The Deserted Cottage

Country Lane 4As much as I love words…I’m really a visual person.

Pictures invoke story. Years back, I was driving out in the country and came across an old and ruined cottage sitting in the middle of this perfect meadow. It was idyllic and sad in the same breath. The scene never left me.

“Who had lived there?” I thought. “What happened to them? Who owns it now? Why has it been left to this lonely decay?”

The world has no shortage of celebrities, but the person that built and once lived in that cottage…that is the life that fascinates me. For some reason, the lives of modest, dignified, work-a-day people who grew up as I did, living close to the soil, capture my imagination.

In “The Splendor of Ordinary Days,” there are two such cottages…small humble places in the countryside of Watervalley that play heavily into the plot of the story.

Below is a short passage when Luke comes across one of them.

“Following the penciled map Jacob Yoder had drawn for me, I drove deep into the hills until I came upon a chert lane called Mercy Creek Road. Dense trees lined both sides of the narrow passage, leaving it completely shaded with a thick canopy of leaves. After about half a mile, the woods on the left ended abruptly, opening up to a broad meadow, a scene so captivating that I brought the car to a stop.

In the foreground of this splendid canvas were several massive trees that marked the humble corners of a remnant foundation anchored by a stout fireplace and tall chimney, the remaining bones of a long-ago cottage, its stones now starched white from years of rain and sun.”

Luke travels on to his appointment. But later, on the return trip, he stops back by.

 

“Slowly I edged the car down the gravel drive that was nothing more than two stony paths separated by thick weeds. I parked under a large maple and cut the engine. Except for a lonely breeze that gently fluttered the leaves of the great tree, I was surrounded by a swallowing silence, a uniform tranquility, This small lap of land, this perfect meadow, was strangely and woefully beautiful. The moment held me still.

 As much as a century ago someone had placed these rocks one upon the other to build a hearth for meals and warmth. Now the abandonment and desolation of this perfect place seemed such a waste. I couldn’t help but think that some wretched story was buried in its past, that these remnant stones were a boneyard of tragic memories. Once, this small cottage lay at the center of someone’s life, the life of some obscure soul whose light was spent molding this small valley into his own Eden.

And it seemed in that moment, standing just outside the old foundation, I was touched by something strange and fleeting, a warm and uplifting revelation.”

I guess at day’s end I’m a romantic. I find great delight in delving into the quiet, unknown lives of ordinary people who have done extraordinary things.

I hope you will find great delight in “Splendor,” as well.

Until next time.

-Jeff

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