Postcard: Greetings from the edge
March 2, 2023
I’ve long been fascinated by patterns in the built environment in cities and towns: survey spikes hammered in sidewalks, fluorescent spray paint lines marking underground infrastructure, or ghost remnants of demolished buildings imprinted on the side walls of vacant lots. Today, walking along a country road in remote Orleans County, Vermont, I find subtle traces of another kind of human-made intervention on the rural landscape. Every few hundred feet, tiny plywood billboards – vacant and fading – front this snow-crusted dirt road. Mostly mute, these border plaques have nearly faded into the pines, maples, and cedars upon which they were nailed. Occasionally, though, the message still gets through: POSTED. Strung together along the road’s edge, these signs did form (and still threaten even in their dilapidated state) an invisible enclosure beyond which the full might of the law (or worse) has prosecutorial power. For us humans anyway. Deer tracks trample the snow along the side of the road for several feet, then turn sharply into the forest and trespass the bounds of human occupation and ownership. Squirrel tracks follow suit. Voles too. A couple of crows scream caw caw at me and fly unimpeded across the boundary line to follow a whim into the bush. But I hover on the edge and stick to the road, spooked by the desolation, imagining the human horror I might find on the other side.