Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Woman on the Water

So I no longer actually live near the coast. I live in an area surrounded by water that leads to the ocean, but CountryTime is more of a river city than anything else. Everyone here (but us) has a kayak or sea-doo or boat, has lived near the water's edge for generations and there is even a dialect that arises from this area that reminds me of my adventures to other countries. It's a lot like living in a warmer climate Northern Exposure.

Every day I walk the raptor and sometimes my path takes me down to the river. The river road curves around and I pass the former mayor's house, the Admiral's house, then the crazy artist's house until I get to the pink house. I've seen this house at least 4 times a week since we got the dog and it is always the same for me.

The house is one of the oldest houses around with multiple additions built on over the years. But even with the add-ons, the original structure is still quite obvious. It's a Federal house with the tiny slat siding. The original free standing kitchen has now been connected by a newer room and there is both a main porch and second floor balcony. It's run-down, the paint peeling, the tin roof tinged green with age, but there's something about it.

Whenever I walk past on warm days I sense someone. It's a washerwoman on the second floor balcony looking down at me. I can't truly "see" her, but I know she is not completely white-skinned, but nor is she black. I imagine she has skin the color of a rich, golden leather. She never seems to be smiling, always stern, and I wonder what made her this way and why she stays.

I also have the sensation of hearing sheets flapping in the wind, hung out on a line to dry. I always wondered why there are so many sheets. I can sense rows and rows of them, hanging there, perfectly white but worn. Too many sheets for a family that would have lived in this house. The woman seems to be standing guard, making sure her sheets are left untouched as well as the inhabitants of the house.

Several weeks ago I am stopped as I walk by the woman who lives next to the house. She is an obsessive chatterer and mentioned how she always sees me looking at the house. Isn't it lovely? So sad that the owner is letting it get so run down, especially with the history behind it. She sees my ears perk up. Don't you know? This was a make-shift hospital during the turn of the century...typhoid. It's said so many people got sick that they had to boil water 24 hours a day just to keep up with washing the sheets.

So now when I pass I just give her the slightest nod, sad that she still washes the sheets for those left behind. And I think sometimes I feel her nod back.


ElectricDaisy said...

This makes me so melancholy. One of my favorite things is reading non-fiction epidemiology literature, about diseases and whatnot. My absolute favorite can be found here:

Being a nurse (doctor/priest/citizen) in a time of epidemic would be so very scary and trying.

I have always been fascinated with old insane asylums, hospitals, gender segregated boarding schools, and the like. I can't imagine what it would be like to be sent to or work at such a place, although I often do.

Anonymous said...

Glenn Woods; "Essence: This Child Ghost has a story to tell you" Your words remind me of this story. Its very good.

RV Vagabonds said...

How sad that the washer woman can't pass on after all this time. There's so much history to buildings that for the most part we'd never know. Your gift is fascinating, but I'm sure that sometimes it's not such a gift.

Bubblewench said...