I had to replace our hundred-year-old sewer lines back in March of ’21. Having over the years lost a fair amount of strength, a lot of energy and nearly all of my desire for extended hard labor, I rented an excavator. With a friend’s assistance, I dug out the old line and, in the process, dug a trench two feet wide, eight feet deep and eighty feet long. After installing the new line, I backfilled the trench but couldn’t (or at least, didn’t) properly tamp down the dirt as I backfilled.
After a couple of heavy rains, the soil sank in along the line of the trench. I put in some more dirt and then, a few weeks later, put in still more dirt. Turned out, it still wasn’t enough.
Randa’s horse, Gin, made us aware of that a couple of weeks ago when he stepped over and his foot instantly plunged down about ten inches into the ground. A bit of probing revealed an underground “washout” that grew larger and deeper with each subsequent rain.
The most recent rain revealed a collapsed space of nearly a foot in diameter running down from around eighteen inches deep and sloping back to around three feet deep. Not having a remote camera or a miniature spelunker, I can’t tell how far back and down it extends. I’m fairly certain it’s following the line of the trench and will eventually mean a section of our driveway will become a participant in this progressive reshaping of our tiny section of the earth’s surface.
A similar process, though occurring over millennia instead of months, forms the caves and caverns of the world. Water seeps through, slowly dissolves minerals such as lime, and in time tiny trenches turn into tunnels and caves and even vast underground domes. As the dissolving transfer process continues, stalagmites and stalactites form, increasing the wonder and grandeur.
And so, the processes of softening, erosion and displacement can create natural works of beauty and marvel. And sinkholes.
It’s not often good to be in the vicinity when the forces of nature—and humanity—tear away the things that support us. It is good to be aware, to take care, and to do what it takes to repair what can be repaired. And to steer clear of what can’t be fixed.