Deteriorating structures are all around us, their ragged exteriors and the filthy ground they rest upon have been cast off by society, seen as nothing more than a distasteful blemish, an intruder among the pristine landscapes in which we reside. But as I gaze upon these remnants, my eyes percieve something different amidst the decay. History runs deep within the tired walls, crying out through the falling brick and splintered wood, their stories waiting to be told to those who will listen. It is this knowledge that beckons to me, calling me off my well paved path, and as I crawl through the shattered frame of a window I find myself entering another world. Being inside is like walking through a history book, only these lessons offer things that can’t be found within their pages. Here I’m given an up close and personal look into the past as I wander the halls, captivated by the things which have been left behind.
There’s a darkness that exists within the corridors of an asylum as the overgrown vegetation works its way inside. But something else lingers in the shadows. Stories of mistreatment and poor medical care cloud my mind as I pass disheveled wheel chairs and filthy medical equipment. As I reach the Confinement Ward, the cell doors stand slightly ajar as if their occupants have all escaped their tiny prisons and the deserted nurses’ stations confirm that help had long since gone. A door at the end of the hall remains closed and the corroded hinges painfully screech to life as I push it inward. The sun follows me inside, casting its beams on a room full of discarded suitcases, their tattered labels giving names to the personal belongings strewn all over the floor. There is still much pain and sadness which has been buried over time, and it’s here that I am faced with a glimpse of those who were consumed by it.
The factories and textile mills where our Grandfathers and Great-Grandfathers worked hard every day now lie in ruin. The massive machinery tower together as collective giants in a dormant state and dusty work stations still covered with tools of the trade wait eternally for the next shift change. Books reveal through words that these men worked hard but just how hard only becomes real when I reach out and feel the cold rusted metal of the tools on my fingertips or try to shake the heavy soot from my clothes. Standing within the filth that doesn’t completely belong to the passage of time, I’m given a clear picture of callused hands and the dirt-covered faces that labored tirelessly during a time when wages did poorly to compensate their efforts.
In a resort that has been closed for over a decade, intrigue draws me behind the decaying Administration Desk. Room keys still wait in their assigned cubbies for the next guests that will never be arriving. Wasting away in their stations, rotary phones and outdated computer systems sit in silence as they are slowly buried beneath the falling plaster. Debris-covered journals offer hand written entries disclosing the menial tasks of the day. As I get lost within the pages I am able to envision the whirlwind of activity that once took place around me and for a moment, ever so briefly, the destruction is lifted and the brilliance returns to the common area as it appears as it once had in another life.
Quickly shunned and forgotten, we turn our eyes from these places to concentrate on the ever growing world around us and it becomes easy to dismiss the history that lies beyond their fractured doors. Some stories are happy, some sad and some are even a bit disturbing but it’s within these very places where I am content to wander. I will always take the chance to venture off the beaten path for as I stand in the shadows of these decaying foundations, I look upon their ominous exteriors eager to learn from the knowledge that they hold. And because lessons don’t always come from ink on paper, I disappear inside reminded that the most important lesson to be learned is that something is lost when you decide to judge a book by its cover.