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road sage

Trendsetting has never been a strong suit for me. I tend to find myself running with the common herd. For instance, I went on Facebook in 2015, around the time the rest of the world was figuring out Facebook was effectively Satan’s social media account. I’m not normally ahead of the wave.

That’s all going to change. I am on the cutting edge. I will be hailed as an “influencer” of the highest order. I won’t follow fashion. That would be a joke. I’m going to set them. So everyone can take note.

That’s right.

You’ve guessed it.

I have my own sinkhole. Nothing could be more 2019.

My sinkhole first appeared last spring.Andrew Clark/The Globe and Mail

I don’t actually hold a lease on the sinkhole (that would be too materialist) but I have laid claim to its spirit. Henry David Thoreau had Walden Pond, which he immortalized in 1854 in his seminal work Walden. I have my sinkhole. Both are inspiring. Walden Pond symbolizes the spiritual essence of nature. My sinkhole, which is located a few doors down my street, is a testament to civic inertia.

It first appeared last spring. A chunk of asphalt collapsed along the curb and a gorgeous crater revealed itself underneath. It was as if someone had punched through a sheet of thick ice but instead of ice it was the pavement on a residential street. If memory serves, there were a few futile attempts by civic workers to fill it.

Nature, however, had other plans. Our little sinkhole blossomed. In the spring, it was ringed with green leaves and tree buds. In the summer, it filled with torrential rain water and bubbled and brimmed. It is now decorated with brilliant fall foliage that is an exquisite compliment to the orange cone that someone (perhaps a city worker) stuck in it. Today it is approximately 1.5 metres long by half a metre wide. At its deepest it is a third of a metre. It might even go further down, but I was afraid of getting my boot soaked doing the measurements. I look forward to the winter when its frosted icy crust will shelter its cold waters.

Sinkholes used to be rare but they’re becoming more popular. A few weeks ago in Toronto, a sinkhole caused by a burst water main swallowed a TTC vehicle that had driven there (ironically) to investigate whether the sinkhole was a danger. No one was injured. It was the fifth sinkhole to crater in Toronto in one month. In fact, another vehicle had been gulped down by a sinkhole in Toronto a few weeks prior. Residents in Oxford, N.S., are still bewildered by a 32.6-by-38- metre-sized sinkhole that appeared last July. Sinkhole fever is sweeping the globe! In Spain, a sinkhole trapped a car. In China, researchers just discovered a mega-sinkhole that’s 449 metres deep.

Some experts are alarmed by the appearance of so many sinkholes and believe they’re a symptom of decaying infrastructure. I agree, but I’m not alarmed. They are symbols of decay but instead of fighting them we should be appreciating them. When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around. Think of sinkholes like the 80s pop lyrics I’ve snuck into this column. Just because they irritated you a few decades ago doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them now.

Of Walden Pond, Thoreau wrote, “A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”

I see the same resonance in my landlocked body of dirty water. “A sinkhole is the city’s most wondrous hole. It is a monument to futility. Looking at its tepid depths I see my society’s inability to perform even the most basic and mundane tasks, like fixing a small, one-foot deep sinkhole.” It is a sign of things to come.

The sinkhole is but a warning scar.

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