It was getting close to spring- I could feel it, hear it- I could even smell it. I step out of the red clapboard house that was my home and walk towards my front yard. There were new sounds in the air- birds that flew south at the first hint of last winter were starting to creep back into the state with a hesitant chirp or tweet. The snow underfoot, what was left of it, was dirty and had the consistency of glass beads that got spilled haphazardly across the lawn to be forgotten for another day.
I head towards my favorite path- it takes me deep into the Maine woods across the road from my house. When I feel like I need to get away, this is were I go- summer or winter. I felt the crunch of the earth under my thick soled winter boots. I will be trading these in shortly for hiking boots or running shoes, as soon as the ground safely permits. I get to the perimeter of the woods and stop. I look beyond into the trees and see another world- it is a world that is my own for the moment. The sun showed brightly through the parts in the tree branches helping to light the way in the dense forest ahead. The path is narrow and littered with many roots and rocks about it. The trees seemed to be reaching hungrily for the sun- as if they had never seen nor ever will see the sun again. The snow is different here, thicker, protected by the dense trees and underbrush. The debris crunches underfoot, making progress slow and slippery. I stop to catch my footing and take a deep breath and then let it out slowly. My surroundings smell of dampness that has a slightly sweet taste to it. Up ahead, I see my destination.
There it sits, as it has a day, a year, even a hundred years ago. I look at this building that time forgot and let my mind wonder- what was it like back in its day? The road to the building long since obliterated by lack of use, as if the woods desired to hide the house from outside eyes. The back of the building was covered in vines that wrapped around it like they were holding the building in place, as if it was just too weary to stand alone anymore. The once white painted exterior was the same color as the dirty snow that surrounded it. Amazingly, the windows were still intact, save for one that was laying on the ground in pieces, as if the building just could not hold onto it a minute longer. I stood and absorbed the beauty of this building that stood before me as questions ran through my head- What kind of people lived here? How long ago? What were they like? This is not the first time as I ask these same questions each time that I come to this spot. The mystery of this place is like a magnet asking me to solve it.
I walk around from the back of the building to the front. I look at the condition of the porch. It is sagging the whole length and missing some boards, thus giving off the effect of a child’s crooked smile missing some teeth. I carefully, as I had so many times in the past, walk up the rickety steps and head towards the door. I reach for the latched handle and carefully open the door. I step inside and watch as dust springs up all around my footsteps on the old unused wooden floors. The house has a musty, unused smell to it- it reaches out and grabs you by the throat and takes your breath away if you are not prepared for it. The room is small and bare, save for an old wooden table in one corner. The room looks like it could be in any room, in any building, anywhere. It has no identity, no expression that gives it individuality. I look at the stairs that lead to the second floor. They are made from the same wide wooden planks that the floor in the room that I am standing in is made from. Whoever made this floor took care in their work- the planks fit snugly together, as if they were form-fitted straight from the trees. The banister that runs the length of the staircase is a simple, efficient design that is missing a couple of pieces that gives it an air of instability.
I head to a room in the back of the building- by far my favorite room. This room, out of all the rooms in the house, has an identity. It whispers faintly to you about who used this room- like an idea that seems to develop in the back of your head and if you do not grab it, it disappears as fast as it formed. This room I believe was at one time a kitchen. Not because of any appliances or dishes that should be there, but because of the endless wooden counters and cupboards. Feasts could have been prepared on these counters and still have had room to spare. I closed my eyes and I could see a middle age women lovingly using these worn counters to cook family recipes that had been handed down to her for her family. If you look closely at the counters, you can still see the cutting marks from food being prepared. The cupboards are missing their doors and are not holding anything more than a thick layer of dust. What were they once used to store? Family heirlooms or chipped odds and ends? I like to believe that they held beautifully intricate family heirlooms, passed down for many generations. I run my fingers across the cupboards and counter tops. They are worn and almost soft feeling from both uses and neglect. I look up at the intricate low tin ceiling that adorns this room. The lines, dots and rows seem to flow together to form many designs and at the same time one design. Who knows how many years had passed since anyone had taken notice of this ceiling, yet, it still held firm and added an overall quiet beauty to this room.
I walk back to the front door, my shoes making a soft thumping sound as I cross the worn wooden floor. I think to myself, is this what it would be like if someone came to my home and it were lying abandoned and lost? Would they look at the intricate woodwork and speculate to themselves who lived there and what were they like? As I cross the threshold of the house, I take one last look back to admire the inner beauty of the building. I come to the conclusion that someone must have really loved this building for it to have held up so well all this time. The house, though strong, seems to be in a slow losing game with nature as it slowly swallows it up. The vines and trees seem to be holding it in place so it can eventually reclaim it into the ground. I turn and walk back down the front steps and head home.