Photo by Niki Feijen for his new book, 'Frozen
After my parents passed away, nature started to encroach upon their home allowing no mourning period. Without my dad there to pick up the pine cones, blow the leaves off the patio, and pull the weeds from the flower beds, the manicured yard gained an unruly look in no time at all. Returning to the house after just a couple of months i found grass growing in the mulch beds, a driveway hidden by pine straw fallen from towering trees, flowers blooming riotously in pots without human assistance, and broken acorns left by squirrels littering the patio. I was amazed by the rapidity with which nature attempts to return and cover the existence of humans.
Since that time, I've been particularly interested in photos of abandoned places like those by Niki Feijen for his new book, "Frozen". There's an unmatchable beauty and significance in the photos. In the book, The World Without Us, author, Alan Weisman, writes about some of the abandoned places on earth. He describes vacant hotels in disputed war zones filled with trees and animal nests. He reminds us of the impermanence of human achievements and the triumph of nature.
If you spend time in an abandoned place, you cannot help but imagine the people that were there and the lives they lead. You imagine you are walking in their footsteps. You feel the ghostly presence of their love, their accomplishments, and their beautifully complicated human lives while all that physically remains may be part of a broken wall, a few cobblestones where a street once was, or the shards of a broken pot.
My sister now owns my parent's house and uses it as a vacation home. After 5 years, very little of my parents' original belongings remain. The yard has been landscaped, the house has been painted inside and out, and the bathrooms and kitchen have been updated. It is hardly recognizable as the home where my parents lived happily for 30 years. Still, I cannot spend time in that home without feeling the loss of their presence. The things we have - the things we build with out hands will largely be forgotten, it is mostly our actions and words which will live on each others memory.