I love a good ruin. While I understand the urgency of need for shelter among the homeless of the world and I generally don’t condone waste, the beauty of a derelict and decaying building speaks to me of history, mystery and longing. The reclamation of the ruin by nature, so astoundingly quick in geological terms, appears in the lifetime of a human to be perversely slow, creeping up and catching observers unawares. Deferred maintenance–a term that has taken on a modern oxymoronic twist I despise, given that such deferral is really deference to eventual wrack and ruin of a very irresponsible sort–becomes dire in what seems to have been the length of the watchman’s single circuit, and when we come back to the front door of the property we thought we’d only just circumambulated, it’s already hanging by one rusty hinge.
The character in and inherent fairytales posed by ancient ruins are naturally enhanced and perhaps exaggerated by their superior age, so a once-fine castle or cathedral, stone cottage or pillared temple has an advantage in terms of potential drama. But I am equally fond of a tumble-down shed or an industrial derelict, for nothing in its skeletal state lacks the piquant possibility of backstory as the mind attempts to re-flesh it with purpose and activity. Given half a chance, I might attempt to revive the corpse in the way that I went with cousins and undertook the rehabilitation of an abandoned cabin near our grandpa’s when we were young, because the romance of emptiness is that it’s always seemingly waiting for something special to happen. On the other hand, spending time in a ruin only to contemplate what did or might happen there can be just as alluring.
In this regard, I suppose I think of ruins as endlessly optimistic, though it may seem quite contradictory: the sense of their potential, whether for new life or for telling their stories of what has gone before, tends to outweigh the sense of sorrow that is in their current state of dishevelment and disrepute.
I wonder, then, how I so often forget to see imperfect looking people in the same way.