it passes through.

 

The road is ordinary enough, simply providing access to the state highway for five farms; two to the north, two to the south, and one beyond the roadís dead end at the end of its own rutted track. There are no roadside scenic areas along the way, only cornfields and ordinary barnyards. None of the farmhouses have any unique beauty or historicity. Tourists and sightseers never use the road; only milk trucks, feed trucks, tractors, and local vehicles.

 

The whole length of the road is ordinary except its very end. After four miles of the rural mundane, the road abruptly ends in the middle of a natural almost pristine tamarack bog. Itís as if someone excised a five acre parcel from some national forest and deposited it at the end of the road.

 

There are two towering white pines on the eastern edge of the bog just before it ends in the corn. On the west, right at the end of the road, there is a huge burr oak and a handful of paper birch trees. It is bounded on the south by the arc of a rutted farm track about a half mile long. There is a small limestone sink hole on the northern edge, out of which flows a seemingly endless supply of cold clear water to fill the bog. It is completely overgrown with sumac and many natural tamarack trees. The presence of such a habitat is so uncharacteristic to this part of the state, that every kind of wildlife to be found in this area has probably tarried in the bog at one time or another, and perhaps even species unheard of around here.

 

There is no wildlife area sign on the state highway pointing to my access road. There is not even a street sign. It looks like an ordinary farm access road. There are no clues to give away the secret pocket of life at the end of the road. A half dozen vehicles a year turn around in my driveway and never reach the end of the road. We humans always seem to look for the extraordinary route to the solutions we seek. Perhaps the most extraordinary solutions lie at the end of the most ordinary routes. Indeed, immortality me be at the end of the ordinary.

 

As I look out my front kitchen window, the day is so gray that the fine rain is virtually invisible. With some effort I manage to find just the right angle to see the drops in the air. I move my head slightly back and forth a few times, and make the raindrops first visible, and then invisible, playing a brief little game of perspective with myself. We may not even know what is ordinary.

T M Malo