Looking Around (and Under) the ‘Hood
That Was the House That Was
Our little 1920 house sits on a corner lot very close to the charming old downtown of a small Indiana city. There was an abandoned bungalow right around the corner when we moved here five years ago, but that was soon torn down. The city bought the lot, and the lot of another house next to it that was already torn down when we moved here, with the intention of turning those lots into an extra parking lot for the YMCA across the street from our front door. The YMCA decided, however, to build a new facility and moved away to the north side of town, so instead of a parking lot there is a nice big swath of green space behind our house. Past the green space there is a small older parking lot for the the city hall by day (and for the community theater across the street by night), and past that (making it the corner of our block on the next street down) there is an abandoned two-story apartment building.
Or, there was. A large piece of machinery suddenly appeared one day, huddled up next to the old building, and every so often someone operated it, using the scoop bucket to rip down the sides and porches, and moving the debris into a huge dumpster. The picture above is from a few days ago. As of yesterday, the building is completely gone, the foundation hole has been filled in with clean sand, and we can see all the way from our street to the corner house on the next street over.
The first day the walls came down, the entire block smelled like a charnel house, reeking of dead animals, rotting wood and paper, years of damp and neglect. Its very existence was not only a downer in ways everyone could see, but it was also quietly cursing the neighborhood with its foulness. It affected us much less than the folks who lived next to it, but it was there, it was visible from our garden and side doors. We passed it all the time because we’re on a one-way street and we need to turn at that corner if we want to go in any other direction.
With every derelict house that comes down, the neighborhood feels a little lighter, a little less bogged down by sadness and tragedy. Every house, whether old or new, in good condition or bad, has its stories of happiness and sadness, of celebration and despair. When sadness and tragedy prevail in any house, decrepitude sets in, and often, finally, abandonment and decay. And there they stand, these old monuments to the worst in life, weighing down our minds and microcosm, holding us back from fresh air, beauty, health, and hope. We have to let them go, and even forcibly remove them–to release the places of sadness back to the universe, to allow something better to come of the space that remains. The process might take time and release some noxious stuff, but when the dust settles, it’s like seeing a brand new world.
The guy who lives across the street from the torn-down apartment house has only lived there for a couple of years, but he goes all out on holidays, bedecking his house with lights. I don’t think it is a coincidence that he doubled the number of lights a couple of nights ago. When we look out that way, or drive by, this is what we see now:
A Monument to the Wisdom of Moving On