Earlier this month, my husband and I drove around the state of Virginia.
We did a big loop, starting in Washington DC. We drove down the western part of the state through the Shenandoah Valley and along the Blue Ridge mountain range. We stayed in the Lexington area, then we made our way to the western bottom corner near the Tennessee state line to stay in a tiny town called Damascus, where the Appalachian trail runs through. After that, we traveled east to the central southern part, stayed in Danville, then back up through the central part of the state to stay in Charlottesville. Then we finished our loop and flew back home from DC.
The reason for our trip wasn’t just to sightsee, although we stopped at several parks to wander and stayed and ate in towns to explore, our trip was to determine if this was our future home state.
If you follow me on Instagram, you already know, but I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned it here: we are shopping for a homestead. However, we are in the very early stages. There are several different regions we are considering, all very different, and each with its pros and cons. I love my home state of California, but I’m really worried about the perpetual drought, and it’s very, very expensive.
While I loved some aspects and areas of the state (Confederate flag waving in some towns aside), the natural landscape didn’t make me feel at home. The topography is primarily rolling grasslands with lots of creek bottoms lined with deciduous hardwoods. Beautiful in its own way, but for me, home feels like tall evergreens, mountain ridges, and craggy creeks lined with stones. We’ve determined that Virginia isn’t the place for us.
But one thing that really stood out to me as we were traveling around was the number of abandoned houses.
Some were tucked far away, now overgrown by brambles. Some were right on roadsides, with a new house build just feet away. Some were funky mobile homes, some were ancient and stately mansions. This was something that completely surprised me- in California, you’ll often see decrepit old barns, standing out in pastures, but very rarely a home. And these abandoned structures were everywhere we traveled.
When possible, and if signs weren’t posted to keep out, we would pull over and walk around these abandoned places. They were haunting in a mysterious way- if only walls could talk. The questions on what happened spun around in my head, and even after we returned home, they are still in my mind.
So I’ve decided to write a letter to these abandoned houses of Virginia.
A Letter to Abandoned Houses:
I see you, dear abandoned house.
You may think that you have been forgotten. As the people moved away from your halls, shuttered your windows, I’m sure you thought you were alone. But I still see you.
I can only assume what your story is, and was, and will be. But, you, of course, dear house, is the only one to know. If only you could share what you knew. What would you tell me? I can only muse and guess, admiring your facade, wondering what happenings unfolded here. How would you explain your history?
At some point, I can tell you were loved. With your carefully placed spindles on your porch or the hand-hewn logs that make up your walls, you were once a home. The heart of a family.
Were your inhabitants forced to move, chased away by debt and bills?
Did your occupants get old and die, leaving no interested family to return home?
Were the caretakers of your halls and shutters careless, unattached, leaving you exposed to the elements and at to a point of no return simply started anew next door?
Why were you abandoned, dear house? Where did you people go?
Did your residents leave your front door for the last time feeling sorrow or with a heart filled with optimism and glee?
Are those broken windows from weathering storms, or from careless and thoughtless humans?
I see you, dear house.
You are empty, but not forgotten.