From 1970 to 1980, the Land of Oz was a theme park. Hundreds of thousands of visitors came the first summer, before interest fell quickly away.
It was a gorgeous place, meticulous in the details it recreated from the film on top of a mountain in North Carolina.
But thirty five years have taken their toll, just one more ruin of someone’s dream left to disintegrate on a mountain. Sure, it opens once a year for a few days, and there are some special tours, but it’s a hollow vestige of something once full of life.
The bricks lift and pull away.
The enchanted bird cage a pile of colorful debris.
The trees painted into monsters become something even more haunting as they fade.
The Emerald City itself, melted to gray after a fire ravaged it decades ago, destroying one of the dresses worn by Dorothy in the film.
America is a strange land, because we are a nation without a history. The Europeans among us like to tease that we think a hundred years is a long time. Centuries of British lived and died among Roman ruins that they had forgotten how to repair, let alone build. Ancient cities in the Middle East are built atop a dozen or two layers of sediment that are earlier versions of the same city in the same place. We live among our debris and wreckage, listening to the echoes of ages past.
There’s a tendency to want to save such things, to prevent the decay from taking hold. Some things should be preserved, no doubt, those constructions of history that retain their grip on our psyche. But some we should let go, some we should let return to the Earth slowly. We hide too often from the messy parts of the world in our clean modernism. Death is clinical, disease is isolated, and our history is either preserved or renovated. We have an obsession with control, with being unwilling to admit our own powerlessness before the ebb of time.
Let our ruins be our darkest mirrors.