The bloodroot is blooming. Ivory clumps of guiltless blossoms shine among tumbled blocks of limestone.

Halting my journey, I can’t keep my eyes from the old quarry walls that shelter this wildflower garden. How easy to imagine a lost city fallen into ruin, grand foundations dripping cold water, towers reduced to rubble where ferns and trees now thrive. The Romans believed every place to have a genius loci, a guardian spirit. A breeze whispers in my ear.

Thoreau wrote: “A town is saved, not more by the righteous men in it than by the woods and swamps that surround it.” Back then America was still an uncrowded land, its greatest cities tiny by today’s standards. An urban dweller in 1844 could find Thoreau’s brand of salvation at the end of a walk or buggy ride.

We are a race too easily enchanted by the ring of the ax. Our first written story is the epic of Gilgamesh, who cut down the trees where the Gods lived.

I take the path that leads to the top of a cliff and look out over my city’s botanical gardens. Through budding leaves the conservatory gleams like an emperor’s palace.

This is a young city in a young land. We move through lives so fast, changing scenery like stage sets. These acres bellow have had been many things in a short time – Indian land and hardscrabble farm, cemetery and sanitarium, rock mine and golf course.

As I walk back down into the spent quarry, past bloodroot and hepatica, past shooting star and Jacob’s ladder and Solomon’s seal, I think of that which cannot be hauled away in wagons and railroad cars, that which the bulldozers cannot uncover, no matter how much they rearrange.

Righteous men do save the world. They become gardeners.


Flash Fiction by Steve Brammell

Steve Brammell’s poems, short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Alabama Magazine, Birmingham Magazine, RavensPerch, Northwest Indiana Literary Journal, White Wall Review, The Tiny Seed Literary Journal, The Write Launch, Flying Island Journal, Cathexis Northwest Press, Toho Journal and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Finishing Line Press has just published his book of short stories, Red Mountain Cut. He has also enjoyed a parallel career in the restaurant and wine business for the past 25 years. He is a graduate of Wabash College and a member of the Indiana Writers Center. He lives in Indianapolis.