Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Abandonment Issues: Bobcaygeon House of Hoarders
This isn't just a story about a man exploring an abandoned house, this is a story about living with the loss of loved ones. This is a story about consumption and compulsion and coping mechanisms.
This is a love story.
Immediately upon cracking open the door, I am overwhelmed. A repulsive stench is thick in the hot air and more powerful than anything my olfactory system has ever encountered. My eyes instantly begin to tear up, and after snapping the following photo, I cough into my elbow, and retreat.
I stand outside under a drooping willow tree, trying not to think about the pungent odor, but rather what I saw inside. A thick carpet of everything imaginable is a lopsided and unstable foundation to giant mountains of everything else. Intrigued, and already reeking of the pukey must, I take a few deep breaths, and re-open the door.
Much like the Rockies form a wall between Calgary and the West, the mountains of stuff, things and crap carve a maze throughout the first floor of this large farmhouse, blocking access to the rooms in the front of the house. The tiny over-stocked kitchen is covered in a thick brown film of bacteria, and I turn away. The dining room table is buried amongst scattered debris, mostly garbage. Newspapers, magazines, bills, flyers and hundreds of empty food containers, in every direction, as far as the eye can see. A string clothesline sags across the dining room from wall to wall above the table, and from it hang more plastic bags containing even more plastic containers and bags. I follow the maze out of the kitchen and into the living room, growing fairly accustomed to, but still repulsed by the intense stench. With every step my feet sink into the unknown depths of the stuff and things that have chipped off and fallen from the adjacent mountains over time. Traversing this valley is not easy, and care must be taken with each step to get a stable foothold.
In the living room, with garbage mountain behind me, the story begins to unfold. As seen in the lead photo, mountains of clothing reach glorious heights and are peppered with random books and other objects like pockets of snowfall accumulation. Antique chests and bureaus are all but hidden under and behind these massive mountains of dated clothing.
A photograph on the wall steals my attention, and i climb partway up the mountain for a better view. Under a big red bow, the photograph depicts a husband and wife, looking right into the camera. My camera. Surrounding the framed image are wedding photographs and dozens of ribbons bearing the occupants names, awarded for agricultural achievements in the local community. The entire wall is covered in spiderwebs, which have trapped nothing but dust.
The couple continue to stare at me, standing in their living room, staring back at them. A plaque to the left of the photograph contains a poem entitled 'Lifes Clock'. The energy in the room in this moment inspires me to read it aloud...
"The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man has the power,
To tell just when the hands will stop,
At late or early hour-
To lose one's wealth is sad indeed,
To lose one's health is more;
To lose one's soul is such a loss,
As no man can restore.
The present only is our own,
Live, love, toil with a will,
Place no faith in tomorrow-for
The clock may then be still."
Again, tears begin to roll down my cheek, partly due to the hot nasty stench in the air, but more so attributed to the dots I am beginning to connect, and the story that is unraveling.
With the five foot tall clothing mountain ridge bisecting the room, the maze leads me to a staircase, and i quickly hop up the stairs, two at a time. Corey Hart and a young Mats Sundin are smiling in the corner. Here, even more ribbons hang on the wall, pierced with rusty thumbtacks. These ribbons are for equestrian accomplishments, and bear the name of the couple's daughter. Obviously, I draw a connection to the Havelock Horse House. A buff topless dude on a poster is the only other obvious sign that this once was a girl's room. There is remarkably less stuff accumulated in this area, that is until I round the corner.
The maze continues to lead me through room after room, all of them packed with everything in the world and topped with layers of clothing. Using my hands, the tight hallways finally provide some stability on the shifting landscape beneath my feet.
The posters on the walls in one of the rooms depict KISS, motorcycles and scantily clad women, this was a boys room. Both of these kids rooms appear to have been left virtually as is, after the children left home in the early to mid nineties. The boys room however, eventually succumbed to the force of the shifting mountains, and was eventually buried under the weight of it all. As were all of the other rooms and hallways in the house. It became obvious that given more of that precious time, that last room, that girls room atop the stairs, would have also been filled up and buried.
Several fully furnished and decorated bedrooms filled with all of the makings of home, and then buried in more of them.
Finally, a skinny staircase leads me back downstairs and into the pitch blackness of the foyer, where my camera flashes and illuminates a deer head mounted on the wall above me, startling me almost to death. A massive wooden shelf is blocking the front door, stuffed with books and board games, under the watchful eye of the deer.
A few shaky steps forward, I open the door and find myself on the other side of the great divide of Mt. Clothing. One of these front rooms appeared to be a study at one point in time, still filled with decorations and trinkets, buried under the pain of losing a loved one.
Lifes Clock is indeed still.
In a corner, i reach down and spin an old globe, kicking a cloud of dust into the atmosphere around the world, and then I retrace my steps up and around and down, slowly traversing the unstable ground of the valley floor.
At the door, I stop one last time to look around, hold a deep breath, and snap these final images of the filthy kitchen.
Back outside, the air never tasted fresher.
With the loss of a spouse, a lifelong partner, best friend and soul mate, we are left with nothing but time. Memories are not enough to hold onto, and eventually we lose those as well. My interpretation of the story told by this home, is that the surviving spouse couldn't let go of anything, knowing all too well that it can never come back. True love is a magical and beautiful thing, to that I can attest, but the loneliness that love leaves behind is my greatest fear.
Unfortunately, this is how love stories end.
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