While I had planned to stay until the last minute possible on the property, I realized that a more pragmatic approach would be to return home a day before my return to work and have some quiet time for shifting gears back into my temporarily ‘normal’ world. The wild me tried to take over and calculate how I could stay AND keep my job that advances me towards my future goals, but I made her be quiet. Flights of fancy are good at times, however there are days that I just have to put my foot down and remind myself to stay in reality. This was one of those times.
As it was for my entire time up there, again this day I arose before dawn to rebuild the fire and watch the sun come up to the sounds of wild turkeys. I made my own ‘drip’ coffee from the water heated over the fire. Over the few days that I was alone, I located sticks that performed certain functions over the fire and created a good little working outdoor kitchen. It is interesting how your mind and eyes work when you’re thinking in an alternate space, when you can see tools laying on the ground and mentally envision how that could function back at camp.
Since today was my birthday, I wanted to go do something new, give my mind and eyes a present of sort. I also needed to wash some clothes and my hair and thankfully the temps were a bit warmer, no frost on the tent this morning! Warming water for bathing, hair washing and laundry was as simple as hanging the largest pot over the fire while I did my gatherings. When I was done, I felt fresh, but the surrounding trees looked a little weird, as that is where I hung my laundry to dry. I remembered clothespins, but I didn’t want to sacrifice my paracord for a clothesline, and there was not a decent two tree set up nearby that fit the bill. Had anyone been present, they would have had a chuckle over socks, shirts and undergarments festooning the trees, I am sure. Thankfully, no one was. Once those chores were complete, I set off for the as yet undiscovered additional homestead, to gather it in as my own personal and private birthday gift to me. It did not disappoint.
This road was by far the most decayed. I’m not certain a 4-wheeler would master it well, but I’m ignorant about them, having only ridden as a passenger on one once. In fact, I wasn’t sure I was going in the right place, since the path was all grown up in wild grasses, yellowed and chattering in the breeze, and small pine saplings are making inroads as well. There is plenty of evidence of rock, broken bricks, coyote and deer tracks along the way, and the turkey sounds were near continuous as I pressed on. Eventually the road turned rather sharply to the right and the roof line came into view.
The secondary signs of previous occupants were the tell-tale clumps of daffodils. I wonder if it is so around other parts of the country, or just around here? Are old homestead sites identifiable by flower plantings of the past? Even beneath and behind the runaway bramble thickets, bright cheery spots of yellow nodded, and when in large enough bunches, emitted a warm and suntan lotion type smell. I like it.
Walking around to the accessible part of the homestead, the full melancholy of the building, formerly quite robust and useful, becomes apparent. She struggles I think, to retain her dignity and value; or perhaps I am personifying.
Old buildings delight me. Their planks and floors could say so much, but are quietly reticent. They are often more practical and sparse, a home of few words perhaps. In places like these, my imagination runs rampant when I am not touching. Buildings like these could tell stories of ordinary lives, of every day struggles and occasional challenges surmounted. Everything about this place drew me in, made me curious. There is so much to take in, I could spend weeks here and still probably not see and feel all that there is. So much of her is still sturdy, but the neglect leaves her back face slack, as if in anguish that she has been left forgotten for so many years. In my mind’s eye, she lets out a woeful cry in this photo.
She was never a grand old dame filled with chandeliers – in fact she resembles a home and a barn combined, sheltering lives of more than one kind possibly. But, like her counterpart below uncovered in the human minutia left behind, she is part of time forgotten.
There is much more to tell of this day, where a few hours felt like a few lifetimes. But I would like to leave you with these sights settling into you, the imaginings that you can do with them. The feeling I had here was not of sorrow, but of reverence. To be privy to small glimpses of lives that passed before mine, to touch things others touched time and again, always makes me feel like a time traveler.
Because buildings house us as social creatures, be they homes, barns, restaurants or granaries, they retain some of us; our values, our mores, our emotional temperature. I have the heart of a romantic, and so I color in with things that may, for the most part, not be true. I will never know. But the beauty of this day, exploring the homestead, a nearby cedar glen, left me feeling more than who I am. I hope you too, savor this and become part of it.
I leave you with a quote from an architect, although he has been deigned outside of the norm for architects, leaning more towards pattern language and undefinable elements in buildings.
To seek the timeless way we must first know the quality without a name. There is a central quality which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building, or a wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named.
I hope that over the course of my life, I too, acquire the ‘quality without a name.’
Be well. Look around you closely. Examine those things that others have left behind, and find yourself within them.
Copyright© S. M. King “Scraps Torn From A Diminutive Notebook” project 2013-2014