Friday, April 13, 2007


Sept. 3, 1960

Dear Margie,

Mom arrived home O.K. She tells me you are looking for mail. Here is one that will take up some of your time.

The weather has been nice here for a few days. It's a pleasure. They tell me it is so beautiful up where you are. I can readily understand why you like staying up there.

Margie, you know my bull dog. I had to have him destroyed. It will be a month Oct. 5. He had dropsy and so full of water he could hardly walk. He was so small yet this apartment seems so large without him. I miss him so much. I had him 13 1/2 years. I can imagine I hear his little feet walk in the living room and it had me preparing him food. He was such a good dog. There will never be another one who will ever take his place. I will get another dog eventually, but not right now.

Well Margie, I think I will close. Keep well and enjoy the good air up where you are.

Sincerely and with love,
Grace A--

P.S. Please excuse the scribbling.
Sept. 3, 1960


We arrived home safe and sound.

The house is still standing and needs a good cleaning.

Weather is nice here.

Love Mom R--

If you've been with me and The Clarity of Night for a while, you know that we have some mountain land in the Poconos/Catskills. In 2004, we added an important parcel to our forest so we could have direct road access. This parcel contains an abandoned cottage, which we now own. Margaret lived there alone, and alone is how she died. These are letters taken from her ransacked things.

I see her lying there with her hat and shoe, and no one is left to help her. No one is left to care.


LiVEwiRe said...

I really like feeling like a fly on the wall. Yet in other ways, I can't help but feel an immediate connection with a person that I've never known simply through her words. I wonder how she would feel knowing that she is living on is such a way. Hmm, pleased would be my guess.

briliantdonkey said...

It is amazing and sad how many people in this world die utterly alone. Makes me wonder how people can do that to their family members


Suzan Abrams, email: said...

But with letters, she had a history and a story. That is something special. And it was very good of you Jason, to share this with us so we could embrace her spirit a little. :-)

Terri said...

This one hurts. You're spot-on with the photo.

billie said...

It's almost as though her little house has become a memorial in your care.

The letters juxtaposed with the photo are very touching.

Jeff said...

I wonder what she thought on quiet evenings alone with only the sound of the forest to keep her company.
Peacefulness? Loneliness? Isolation?

Jaye Wells said...

I feel kind of uncomfortable--like a voyeur. In a world so full of reality TV, it's shocking almost to see someone's actual reality, not one manufactured for ratings. What I imagine of her life would literally make me insane.

Bernita said...

The style of hat, the shoe, are iconic.

Anonymous said...

Livewire, I hope she would be pleased. You know, I get physically on edge and anxious being in that house. I'll say more in my response to Jaye.

BD, from what I can tell, she died with no immediate family. Her estate seems to have gone to a niece.

Susan, thank you. I hope in some way, this makes it a little better for her.

Terri, it was surprisingly difficult for me to put together. This little house is such a jarring place.

Billie, what a poignant way to put it. I'm protecting her as well as I can. There will come a day when we finally put her to rest.

Jeff, a very fitting thought. She would look up the steep mountainside with its old hemlocks and deer paths and black shapes of turkeys moving in the leaves. Our cabin in way up there, looking down on the cottage.

Jaye, even though I know we own every scrap of paper, every pill bottle, every old purse, it doesn't feel that way. My stomach tumbles when I'm in there. I'm not sure I'll ever get over the feeling of trespassing. The very first people to break in and ransack it must have been extraordinary foul people.

Bernita, so very true!

apprentice said...

Such wee snatches of a life. It is very sad how many people live and die alone.

And that was 1960,when we all tend to believe the loss of community is only a recent thing.

The picture is too poignant, we are going through troubles with my
MIL, her mind is disintergrating and therefore so is her house, and this is just too close to home.

Anonymous said...

For me... those letters don't bring any of the feeling of sadness, that I sense in others comments.

This woman obviously had family; a mother and sister. Yet she chose to live alone... at a time when a woman living alone would have been frowned on. Now other letters may reflect a different reality, but I find that a courageous choice. A choice to live her live on her own terms, independent of society.

I would not fear dying alone in a cabin in the woods surrounded by the peace of nature. I would however fear dying alone and forgotten in a nursing home, surrounded by other forgotten and abandoned souls.

bekbek said...

I'm a year away from trying to sell our house, and already it's a big deal. I think about the fact that you're supposed to take your "self" out of the house, so that viewers can imagine their own lives in the space, instead of yours.

What a pleasure it is, sometimes, to see somebody else's life in the place they lived, chock full of their personality, hopes and dreams.

But yeah, I can see how it would feel like trespassing... and how that's not the feeling one wants when one is selling!

Anonymous said...

Apprentice, at least you are there to help her, even if she might not fully understand or appreciate it.

Susan, I do see a strength in her. Her husband died, and she decided to remain there alone. However, I have to tell you that she died about 23 years after those letters were written. I don't think anyone was left for her. I don't know the particulars, but it appears that she got sick or incompetent and died in a nursing home. No one ever came for her things.

Bekbek, it will be a little weird to see your place complete empty when you are about to move out. Like it's still yours, but not yours. This little cottage is about a life slowly rotting and thrown into the middle of the floor. I imagine her bursting into tears if she could see it.

Anonymous said...

Whoops. Obviously, I can't do math late in the evening. She died 33 years after these letters were written.

Anonymous said...

very cool, jason. i love this kind of thing. used to be an abandoned farmhouse next to my cabin in iowa. it was full of belongings scattered around on the floor. such an odd, sad, and displaced feeling to look at it.

Anonymous said...

This is why I find myself traipsing around in antique shops, museums, cemeteries. I buy old postcards with messages beautifully written on them, just simple lines, but so endearing. I buy up old dishes, tablecloths, furniture, gloves, paper fans, books, because I feel an affinity for those in the past. I love what they share with me.

Thanks for posting "Margaret". One can only wonder at her last years there in the cabin. I hope she lived in peace.


Anonymous said...

Anne, I remember you mentioned that to me. You must know that curiously uncomfortable feeling to be inside.

Kaye, I really get the sense that she was happy there. It was a beautiful little world for her. (I understand what you mean by an affinity with the past. I feel it too.)

Wilf said...

At least you remembered. Makes you think.