This old dump truck has been sitting in the woods near my home for a long time. I first saw it about 26 years ago. Back then, I assumed its owner would pick it up and drive it away. Or haul it away if it wouldn’t run and repair it. It was worth something, I thought. But that hasn’t happened. It remains in the very same spot. Unmoved. In repose. Slowly rusting and rotting and deteriorating. Its registration expired in 1980.
When all of us are long gone, this truck may still be sitting in the woods waiting for the archeologists or historians to find it. They will make up elaborate stories about why it’s still there. And how it got there. But the race between oxidation and storytelling, between destruction and preservation is already underway. How long will it be before this truck is wearing a rich, brown coat of flaky rust, and its once shiny red color is just a conjecture? And how long will it be before its tires have disappeared leaving it sitting on its muddy axels? And how long will it be before its interior – its windows have been open for decades – is a smelly pile of rotting debris slowly corroding its already rotting floorboards from the top?
Impermanence, we are taught is a fact. A Gatha: "From interdependent causes, all things arise and fade away, so teaches the perfectly enlightened one." In my mind, it all happens relatively quickly. Lives are too short. Relationships are too short. Things that we love are all too quick to fade and break and end. But this truck reminds me that it also happens slowly. Sometimes excruciatingly slowly. Plastic takes 10,000 years to break down in sea water. How long will it take to reduce this dump truck to its lowest common denominator, to unrecognizable particles?