Haunted Farmhouse Elegy
Development northwest of the city is rampant at the moment, and returning from the country I noticed an abandoned farmhouse. It used to be one of those classic, tree-lined driveway type places – you know the type I mean – so emblematic and a signature of rural Southern Ontario.
The fact that these century-old maple trees had been numbered with orange spray-paint and callously uprooted and tossed aside like so many left over Christmas toy is what initially caught my eye. The wanton disregard by developers to raze an otherwise precious arbor commodity was offensive and an assault to the senses.
So I decided to venture up the muddy track that once was a bucolic, sheltered drive to investigate further. I parked the car discreetly behind an out-shed only to discover that, in the fading daylight, the doors of the farmhouse were securely barred and windows boarded up despite there being signs of recent occupants having resided here. Exploring around the perimeter of the old place, I discovered that – to my surprise – the front door yielded and was unsecured.
I stepped across the threshold into another world.
Household items of all descriptions lay about the place, strewn plates and a smashed yellow teapot littered the kitchen floor, keeping the books and CDs that I found in the dining room and living area a moribund kind of camaraderie, as if the most recent family to have lived there had just up and left with less than a week’s notice.
Upstairs was no different: kids’ toys including a marble collection in a plastic container, overturned bed frames and a mattress leaned precariously against a bedroom wall, a baby’s crib…even this mysterious pair of gumboots standing neatly together beside the bathtub in the second floor bathroom.
The place gave me a chill, but I recorded some flute playing nonetheless – an impromptu freestyle solo on my vintage wooden flute – I discovered sounds on my flute that I had never heard before, or even thought imaginable, a violent rhapsodic elegy for a family home with so much history in evidence, yet slated for demolition and relegated to the proverbial suburban junk heap. All in the name of ‘progress’ – sure, the place clearly had fallen on hard times, and wasn’t in the least well maintained, but it all just struck me as unjust and totally regrettable.
Of course my camera batteries were dead, so therefore no pics upon that first visit. And then, as if that wasn’t enough and just to top things off, half-way home I suddenly realized – with a certain sense of urgency – that I had managed to have left my Edirol recorder on the kitchen table, sitting in plain view amidst all the dicarded debris in the unheated place.
A return visit to get some snaps was not only desirable, it was now imperative…kind of like a bucolic Canadian version of that war flic, Black Hawk Down!
So I returned early the next morning with my friend Rob – intrepid Urban Explorer that he is – and we braved the early morning chill cold to wander in and snoop around the place. More than ever it gave me the creeps and left me feeling physically ill. It seriously took me all day to warm up and actually feel somewhat better, sensitive musician-type that I am!
And I haven’t even begun to describe the narrow staircase that led up to the gloom of the shadowy attic space. One can only imagine what might be lurking up there…