While traveling West Main Street near Ballou Park, I recently saw something very striking in the distance. It resembled a standing wall of windows, reminiscent of Matthew Brady’s photographs of Richmond’s ruins at Civil War’s end. What I was viewing, however, were the once brick-encased windows on one wall of the Schoolfield Mill, now filled with blue sky. Driving further, I realized that the single standing wall was an illusion crafted by sight’s angle, as the shadows from the wall of the building’s other side slowly filled most of those openings.

Each window was like a painting’s frame, each work potentially titled Study in Blue. Seen an hour later, all could be named Study in Twilight or Study in Gold. The art became more comprehensive with inclusion of The Three Sisters—the trio of smokestacks from the former Mill. I later saw Chimney Swifts flying to The Three Sisters for the night. If the plan for these Schoolfield smoke stacks is similar to that executed for the stacks next to Dan River’s old dye house, then these swift-named birds should become adjectively swift in relocating their nests.

Another temporary art-like addition to the scene was a lower, extended “wall” on the left, its windows similarly vacant, whose arches resemble a Roman aqueduct silhouetted by the evening sun. This analogy is aided by the light-reflecting waters of an old industrial pond in the foreground.

Just like God’s rainbow in the sky marks His promise to never again destroy the entire world with water, perhaps there is another promise pertaining to destruction. If the path to nothingness is carried out slowly and methodically, then art, or its semblance, may emerge from what is being destroyed, if but briefly.

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