Sunday, September 25, 2011

Of Grandeur and Neglect

The Carpenter House, 2011
The stately old home is tired; fragile after years of neglect and abuse.   Once, one of the most beautiful structures in the state, she droops and sags more with each passing month. 

Originally a show-place, the home whispers of a glorious past.  Within her spacious rooms the ghosts of long-ago parties move across polished parquet floors.  Genteel men in dark suits escort women wearing flowing long dresses who's hems gently dust the ground.  Above the grand staircase, light filters through an enormous, exquisite stained glass window which features a delicate woman enjoying an exotic garden setting somewhere far from this small Kansas town.

Stately porches grace two sides of the home, wrapping around in gentle sweeps, offering shelter as one waits to capture an elusive breeze on a hot Kansas evening.  From the second floor, balconies reach out toward views of the lawns below.

A century ago, the home's gardens were known throughout the country for they featured species rarely found in the States.  The owner spared no expense - importing his precious  peonies and irises from Holland and Japan, paying as much as $150 per bulb, (plus shipping and import taxes) - a shocking sum even 100 years later.

Today, the expansive lawns sport a few willful plants which summon the strength to push through the weeds, refusing to surrender to the neglect which encourages their demise.  

The Carpenter House, Early 1900's
I pass the house often, recalling it in a happier time.  Built  a century ago by members of my family, The Carpenter House slowly falls victim to her very spender, for her stateliness, her grandeur, have been, in part, her undoing.  She's dying, not from being unloved, but from being held too closely by the wrong people.

Sold in the middle part of the 1930's to a local physician, it was inherited by his daughter who hadn't the will to sell, nor the funds to maintain her from where she lived 150 miles away. Unoccupied, the home began her steady decline.  Paint peeled from her walls, the porches began to sag.  Beautiful balusters fell off one by one and weeds took over where priceless gardens once stood.

Through neglect, she became known as "the big haunted house".  Kids looking to scare themselves, or show they were brave, broke in to take their own private tours under cover of night.

Today, the home only hints of her early magnificence. An old utility truck is parked at her side, as though to catch pieces as they fall from her.  A tractor sits along the other side.  Again, she rests in the hands of one who, through lack of interest, funds or energy, has failed to reconstruct her to her former beautify.  And yet, he can't quite seem to part with her and entrust her to one with the dedication to restore her to her original splendor.

Human nature is a funny thing.  The Carpenter House - its beauty, its demise - hurts my soul.  I pray for her saving, but fear that, within a few years, she will be beyond all help.  Seeing her is painful, but I keep driving by - perhaps in hopes of finding her back in her original state, with men in dark suits and women in long dresses, strolling the grounds, stopping occasionally to partake of the delicious fragrance of a graceful purple iris.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Once Again

As the country observes the anniversary of the horrors that took place 10 years ago, I considered joining the many who listened to the radio or watched the tv coverage of memorial events. A quick 10 minutes of listening to Presidents, past and present, expound on those who murdered, those who died and those who continue to sacrifice to make sure this will never happen again - and I was finished. It was time to reflect in my own manner.

I vividly recall where I was the day the Twin Towers came down. It was early morning and I happened to get up and turn on the tv to watch the day's news. What I saw was the coverage of the events back east. The towers were still standing but it was obvious that what was taking place was an attack on this country. "Where will they strike next?" the country wondered, as reports continued to leak about planes striking the Pentagon, a field in Pennsylvania and rumors of more were bantered around.

Personally, this would be the day I knew that my 9 year marriage was over. I had been struggling to keep a relationship alive with a man who was fundamentally unhappy. As I sat with him and watched people jumping from windows and the towers eventually falling before our eyes, I realized that there was more broken than our marriage as he was totally unaffected to the day's horrors. If he could not hold compassion for the thousands of suffering people that day, then it was okay for me to stop trying to make this work. Major life events seem to do that to people. They re-evaluate. They work to draw family and friends to them or move to clean up what doesn't work in their lives.

So, today, rather than listen to Presidents tell me what I should think and feel about that September day so many years ago, I chose to look at old footage of the events. To watch interviews of people who's lives changed that day. To morn for the individuals lost, for their families and for the shift that took place in our country.

I contemplate the really amazing things that came out of 9/11. The individuals who came forward to offer shelter, food, clothing, friendship, and compassion to total strangers. I recall how the majority of the world reached out to America - how they joined with us in our pain. For those who saw the terrorists as heros, I ask "why?" and wonder what we as a nation may have done or are doing to produce such hate.

I contemplate the rights we Americans have lost in the past 10 years as our leaders scream messages of fear, and I morn for the wars we are now engaged in. For the innocent people and our youth who are dying for……. what?

There is no excuse for the events of 9/11 but as I watch the replaying of the towers falling, I realize that more than steel and the lives of 3,000 people were lost that day. With the crumbling of the towers and the crashing of the planes, the entire structure of America fell - or, perhaps was exposed - and we suffer our responses.