I love to poke around old abandoned properties. We've climbed in through windows or basement doors, inched across rotting floors, crept quietly around dusty, empty rooms. Abandoned houses all smell like mold, damp earth, and animals. Sometimes a houses' past lives are left behind. Books, photographs, birthday cards, furniture, letters, dishes in the sink- it can feel like stepping back in time. I love the remnants and the buildings themselves- some as old as the 18th century- but also the nature that surrounds them.
One house (Madeleine called it the "shoe house" because we kept finding old shoes around the back yard) was surrounded by stinging nettles and a large Plane tree leaned on the porch. Ivy crept through windows and moss grew below the fallen roof. There's something so beautiful about such dilapidation.
This book describes perfectly what happens to a "ruined house", left on its own and how nature claims it.
Mick Manning 1994
The first page says, "This is my favorite house. I like it because it has gone to rack and ruin." Yes!
It goes on to describe how you get to the house (you climb a fence into what used to be the garden) and the wild plants that have taken over.
And how the house slowly became what it did... First the rain dripped down the chimney. Everything turned damp. Fungus spread over the woodwork and all the rooms began to smell of mould. Insects moved in, and ferns sprouted from cracks in the stone. The weather broke through the windows. The plaster and the floorboards rotted away, and slowly the house began a new life.
This is what I do- wonder about who lived in these houses, collect the leftover bits, piece together stories.
I brought home a raccoon skull found in the basement of this old house. The building is demolished now.
An empty attic
illustrated by Jon Klassen 2012
And then there is this book. So beautiful and lyrical in its story of the life of a house. Once built and lived in and loved. But time and life march on and roofs fall in.