On the day I turned my daughter’s car seat around, we go for a drive together. It’s a big deal. For the first time, she is tall enough to ride facing
forward, old enough to see the world that passes by the windows above her head, and so we went exploring in the empty rural township where we
live. It’s early March, the last raw days of winter, and the world is brown beneath the receding snows.
We live in Melancthon Township, one of the least populated areas in Southern Ontario. It’s dotted with ghost towns, stops along a railroad that’s long since disappeared. In some cases all that remains is a gas station with the name of town that no longer exists. In some cases there’s
still a sign, and some houses. In some cases all that remains are weathered foundations.
In the case of the town of Melancthon itself, the only structure left is only an old Catholic church that stands alone in the middle of the
fields. From the highway it looks like just another dead building, the windows dark, empty eyes staring out over the brown land. But it is not.
The church stands at the corner of the lonely highway and a lonelier dirt road. The walls are literally crumbling, but a sign proudly proclaims that its congregants still meet for Mass every Sunday morning at 9: 30 AM. The cross that is meant to stand at the pinnacle of the spire has
been lashed roughly to its side with rope.
The wind is blowing. It is almost always blowing here, and always in the same direction, shaping the trees and wearing the buildings of
man away. I park the car in the empty gravel lot and we got out. It is spring, the first really warm day. My daughter learned to walk in the depths of
winter and now it is her delicious novelty to totter across any hard surface. She makes her unsteady way around the parking lot as the wind swirls
around her. She delights in it.
I put her on my shoulders and we explore the old cemetery. At least a third of the stones have fallen, toppled by frost heaves or the depredations of bored country teenagers. There is a fence that separates the cemetery from the empty windswept fields that surround it and along this
fence are hung a series of images of the crucifixion, the Stations of the Cross. Most of them have been blown down by those ceaseless winds, and
not returned. Their frames broken open, the printed face of Jesus faded in the snow.
There is no one around, no traffic. It should be no other sound than the eternal voice of the wind, but there is: a steady subaquatic woosh
woosh woosh, like a fetal heartbeat. Across the old dirt road from the church is a wind turbine. It was erected last summer, sleek and spotlessly
white, and it stands three times the height of the battered steeple. They stare at each other across the gravel as if in opposition to one another, the
church so desperately crumbled, wearing away in the wind, and the turbine so effortlessly mighty, the clean white blades inexorably turning.
To the naked eye the outcome of such a standoff seems inevitable: the church will shutter and close, the windows smashed and the roof
falling in, to be bulldozed or burnt to the ground some day not far from today. Maybe another turbine will be built on this spot, for surely more are
coming. Every summer the roads fill with convoys, carrying the long white blades up from the city to be raised above the fields, with all the wealth
and wisdom and good will of the age behind them. Not so the churches. Every year the congregations diminish, we are told. Every year more are
sold, turned into galleries or trendy condominiums. No one builds cathedrals anymore.
But the truth is that in forty years they will both be gone, both the turbines and this church. The march of technological progress will pass
the turbines by. Something exponentially more efficient will replace them, and they will become just another quaint reminder of a simpler age.
By. Mike Bonikowsky