Friday, June 02, 2006

The Real Cottage Along the Woods

Below, a fiery glare burst through the trees. The rising moon reflected in the broken windows of the cottage. Next to the windows, an open door.

--From "Flashlight Tag," Part 4

The cottage.

It sits along the road. The foundation laid from stones dug from its own mountain. Old as gnarled muscles pounding the Earth by hand.

Other foundations hide in the briars. Perhaps older. Time has nearly washed them again. Yet, as the cottage sags under the weight of rot, maybe its foundation is the oldest of all. Who knows. Its smell of mildew is the smell of centuries.

For four years now, this sad place has cast its shadow over us. At first, just a midnight ghost in the headlights. A place we hurried past on our way to the hollows where they quarried the stones. But then, in 2004, we bought the parcel of land beneath it. It took a little time to fully understand this place was ours too. Even now, although I understand it, I can't feel it. There's no room for my mark on this house. Or anyone's. If houses can die, this one's spirit has ascended from the chimney. And it's grave lies open for all to see.

Is it haunted?

Most definitely yes. So much haunting, the pressure of it nauseates me when I stand inside.

We know that a woman lived. Alone. A woman who had no one, except a distant heir who inherited nothing but loose ends and life decayed.

How do we know about her, you ask?

Before I tell you, there's more. We know she baked. Probably cookies which she shared with her visiting nurse. She brought out the cooking oil. A rolling sheet. Pans and a rolling pin. They all were there.

They're all still there.

Something happened to this woman. Something abrupt. Her life was in motion--on the counter, in her bedroom, in the living room with shelves of romance novels she loved.

Then it stopped. It all just stopped.

Her business was conducted by a personal representative. Her address changed, most likely to a nursing home where she shortly died. But the cottage remained. Untouched.

Ransacked, but untouched by life-giving hands.

And so it will always remain. Until we close the grave.

We promise to close the grave.


Flood said...

It's so scary and wonderful. Where I grew up, deep in the forest, we'd find abandoned church pews sitting on cliffs, above the lake. The feeling it gave us could never be explained. I suspect this cottage might be like that for you. It's so intimate, filled with both welcome and uncertain profundity, all at once. Thanks for sharing this.

Deborah said...

I'm not sure which makes me sadder, that she had to live alone or that nobody came to collect her cherished belongings. That "Lonely People" Beatles song just popped into my head.

anne said...

This is so sad.

The Artist said...

Beautifully written. I would like so much to hear that what is trapped there was freed, best wishes, The Artist

Bernita said...

"a midnight ghost in the headlights.."
Yes. We see it, Jason. Have seen it.
Close the grave.

Scott said...

The cottage has cast a spell that cannot be broken easily. If it were me, I think I would bulldoze it.

Anonymous said...

Flood, yes, the feeling can be overwhelming. Abandoned church pews on cliffs is certainly mysterious. ** I can't help wondering how this woman would feel about her home left like that. Rotting away. The knowledge would wear on me.

Deborah, somewhere I read a great line in response to the question, "what's the hardest way to die?" The person answered, "last." This woman demonstrates why.

Anne, when I dig through her things (and believe me, she kept just about everything), I have a mixture of guilt and happiness. Guilt because these were all her personal things. Happiness because at least someone cares to remember her.

The Artist, thank you for the kind words. :) I hope that by preserving some things which represent the course of her life, the history of her and this place won't be lost.

Bernita, after I preserve what I can, after I learn more of the story buried there, we will do just that.

Scott, I agree. It can't remain. But I don't want to contribute to this woman's loss. I want to preserve what I can first, and only then commit the rest to the ground.

Melissa Marsh said...

Wow. I think it is fitting that you are remembering her, Jason. Going through her things must be difficult, but I imagine you are learning so much about her.

beadinggalinMS said...

Jason this is so sad. I cry tears for this woman having to leave everything she cherished her house, baking, her romance novels. Shoved into a nursing home where she probably died of a broke heart missing her cottage and freedom.

Rene said...

Jason, I really liked this piece of writing. Great way of conveying the sadness of this woman's life and piecing her together through what she left behind, letting us know her although there is nothing personal about her.

anne frasier said...

i used to live in a log home in the middle of nowhere, but very near my place was an abandoned farmhouse. it looked so much like that -- even down to the rubble inside. in the yard i could still make out the rows of grapes. the front of the house was almost hidden by huge lilac bushes. a sad place.

jackt said...

Dude this is like it's out of one of those old fairy tales (the scary serious kind, not the kiddy/Disneyfied kind). Very nice post.

Jeff said...

It makes me sad when I think of the number of people who live out their final days in lonely obscurity.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, it's especially difficult given the condition of the house. I have it padlocked now to keep people out, but it's been "visited" many times, I think.

BeadinggalinMS, you put that sentiment very powerfully. I think you're right. That is probably exactly how she felt.

Rene, perhaps as I find more, I can share more of her story. I do want to respect her privacy, however. Her name will have to remain with me.

Anne, what it is about these places that is so powerful? Did you ever learn about who lived there and why it was abandoned?

Jackt, thanks. :) Now that you mention it, it does sound like a Brothers Grimm tale.

Jeff, I wonder if that situation makes you cling to life more. There is no comfort in knowing someone will handle your affairs when you're gone.

giggles said...

It's sad and glorious. A legacy of tales left behind. Loved it.


Melly said...

Jason, what a nice piece with so much in it, from life to death and everything in between. The house is lifeless now, yes, but is also a reminder of happier, fuller times.

mr. schprock said...

I agree with you that this house can never be yours. I know it's fanciful to think houses can have "personalities," but they can, and this house seems too stricken and abandoned to have another go at life again. It just seems too tired and spent and closed in upon itself. The air of disillusionment is too great,

Very nice post.

Kelly Parra said...

Wow, your voice really comes through in your narrative, Jason. Awesome! Thanks for sharing this. =D

anne frasier said...

the people who built my house actually lived there for about 6 months while their new place (later my house) was under construction. i never knew who REALLY lived a life there. the kitchen was very much from the forties. a barn and well just a few steps away. kids started hanging out there and started breaking all the windows and tearing it up. that desecration of the old life is what was so disturbing.

i later found an open well on my property that i'm sure went to the house. the top was ground-level and lined with stones. nothing to tell you it was there. pretty freaky.
i had someone with a bulldozer come and fill it.

anne frasier said...

so you might want to keep your eyes open for a well. especially with kids running around. i later found another open well on the adjoining timber property (not mine) where i used to go for walks. maybe 1/4 mile from the first well.
years ago every house had its own well.
near this well was old foundation, but the house was gone.

September said...

I was touched by this. It was sad. I feel for the elderly or anyone who dies alone. I sometimes wonder, even with three children, why I bother collecting certain things. After I'm gone, it will mean nothing to everyone else. But then I remember, it means something to me. That's important. When I'm gone, they can get rid of it, for now -- I enjoy it.
That's all that matters.

Anonymous said...

Chrissie, thanks so much for the visit! I hope to see you back. ** I think this woman's legacy is improved now. With all of your thoughts, she's not so alone.

Melly, thanks for your visit too! I appreciate your reflection on this conflicted place.

Mr. Schprock, too tired and spent and closed in upon itself.... Such fitting words. You've captured the atmosphere perfectly.

Kelly, thanks for the kind words!

Anne, desecration. Yes, that is what is so disturbing. Her clothes are still in the closet. Her medicine is still on a nightstand. So much distruction, yet other things remain untouched in the chaos. ** That's a good point about the well. This property has several springs, one of which I believe fed the cottage. Still, I'll keep a lookout.

September, our bonds to cherished things are often passed down the generations. I'm sure your children will love your things as much as you do, perhaps more.

giggles said...

I love your site. Extremely poetic. And your pictures...breathtaking.

I figure anyone who has Loreena McKennitt and FleetWood mac on their favorites must be a kindred spirit of mine. Those are my two ultimate favorite musical groups/musicians. LM's Book of Secrets is my favorite CD.


mermaid said...

I think she really hears you. Your respect for life, even in death, never ceases to awaken something dead inside me.

LiVEwiRe said...

Maybe that's what has been waiting to happen all this time; for someone to close the grave. Maybe the intense feelings you get will prompt you to complete the circle. When the time is right.

Anonymous said...

Chrissie, thanks so much for the compliment! And yes, I noticed your musical choices on your profile. Intriguing. Not very many people listed Loreena McKennitt. Her talents at weaving melodies and moods is astounding.

Mermaid, I like that thought...that she hears me.

Livewire, I do get the sense that no one has respected the place for years. Certainly not the last owner. Perhaps it was waiting to tell its final story.