Inanimate Transformation Stories

    transformation stories

  • (transformation story) A story in which a character undergoes a drastic change or reversal. Gideon is transformed from a reluctant leader suffering from an inferiority complex into a heroic leader who conquers his nation’s enemy.


  • Not alive, esp. not in the manner of animals and humans
  • Showing no sign of life; lifeless
  • not endowed with life; “the inorganic world is inanimate”; “inanimate objects”
  • belonging to the class of nouns denoting nonliving things; “the word `car’ is inanimate”
  • breathless: appearing dead; not breathing or having no perceptible pulse; “an inanimate body”; “pulseless and dead”

inanimate transformation stories

Goodbye, Oregon

Goodbye, Oregon
This power line post stood at a vacant lot right next to the storage where Karen’s belongings will be temporarily sheltered until she finds a new home. It was put up by PacifiCorp, one of the lowest-cost electricity producers in the United States that serve more than 1.6 million customers from coal, hydro, renewable wind power, gas-fired combustion turbines, solar and geothermal sources.

Long before Pacificorp was established in the mid-1980s, Scott’s paternal grandfather built the first of these lines in the Pacific Northwest, an itinerant man in the early part of the last century who constantly moved and followed the linking of these power lines from Albany southwards. Scott doesn’t know much about him as the old man was hardly talked about. As I took this picture of a solitary power line post, I remembered a conversation Scott and Karen had about the trees of Roseburg.

"It’s funny," Karen said, looking at the barren hillside patches, "how they’d always leave one tree standing in the middle of the logged area. You can walk for miles and miles and just see this one tree standing."

"They leave it for reseeding," Scott said.

"They look like petrified trees" Karen chuckled. "Like they were scared to death."

It’s a meaningful remark. Karen collects objects that are "scared to death". Among her personal stuff, the movers also put in storage a burlap bag and boxes filled with her rock and petrified wood collection. She was a little embarassed when they started moving her collection to the truck. But they told her not to worry, they have moved weirder things.

Petrification begins underground. Minerals are deposited into the buried tree, replacing organic cells until a stone mold forms in its place and becomes crystal hard. Death in this way preserves memory, its original structure, the tree rings,down to the microsopic tissues.

The day before the movers came, Karen and Scott made one last trip to the Umpqua river so I could take pictures and they could walk their dogs. Karen looked for agates in the river banks but couldn’t find any. In the same way that petrified wood becomes a natural record of history through a tree’s dying, agates also chronicle the geological layers of our violently changing world. In the course of time, silica and quartz fill the hollow spaces and cavities of volcanic rocks and ancient lavas. Breaking off from their natural setting and cut transversely, agates characteristically exhibit a magnificent band, parallel lines of silica and quartz, colorful crystals that resist erosion, a succession of imbedded stories that resist weathering if you will. Detached, they are finally set free and are found in streams and shorelines.

Sometimes when I look at Karen, she reminds me of a character in one of A S Byatt’s stories called The Stone Woman. "Whether or not she became wholly inanimate, she must find a place to stand in the weather before she became immobile. She visited city squares, and stood experimentally by the rims of fountains, or in the entrance of grottoes. She had read of the hidden wilderness of nineteenth-century graveyards, and it came to her that in such a place, amongst weeping angels and grieving cherubs, she might find a quiet resting-place."

Karen is leaving Roseburg for good and is undertandably fearful. It is tearing her apart. Like everyone who leaves home and is uprooted, she has turned herself into a walking metamorphosis. I feel indebted to to people whom at some point in their lives are claimed by the road as its own. According to Byatt, we, the world, are changed by their changing.

Soon their voices, Karen’s included, will be lost in the waters and the only way to hear them again is through the soles of our feet when we wade through rippling waters and walk on the riverbed. As author Norman Maclean puts it: "Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters."

Here’s one tree left standing, a memory of the woods preserved by one of Roseburg’s esteemed townsfolks, who also left and had returned 42 years later. John Lienhard, Professor Emeritus at the University of Houston and author of The Engines of Our Ingenuity recalls: "I was 16 in Roseburg, Oregon — a town swollen by the wartime logging boom. I wore tough leather boots and coiled a 100-foot surveyor’s chain across my chest. I carried a brush axe and a machete. We staked out logging roads through the virgin Douglas fir. Now and then axemen in the valley behind us felled one of those 500-year-old trees, and the crash thundered up the draw. We picked our way on rotting logs, house-high, over rivulets and humus. We laid a trail for bulldozers where no human had ever been.


Presto & Chango 4

Presto & Chango 4
The Strange case of Presto and Chango