I have a thing for open spaces and abandoned places. For instance, I love empty, abandoned parking lots. I think about the people and their cars that were there before. I don’t usually have time, but I want to walk there, to walk laps around the haunted emptiness. I have done the same in hospitals where I have worked, but where portions of the place were no longer used. Rooms that had been filled with light and medical drama, now dark and empty, as if awaiting utility, hoping to be of service again.
I also love roads that lead to nowhere. Or to next to nowhere. Subdivisions that died in infancy. Offshoots of roads, driveways without houses. I dream of finding an old wagon-road in the forest, left for two hundred years and mostly over-grown.
And so it was that when Jan and I saw this little bit of concrete, she and I were both delighted. It was an empty bit of a road, as much driveway as highway, next to some houses and a fast-food restaurant. Grass was trying to reclaim it and limbs lay over it
I turned to her. ‘What could we have done with that when we were kids?’ ‘Everything,’ she replied perfectly. Emptiness meant potential. In our youth it would have been coupled with timelessness, in which we were not connected to anything electronic and when the only timer that mattered, on vacation or school break (or most evenings) was the disappearance of the sun, and the creeping cold or growing haze.
‘What would you have done?’ I asked. We agreed:
Footraces, bike races, jump-rope, toy cars, Tonka trucks, fireworks, cowboys and indians, cops and robbers, chalk drawings, basketball, soccer, skate-boards, roller-skates, dolls (action figures, I mean)…the list was long.
Such is the gift of an empty space, coupled with timelessness. And thus I continue to seek them out, in a world dominated by buildings and functions, by computers and schedules, by sports and classes and endless purposeless purpose.
Give me an open, empty, abandoned space anytime.