Friday, September 17, 2010

On the Lonaconing Trail

Every day I drive on a road that was once a Native American path for journeys to the sea and that became, for some time at least, the longest highway in the world.  And, every day, I pass a particular house.  For years I would wonder whose it "is". Now I wonder whose it was, as it sits empty and crumbles into a beautiful decay.

This road is bullied, on both sides, by businesses, gas stations, billboards, cell phone towers, abandoned lots with grassy cracks, apartment complexes and diners.  But the house I see every day squats a few feet down off of the road, on a property of a few acres that muscles away the artificial ugliness around it like a crew-cut Samson grunting between crumbling pillars.  It's a small green house with a glass solarium on the front.  Behind it, there is a matching green barn with an old winch poised over the upper door for lifting the ghosts of hay bales.  It is surrounded by trees and clumps of high, brushy grass that stretch off into the distance as far as I have time to see in a leftward glance at sixty miles-per-hour.  There used to be two cars parked next to the door in the mornings; small ones; modest ones.  Most days I would wonder about those people in that eccentric house in that unlikely location.  Now I wonder where they have gone.  I wonder whose house it was.

It's on an easy-to-forget curve in the road that stagecoaches once clopped around so much more slowly than we daily travelers do.  Sometimes, stepping out of my car, I question whether I've ever really seen the place at all.

Among the brush, streaked with brown rust stains, there stands a giant satellite dish, next to what's left of a brick stove.  The dish has to be ten feet across.  It looks desperate -- pleading for a signal from any source from anywhere. 

In the end, I do know whose house that is, on the long road, standing its ground among businesses, towers, lots and motels; dropping in and out of the minds of those who see it now and again; sitting in its own temporary oasis, quiet in a noisy world, full of forgotten history and facing its misty future.  In the end, I know exactly whose house that is.  It's mine.

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