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June 1, 2019


We built our home 35 years ago. The land was cheap because access to the site was tough. The approved site plan used to market the land showed a 24×40 box set up on fill, on level with the common driveway.

That fill would  cost and separation from the backyard salt marsh would be pretty brutal, too – as were the 22.5% variable rate mortgages we could qualify for in our late 20’s.

So I ventured that a 5ft drop over 20ft could be “managed”. Well, 4ft could (we graded down 1ft at the uphill side and raised the fill at the house 1ft.) And I could fake it, too: as the drive curved to make its effective length 30ft, and we then could come in under the code maximum of a 15% driveway pitch. So we did.

But that triumph of persistence was equaled in my own subjective hubris when I then decided to save another $5K (back then) by installing a gravel driveway instead of a more permanent paved version. No code there. But there was washout with any heavy rain.

An added concrete trough drain cost $1K of the $5k saved, but only staunched light rain erosion. Heavy rains continually wrecked the tamped-in gravel drive in the straight downhill run…

But I loved and love the soft, crunchy, tire-gripping gravel over the smooth, suburban lock-in of blacktop. And when we had to replace a defective water line and then string an electronic dog fence across our permeable gravel drive, I was validated.

And wrong.

Any rational human would have bit the bullet, paved the steep part in some way, and lived on these last 30 years.

But no. I saw the rain-ravaging ravenes as providing a perfect place for unseen blacktop infill via 40 pound bags, easily purchased across the street from my office. Once covered by gravel residue, all was invisible. Sort of.

So driveway repair became a home mantra. Endlessly.

This morning, perhaps the 20th (or 30th) careful insinuation into the eroded driveway slits happened. 2 hours, including car-tamping. It is done. And never done.

The impossibility of control is not just metaphoric, it is essential. The act of filling happens  less and less frequently as more and more of the driveway has a deeper and deeper substraight of blacktop. But Nor’easters dump serious rain. So what was a yearly task for the first dozen years is now done every 2 or threes years. Or every year, if the rain, like this year, is intense enough.

So I am controlled by the driveway, not the other way ’round.

Somehow the effort is validating because it is made, while it is known to be ultimately futile. Senseless, but true.

My will is fraudulently inveighed, temporarily, over physics for a sugar high of control, that inevitably burns off to a sad lack of control, despite effort.

In this way, I “rage against the dying of the light” despite its inevitability. This is not an act of Zen: endlessly replacing the washed out gravel with infilled blacktop. Rather I think each intense spate of labor is a victory. Which is is inevitably defeated, but it is still a victory.

The inability to find solace in perspective is my sentence. Every new building I see around me is just another architecture job that I did not get. But I keep trying: impossible competitions, unlikely projects, sometimes just bad ideas. And mostly I know that the inevitable reality of lost hopes does not subdue my desire to fill each and every ravine in my driveway, even tho I know it is, ultimately, inadequate.

As am I, inadequate against the dying of the light.

But I rage.



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