Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Ghost Town

After the kids left, they downsized.
Originally uploaded by Mobilus In Mobili.

Ghost Town

Grandfather buildings shed grey clapboard skins, wrinkling off shingles one by one to reveal the skeletons of history. Dust dances in the streets and seeps into mouths – the particulated past choking the present. This place, once a city of souls, is little more than memory now, memory faded to myth.

We wander disconsolate where success once strutted the shimmer of immortality. There, million-dollar mines lined these hillsides; here, grand-veranda hotels perched above a boulevard. Boardwalks two-stepped to the bustle of crinoline. Work boots tamped the ground in steady shifts. Now there is only the rustle and bump of the tumbleweed, rolling its forlorn cliché through town.

Some come to visit the old places in reverence, bowing before broken windows, pocketing rusted relics. They are supplicants to the immutable movement of time. What do they hope to gain by gathering bits of the bygone? A sense of permanence, perhaps. They need only look around – decades of decay have proven there is no permanence.

We watch them gather, like clumps of locoweed in the hillside cemetery, where gravestones are cautionary fingers raised in reminder of mortality. We are here too, tied to this place forever. They trace names and dates, sentimental odes and half-eroded angels, hoping to illumine the ultimate end. We laugh, knowing what they do not – that life and death are one.

A sudden Chinook sweeps the valley, echoing our laughter, and the secret hidden within it causes the visitors to collect their souvenirs with tingling spines. They return home from this town of ghosts having touched the past and glimpsed the future. But we remain, haunting the world that is and longing for the world that was.


Patry Francis said...

This left me shivering, Sharon. Beautiful writing.

Sharon Hurlbut said...

Thanks Patry! I love ghost towns and touching the past, connecting with all who've gone before. No wonder I'm an archaeologist, huh?