I drove by this house nearly every day on the way to work. It had been abandoned years ago. So long ago, in fact, that the siding had lost all of its color and had weathered to a silver gray. Some paint did survive on the window shutters, but it was peeling badly and in the process of falling to the ground. For some reason, what always struck me as I passed by was the old mailbox. It was the standard rounded-top shape, heavily-rusted and connected to a metal pole that was bolted to a concrete footing that was surrounded by a patch of unruly weeds. The box itself pointed not to the road, but back into the bushes between it and the house.
So the questions form…What happened? Why was the house left to its lonesome? Will anybody bring it back to life? And what happened on that last day, when the mailbox was pushed aside?
Similar questions have always occurred to me when seeing dilapidated buildings. I've done a lot of driving between the coast of Maine and all the way out to parts of upstate New York, and there are many such sites. Retail buildings, restaurants, old motels, farms, factories, mills, train cars, and houses — there's a story behind every one of them. It's sort of too bad that those stories will never be told, at least not in their entirety.
I know other people out there are interested in such things, because there are many books devoted to abandoned structures in various states of decay. In fact, when I first picked up a copy of Ruin, I saw a photo of one of my favorite buildings. It's an old house set back just a little along route 1 in Searsport, Maine. Every year or so I drive by and every year the place gets closer to collapse. Still, it's got so much character. I just know there's an interesting story behind it.
An old friend of mine has recently been displaying some photographs a buildings located in the town where his folks live. In my mind, the shot below brings up more questions than it answers. Yes, there's plenty of beauty in decay. But again, what's the story here? The old windows are still able to show brilliant reflections of their neighbors, but do not give up much about their past relationships. Maybe that mystery is a good thing?
We have so much going on in our lives that we sometimes forget to look around us at things that appear to have gone by, but still might have something to tell us…even an old rusty mailbox.