Monday, August 22, 2011

Do Places Have Souls?

Do Places Have Souls?

I don’t mean the “they die and go to heaven” definition. I mean: do certain places have an emotional history tied to them that is palpable, that elicits all the experiences of the past that they have borne witness to?

I think the answer is yes.

I have a writer friend who totally loves her home. She tells everyone that since moving in there, she has had a creative rebirth. She feels invigorated and has poured that energy out onto the page. I happen to love my little house, too. I would probably live here forever if the fates allow.

My Cozy Abode is Perfect for Me

When I lived in Hell, the house held an unfortunate history. The previous owners’ daughter had been tragically killed, and after that the house stood empty and alone for a long period of time. Even with all the elbow grease, redecorating and untold work hours that I spent on that poor, sad house, no amount of effort could erase its joyless story. In the end, I shed an infinite number of tears there, as well.

And what about this old gal?

Long Pond Road, Urbana

Part barn, part homestead, look over her shoulder and see the magnificent view she commands. What story would her silent tongue tell?

Pond in the Distance

There are other places, too. Places where no one has ever lived, but where precious lives have been lost. You see the memorials along roadsides – barely passable two-lane path or Super Highway, they are equally marked with these symbols of grief and unexpected loss.

Lonely Memorial
And none can tell the American story in quite the way this abandoned motel can:

Along Route 40, Outside London

What happened in Room Number Two?

Room Number Two
Here a couple shared a kiss – perhaps their first. Another couple argued – was it for the last time in their tumultuous relationship? A businessman – on the road yet again – called home to talk to his son, and walked the child through his Social Studies homework before hanging up, full of longing and despair and all the things that drove him away from home when home was the one true place he most desperately longed to be.

I can tell you what happened in Room Number Two:  Life. Life happened here. It is what is happening all around you right now, this very minute of this very hour even as the seconds drain away. Is the place you are in now recording this moment? How will it register in ten years? Or fifty years?

Be sure to make the most of it.


Duffy Moon said...

Really beautiful photo-essay, Beth. I'm a big place-as-character believer. My wife and I felt it when we walked into our current home for the first time. Sometimes it just 'fits' in a way that you can't describe.

Fish Problems said...

I definitely think so! :) I love this post, especially the photos.

Beth Zellner said...

Hello Duffy! You know, I totally agree with you...some of the best writers of the early 20th century were extremely skilled in this sort of place building to the point that it becomes an integral character in the story. In my so-called "real life," I have had the same experience as you and Nancy. Sometimes a place just feels like home!

Beth Zellner said...

Fish Problems, THANK YOU for taking the time to leave some feedback! I appreciate anyone who shares his/her opinion, ESPECIALLY when it is so nice!