It was a hot day in Rome. We were walking around the city when my brother led my family and I over to the ruins of the Forum. The old buildings had been whittled down to small, jagged pieces that stood a few feet high and in some cases more, but from where we stood atop the hill, there were only outlines of what used to be. You can imagine the scene: crumbling stone, cockeyed pillars, and green shrubbery engulfing large portions of the ruins.
It’s the romantic in me, but I’ve always felt so touched by places like these. They’re so ghost-like, so much like a hollowed hermit-crab’s shell you’d find on the beach: empty, vacant, incomplete. It only makes me think of my mortality even more and how one day I’ll be just as forgotten as the people whose feet once walked across those floors. If you close your eyes and imagine it, inside of the buildings , or any abandoned home, you can find the traces of life that lie dormant to the conscious mind. It takes deep thought and concentration to bring them back to life again-but they are still there. It makes me sad to be around the ruins but it also makes me want to find more. I want to bring the life back to them and reestablish that energy and spirit that’s been lost. However, it’s not just the emptiness of these old wrecks that cuts me deep, it’s the way that the earth grows over them, and the Forum had most certainly been taken over by grass, vines, and shrubs. It was as if more than just society and civilization had deemed their life as over, but Mother Nature too had kindly said, “you’re time here is done”, and proceeded to grow over it without a chance to fight back.
There’s a line from Hamlet that has always been my favorite:
“A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a/
king, and cat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.”
In these lines Hamlet essentially says, we’re all the same in the end because our life, and all life for that matter, springs from that which we will one day decompose into: the earth. Therefore, we’re no more than earth; we are irrefutably a part of the cycle-we are simply food for worms. I could never help but be reminded of how true that is for almost everything in this world, including the places where we live out our lives.I remember one particular part of the Forum there was a building that had a burst of brilliant purple flowers growing all over it. Of course it was beautiful to look at but the strong scent of the flowers nearly knocked me off my feet. “Woah” I thought. It was the most perfect example of life and death and it echoed the words of Hamlet so perfectly. Amongst the rubble of that building, as sad and wrecked as it was, there was new life within these pungent flowers that were so much a part of this world that you could smell their life force. They dazzled in the sunlight and would not allow my nose to cease taking in their floral scents. It wasn’t their old life, but it was still life that the remnants of this building now had, and I wondered silently to myself if one day, in the ground I would smell that sweet.