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STALKING THE CENTURY-OLD WILDS OF THE CRACKING PLASTER CAVES
The old home is missing its people this evening. As I open the creaking door to enter, I become its sole inhabitant, since my wife is away at a meeting.
The ancient Persian rug in the foyer deadens the sound of my shoes, but the high plaster ceiling still echoes their presence. My breathing comes back at me, as does the sound of a wobbling plastic toy on a bookcase shelf, reacting to the ever-shifting foundation of this house atop limestone caves near Red Mountain. The foyer is airy, darker than the adjacent living room, where outside light beams in from three directions.
I hear the perpetual bark of a dog some two houses away, the beep-beep-beep of an alarm system waiting to be silenced, the click-clickety-click of several solar-powered figurines lining the window sills. An air conditioner creates its own ambience. Entering the kitchen, I ritualistically PLOP my bags onto counter chairs, flick and re-flick the overhead light till resident fluorescence decides to awaken, go to the sink and rinse my hands, the sound of a misty rain forest spray taking me back to another time, another clime. I pull the grumbling refrigerator door open, am embraced by the cranking ice maker and the mumbling motor, look long and hard into the incandescently lighted interior in hopes of finding something remarkable to eat. I settle on a sealed Diet Coke can which clanks against its buddies in the cardboard case in fond farewell to the closed quarters from which it is being liberated.
The metallic CLICK frees a certain amount of carbonated mist and the friendly fizz sound amplifies as I hold the container to my ear in remembrance of long-ago sea shells on sparkling white childhood beaches. I hold the drink high for a moment in a toast to the disregarding world and take my first noisy and quite satisfying sip.
The rest of the evening is spent traversing the caves of cracked plaster, each cave opening into another cave. The stairwell noisily welcomes my ascent, the first-landing double window splays images of the next-door house, the grassy alley below, the green and brown tree limbs, the ever-present phone lines and cable lines and electricity lines serving to feed the ancient hovels on this Birmingham street. Liz’s paintings adorn the walls and I find myself smiling at nothing in particular.
The upstairs hallway has a different humidity, a different temperature, a separate feeling. It is the gateway to a small bedroom that has served through the decades as kids’ room, art studio, ironing room, meditation room, guest room, catch-all room. The largest room, complete with unique colors and textures and soundings and fragrances has served as master bedroom, kids’ room, bookroom, closet room, video and audio room. The original servants’ room has shifted purpose over the years, once a small child’s rainbow-bedecked bedroom, now a combined clothes closet and makeup-application and hair-do room.
Each cave is a special solitude, each worthy of notice, each deserving observation and contemplation in its own unique way.
In the deadened hours of the night, walking from cave to cave, I am overwhelmed by the variety of stories these special spaces have absorbed over the past century or so. As I tread each floorboard, special occurrences shout their memories at me, each inch weaves a tale I am likely to miss if I don’t stop to reflect.
There is so much to learn and remember in this cave of caves, so much exploring to do, so many artifacts to examine and appreciate.
It is an exploration that will never really end
© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.