The Horse's Grave
I knew where I’d been. I knew I could tell no one. I knew it was wrong.
I knew I could not go there again because... it was wrong? This became a subject of mental debate. I talked to myself in lengthy adolescent oration about the ...moral hygienics of ... “what had happened” and... this extraordinary subterranean passage to ...an antiquarian daylight that... defied any comparison ...available in ... any form. WHY was such an environment such an obsessive draw to me? Why was the haunted consciousness of “wrong” that should destroy as terror my desire “to go”... “in there”... in fact... an actual lure to me? Why was my tactility so absolutely ...smoldering... with a moist ground fire of desire to range in this burial ground of dead, dirty and dark happenstance accessed from below ground?
When one is young, one has the quaint advantage of not answering healthy queries and, like all who fail to answer when called, simply to go on acting... without a care. Back I went. Back and back and BACK I went. For years
I had not return but one more time before... I discovered that, by turning the OTHER way at the head of the wood bin hole... I came to the rear door of the house and... this simply opened... to “inside”.
Inside one went through the summer kitchen to the main kitchen onward down a small hall with a... bedroom off to one’s right to enter a parlor on the left that followed into a front parlor OR... if one did not turn left, follow a hall to the front door, with it’s ascending formal front staircase going...“up” and a “front room” to one’s right. All had stopped in time ...decades ago. In fact, even today, I cannot precisely say when any one room, excepting the odd bedroom off the kitchen and this kitchen were, as is said; “last used”. Today I can give one a hindsight timeline that suggests that it would be difficult to prove that the upstairs saw any use after 1900. The barn was layered in such a way as to document that by the mid-nineteenth century it was “full” by normal standards and that “stow-away” was thereafter simply buried with cast upon accumulations. The front rooms; approaching the front door (with this enclosure caged within a rusted, rotting, sagging Victorian “screened in” “porch” butted across it and further blocked by seventy years of neglected growth between it and... the street...) proved that IF these rooms saw use in the 20th Century, it was merely a human mingling amongst vestiges of a 19th Century decor that traveled a timeline BACK to ...the late 18th Century. It was several years before my knowledge of “good” was ...good enough... to notice that the ...maple Chippendale desk (in it’s original finish and retaining it’s original & dainty bat wing hardware) with it’s 19th Century custom glass paned door “secretary top” was ...better then the “obvious” Sheraton tambour desk that... anyone... would know is “good”. Colonial and Federal looking glasses were tucked in corners while Victorian mirrors and framed... paintings ... of local landscapes... hung in evidence but I had to learn that the odd paneled door cabinet of “old pine” painted a darkest blood red was ...one hundred years older... then the pristine “one drawer blanket chest” “in old red” “dated 1828” on it’s ...rear.
“I had to learn”.
This is such an amusingly hind sighted way to phrase what happened to me in this... old home. While many of you who are reading this may be contracting with a gracious horror about such trivial... manners... of moral behavior... I promise you that these old adages of YOUR conscription had no effect on ME. I became an (and sole) intimate of this...home: I was the one who ...lived there.
I simply crawled in... when ever I felt like it. To assure those who will wonder: NO...I did not take anything ever. I never really even thought of doing that... for two reasons. First: That would be stealing. The rule was that... abandoned truck (household debris), such as one found in the open or cast away under barns and ... of ... BACK THEN... comparatively little or any value... was fair game. Something “inside” a “home” was, obviously, not up for grabs.
The second reason was more a sensation to me. It was, first, an overwhelming sense of abundance; there was a, to me, inconceivable amount of “old” “things” inside this home: TOO MUCH stuff. Secondly, it was, to my eye, “arranged”; that is, it seemed in its own way to be accounted for. I mean that if, as up in the barn, one finds at least fifty years of mid 19th century newspaper all neatly bundled and stacked by someone one hundred years dead, does not this mean that this evidence of work was... and remained... an active effort by this person that should be... acknowledged and respected. I mean... if someone has the hair brained notion to save corn cobs in boxes... does not this mean that this was their intention? Therefore it’s THEIR property, properly stored?
Well it did to me and this established a line in the cobwebs of ...responsible action on my part that is pretty well defined as... look... touch... handle... but replace as one found it and never disturb it’s original eloquence of placement. “Huh.” was uttered by me... to myself... time and time again as I wandered, over and over, “around” the home, peering, poking, pulling open, privately peeking at and ...personally pondering... “everything”. IF I spent an hour with each old peanut tin, fruit jar, pottery “redware” milk pan and “old red” trencher in the basement cupboard, the NEXT time I would spend this same length of time captivated by the “It has H & L hinges” cupboard that held these former intrigues and would open, close, look up, look down, touch, move, stand back and view... “it” alone.
A pile of scrapbooks filled with carefully glued collage of 19th Century school girl pastings would end at it’s bottom with a portfolio of late 18th Century engravings and early 19th Century “prints”. I studied each print. Learned each margin. Discovered American Colonial engraving... by myself, all alone in an... abandoned house. A bookcase would have a bound set or two then pester off to single volumes only to be held in place by a 19th Century Stevens Plains (Westbrook, Maine) tole decorated tin document box... filled with manuscript iota and it’s precious little lock and key tied by a faded green string preserved in the bottom... right... rear... corner.
It is too much to describe without ...boring... even the most logger-headed antiquarian... but I, as the ...curator of the ...collection ...was entertained by complete immersion... for years. This was because of my highly sensitive focus upon each “thing” and the deep mental requiem of “discovery” of each of these antiquarian arts furthered by the nuances of the fabrication of these arts. Superimposed upon this study of object was the three dimensional (six sensual) setting that mystified it all. Would that others I now must negotiate with had crawled through a black hole to “be exposed” to their first “set of polychrome Delft dinner plates”.
This is the very validity of this Horse’s Grave: I fell in. I fell in and squirmed in it’s muck for years. Alone, with no guide, with no commentary, with no one... ever knowing I... squirmed through the black hole in the foundation and ... attended a... symposium of antiquarian... well... I suppose today they would call it a “virtual reality” or... “living museum” or a combination of both blanketed by the term “STUDY CENTER” or such. It is hard to place an actual reality such as this for it was, I know now, a unique educational experience with antiquarian directives that I “had” and, as far as I can tell... no one else has... ever even... come close.
The formula of study... was, obviously, three dimensional but encapsulated within an entire environment that was furthered by subdivisions into totally original and historically proper (!) environments (“the barn”, “the summer kitchen”, “the buttery”, etc.) undisturbed and... unregulated (no “do not touch” here). This was a sort of “surround sound” study center of object in place and space. The way it generally worked was ... something more off then not caught my eye OUTSIDE of the home in another setting. For example, redware milk pans; those large pottery, lead glazed on the inside in a light brown or mottled moss green while showing off their bare earthenware on the exterior with, generally always, the slightly smudged glaze fingerprints of the potter tapped into the edge of the outside of this... “dish”... would be “noticed” by me for the “first time” in an... antique shop as a single specimen with a fifty dollar price tag on it and....: I would recall “how” there were “a lot” of “those” “on the shelf” in the buttery and... “the next time” I would... spend a whole (and wholesome) HOUR handling each one and “putting it back” and, well, a whole lot of mental “Huh.” too.
Did I learn anything? I learned... more then most ...antique affectionates ... are ever going to learn... did I not? While one may ponder the “it” of this precocious experience, I have only the memories; very precise memories, of... “stuff” “in there”. I remember what it “was” and where it “was”... to this day. Like the chinks of the daylight in that foundation, I have regular glints of light on similar objects STILL... that I ...studied ...long ago... in an “abandon house”. “Like the one on the shelf” or “I have seen one of those once” travel on down the trail of antiquarian virtues to remind myself that when I ... first discovered “ironstone commode pots” (“piss pots”)... their white souls were neatly tucked under the beds in bedrooms where... no one had been since they... last peed in them. Objects placed in space and... covered with cobwebs in a... haunting DAY LIGHTED silence; hot in summer, cool in the fall, moist in the spring. Dim in the morning, dusty at noon and the Devil’s haunting hand ...in the dark.