From the fourth-story doctor’s office window, the view is all dirt, concrete, and machines. The cranes have been stabbing the southern skyline for many months, swinging in their slow circles. Every time we cross the bridge, the kids try to count them. One dozen, two dozen, too many to agree upon.
They are building a new bridge across the Ohio. They are rearranging the interstate.
From the fourth floor I can see all the way to the river. I stare at the upheaval for some time, trying to understand the plan. To the west, men in hard hats consult together atop the new Second Street ramp. Southward, others work in shifted interstate lanes and off-ramps that will somehow all connect in the end.
They have diverted traffic into temporary gauntlets built to make room for building. A packed dirt parking lot for construction vehicles sits where the on-ramp used to be. I can’t tell which parts are the means and which will be the ends.
Dirt, concrete, and machines.
Then down to the right, I notice a lone excavator. While all the other machines and their operators work in clusters, dodging each other while attempting to work as a team, this one seems to have been sent off on its own. It has scaled the slope of a pyramid of dirt and begun to move the earth.
The scoop descends and gathers its fill. Then the excavator swivels 180 degrees and drops its load on the other side. It turns again toward the higher ground, fills its scoop, and drops the dirt behind itself.
Over and over I watch this motion, and I’m struck by the operator’s skill. The scoop’s movements are constant and smooth. I would even call them graceful. It drops the dirt in a gentle motion that reminds me of a mother cat setting down her kittens or of a flower girl scattering rose petals.
After working this way a while, the excavator has made the high ground and the low ground level with each other. It lowers its scoop to the surface that has been eaten away. Then back and forth, in slow, even passes, it drags its scoop along the pockmarked surface, smoothing (and I can’t help but think soothing) the broken ground.
With this done, the excavator eases out onto the newly dropped dirt — the platform it just built for itself. And it begins to dig again.
Break, turn, drop, heal. Move one step forward. Then do it again.
Little by little, all alone, the excavator is chipping away at the mound and making from it a road. Somehow it is doing it with grace.
And someday, miraculously, we’ll be able to see how it all fits into the plan.