A Day at the Dump, Page 4

As I resumed my writing, I looked out the window and watched with satisfaction as he removed the pipes from my yard. Curiously, though PVC pipes are quite lightweight and could easily be moved in armload bundles, he carried them out one at a time, on his shoulder as if they were quite burdensome loads.

After he was done, I stepped outside to view my newly exposed side yard, now free of both trash and pipe, noticing that his excavation to lay the drainpipe had also tilled the earth so that it would actually be easy for me to plant a new lawn there... all the way to the fence. Also, John's reconstruction of the fence has pulled out the flower bushes that used to overhang my lot by three feet, so that there is a clear path to the backyard. There is a bit of lumber still to haul out, but suddenly it seemed clear and easy to me to tear out the gate and replace it.

Perhaps I will continue to tear out the vines that John sends surreptitiously penetrating my back porch, their roots sending shoots up to crumble the concrete of my back porch - cracks so wide that, after breeding in the heavy rains and flooding, frogs make their home in them during the dry summer. I have thought of leaving the concrete there but building a wooden deck over it, so I would still have a way into spend time in the backyard during the monsoon season, the frogs would keep their home, and I would not have to repair or repour the back deck.

Perhaps you will be tickled to know that I contemplated keeping the small hot water heater. I examined it carefully and decided that it would be easier to buy a new one than fix his old one if I ever actually wanted to possess such a thing. Finally I rooted around in my garage, found a pipe wrench, and removed the brass pipe fittings from it, then put the pipe fittings in a box of metal stuff next to my casting sand and metalworking tools, before loading the water heater into my truck.

I set it aside as I unloaded my truck at the dump, then put it back and carted it to the scrap metal pile where, like our new fence, it can begin anew the endless cycle of creation and destruction. What will become of our water heater, now rusting the lonely night away on the edge of the scrap pile?

Is it getting to know its new found friends, the automobile tire hubs, the angle iron and microwave ovens, and especially its older brothers, the full-size hot water heaters, or is it sitting, sadly by itself where I placed it this afternoon, a few feet from the edge the pile, pining for the security of the trash pile where it lay until I abruptly moved it this afternoon?

What will become of our little friend? I suppose that the scrap pile will grow with time, that others will come along to keep him company, until at last he is buried within it, and the pile grows large enough that a truck is brought to haul them away, off to the smelters of the midwest, or perhaps one of the minimills in the City of Commerce, where he will be melted into his component atoms, to be mixed and merged with his brothers, only to be extruded into a piece of railroad track, a manhole cover, or perhaps even a little bit of a new hot water heater, that someday will be installed in someone's home somewhere, to do its patient duty of providing hot showers, perhaps even for an as-yet unborn physics student, for several decades, only to rust once again and be returned to the scrap pile for another round.

Does he remember that the iron atoms within him had their birth at the core of a supernova explosion? Iron, in a sense, is not a naturally occuring element. It is the most stable element, but it only arises as the very end product of the process of nucleosynthesis in stars. It was not present in any significant quantity at the beginning of the universe; only hydrogen and helium were. Such atoms fuse into heavier products during the lifetime of a star - carbon and oxygen, but still fairly light elements. Only at the very end of a star's lifetime do the heavy elements fuse, and then they fuse at tremendously high rates, at very high temperature and pressure.

Iron is the most stable of elements.

All lighter elements yield up energy by fusing until they reach iron.

All heavier elements yield up energy by fissioning until they reach iron.

The heavier elements cannot be formed in significant quantity in the core of normal stars for they will be broken up again by the constant bombardment of high-energy particles.

We know that the metal of the earth was formed in a supernova because elements heavier than iron are relatively abundant. In fact, from the relative abundance of different isotopes of some heavy metals we can calculate the size of the supernova that formed them, the temperature and pressures involved, and we know from this that our Uranium, our Lead were formed in just a few minutes in the heinous explosion of the supernova. Minutes. Minutes out of the billions of years that our predecessor had steadily shined.

I think, next week, I shall invite John and his family over for tea in the evening. I think I would enjoy their company. I shall clean up the house first, as it is a godawful mess.

For this evening I will return to my project that I had assigned myself for my spring break, of recording my piano playing. I must say that I am not a very skilled pianist, and my songs are pretty rudimentary, but I only play music that I have composed myself as I have never been able to read sheet music. I can play things that others take the time to show me, but I grew frustrated with this and just sat down to hammer at the keys until I made songs that sounded good to me. I have never had the patience to write the sheet music, but my songs are simple enough that a good pianist could listen to the tapes and play them.

I think my music is the clearest expression of my aesthetic experience. I must say that most people find it odd, boring or even downright obnoxious, but my music holds great beauty for me, and listening to the tapes I have already made fills me with peace and tranquility.

I must also say that my concept of good music does not require that my piano be even remotely in tune - it was last tuned by my father in 1955 - but it sounds great to me. I'm not tone deaf. I just like the bent notes. I improvise on some of my songs - if I play a tuned piano, or a piano with a different feel to the keys, I play quite different improvisations for what I regard as the same songs. It is the piano itself that I play, and each piano is unique.

I'll send you my tape when I have it ready.