Sunday, July 7, 2024

When You Set Off on an Adventure...

…you know not what you will find. Places abandoned, but once lively like in this photo taken through the window of Iona Cafe in Butte, Montana. How long has it been since a waitress (it was always a waitress) poured a cup of coffee from a glass carafe and drew those drapes against the late afternoon western sun?
What tragedy closed its door? 

Recently, I returned from an adventure, circling from Washington state out to South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and back across Canada. I had partitioned the trip into four episodes—the Going, the Purpose, the Returning, and the Welcoming back. The Purpose was to do some genealogy work, see old friends, and meet Swedish-descendant family members. Usually for longer trips, I forget the Welcoming home part, but it seems as essential as the journey itself, like the capstone on an arch. After all, if I have forgotten to insert the Welcoming back episode, I may forget to anticipate the adventure to be found on my home’s own stoop. Forget that leaving it didn’t mean I was tired of it or loath of it. The Welcoming back is an adventure in itself—the adventure of rifling through the trip’s experiences, images, and its tests while coming to a better understanding of what I didn’t know about myself before I set off. Back to Iona Cafe.
Butte, Montana was in the Going part of the journey. I stood across the street from Iona’s— derelict (even with an historic designation)—and considered what work the dear old cafe would need to be expertly renovated, coffee warming on the holding burners again. When I bought my cabin, it was in quite a derelict state—not as bad as Iona Cafe, but I was undaunted by the work it needed. I like that sort of thing. Throughout my journey as I walked city streets or drove through little towns sidestepped by highways both in the Going and the Returning, I saw lots of buildings, some of which like Iona’s set me again to speculating on how they might be rejuvenated, reimagined, or brought back to a condition conducive to the lively sound of footsteps.
Sometimes one element of a structure like this tile outside a building on the town square in Fairfield, Iowa would set me to thinking. My foot is reflected in a plate glass window, an unfortunate remodel to the front of an early 1900s building—currently empty. The wall with the plate glass window had been set on top of the older entrance tile, interrupting its inviting path. I could see the tile continuing inside on the other side of the plate glass window. 

 Even old commercial buildings with their advertising (fading but intact) appealed to my sense of possibilities. Ever optimistic, I considered options for their reinvention.
Butte, Montana
Bow Island, Alberta, Canada
Hot Springs, South Dakota
As I walked away from the Iona Cafe, I contemplated my limitations. I would never, never have the capacity to renovate her. By the third or fourth building I eyed with a contractor’s eye, I felt the sweep of impossibilities, followed by a small disappointment with my own financial or physical capacities, and then a chuckle. I am an optimist; an adventurer for whom some of the adventure is spotting old structures and speculating on their reconstruction into something useful. I saw buildings that needed work most days of my travels. Being a derelict-building spotter is as entertaining to me as birding or fishing or bar-hopping might be to others. This I know about myself. And for the first time, I considered that others, possibly many others, don’t engage in this form of entertainment. Their adventures—Going and Returning— will be different than mine.
The one project I know I could manage was this house in Fairfield, Iowa. As charmed as I was by the house’s dismantled expression, I could see the bricked-in doorway being cleared and a porch remounted. Then it would be a house which would be worthy of a Welcoming home after a long adventure.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave comments. They are most welcome.