Lounging in France 17: Losing It

It has always seemed to me that it’s careless, to mislay a Roman road or a villa or a city. Look at this picture — there’s a big pavement under there, and they completely mislaid it for thousands of years. These are large items! How can they become lost to all human knowledge?

But if you stay here for a while you can see it happening. Stone pavements do indeed last forever, barring earthquake or bulldozers. But have a look at this one. This street is in Sarlat-le-Canede, and although it looks old it was laid in the 1960s or 70s as part of the restoration of the town. You can see the square 20th century portals for conduit and sewage lines.

And the black dots? Those are moss. We had a heavy rainstorm with hail, and the rounds of thick puffy moss which have taken root on the tile roofs of the buildings to either side were scoured off and fell onto the pavement. There were quite a lot of them, squashy and wet, and eventually the municipal street sweepers cleared them away.

But what if they didn’t? What if the city government was unavailable?  Then the moss would take root and grow. Traffic might keep the center clear, but gradually the stone would get to look like this.

A nice thick layer of moss would obscure all the stones. If feet and wheels didn’t wear it away — if the town’s population plummeted, for instance —  then the stone surface would be hidden by growth. A couple of millennia and you’d have a nice layer of soil and grass, maybe trees over your stonework. And then it’s a dirt road, or maybe nothing at all.

And similarly, the roofs, the walls, everything we build. In a region with healthy rainfall and vigorous vegetation, the government spends all its time trimming the bushes, clearing the ditches, rebuilding the roads, and sandblasting growth off of roofs. Everything looks nice if it’s kept nice — if it’s important to the residents, if there are any residents. If not, it all goes to seed.

Civilization is something that has to be maintained, continually kept up. It slips away fast.



About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


Lounging in France 17: Losing It — 3 Comments

  1. I’ve seen enough Time Team episodes to realize that a lot of things get lost over the centuries. Some deliberately. The US only has hundreds of years of history. Europe has thousands of years. A lot can happen in that amount of time.

  2. A lot depends on =where= your item is. The tomb of Cyrus the Great is still in Iran somewhere, one of the only buildings we know Alexander the Great entered. Since it stands in a dry climate in an area where not much is going on, the jungle has not surged over it, nor has anyone demolished it to build a sheepfold or a used car lot or a castle. In an area where there’s a lot of demand for the land, stuff just vanishes because people move it.