They called her Total Anarchy, TA for short, built with no square or level. Took a whole lot of teetering to get this low, but you can still see the shape of the place. Still hear the insect voices of Spider Robinson and company, buzzing with imagination (and other substances). Tales gone old with time, worn and aged like the souls who left them behind. Hippies and homesteaders and self-professed draft dodgers up from the States, turning to the Canadian wilderness in search of a sense of wonder. Surviving the winter with frost-bitten fingers, kids with no plans, just some mystified mystics, too young to know the difference.
* * *
They called her The Five-Sided House, improbable structure with a half-dozen moods and faces, and a rounded door and turret that toppled some years back. The main living area is still intact, inherited as a hangout for generations of teenagers, gone to get high or just get lost in the past. I was first shown here 12 years ago, by a tattoo artist called Robicheau. Most of these markings were made in the years since, memories stacked on top of each other, everyone wants to prove they were here. But the one signature you’ll never find is mine. I’m the ghost who haunts this place, floats through on a daydream, making no mark. Anonymous and unknown, like the nameless folks who once lived here. Their stories are now our stories. Over the decades, the true title of this place got forgotten, called the Hippie House by some, or the Acid House by others. That second name was mine, put down to see who else might pick it up, just a way to make it my own. A lot has changed in the years I’ve come here, but on some dim and dreamless evening, I still remember exactly how it was.
* * *
They call her The Shrine. No one knows who lived here, but rural legend says she was built in memory of a son who died. On the banks of a brook, his parents practiced isolation meditation, praying in a trapezoid, another strange shape in the forest. The energy of this place is pure and sad and lonely, ghosts of love and loss, hidden behind the hessian. I hear the chattering chipmunks, angry that I’ve disturbed their home. But if they bother me, it doesn’t bother them, there’s no such thing as human nature.
* * *
Some stayed a little longer than the rest, holding up the weight of the past on their backs. Cracked glass and plastic masked, letting in the light like church windows. Profane saints, reading palms as they read the Psalms, acting out the Song of Songs. Worn around the edges, dog-eared determination, like a cat on the last of their lives. Ascending with some lofty ambition, to a better world where no one can find you. Back of the basement, or an alcove in the attic, wherever wonder takes hold.
* * *
Then there are the dreams that never made it, all the ones that didn’t win. Rusted roadsigns, on a trail that leads to a lonely place. The first time I came here, I found a black bear bedded down in the driveway, surprised that any human would pass this way. He ran off bounding in the brush, and never returned again. I cut back the alders that hid the face of this house, overgrown and unfinished with no doors or windows. No one ever called her home, left alone when the dream died, and all the hippies found themselves shipwrecked in the 80s. Mourning some revival or revolution that never came, back to the society they tried so hard to leave. I shiver among the makeshift memories, hopes and aspirations, confidence on the cheap. Tin can lids, nailed to keep tar paper in place until siding went up. Scavenged materials, repurposed wood that carries the ghosts of the homes they’ve haunted before. The past hangs on like tetanus in the dirt, surviving for decades, just waiting to wake up from the dream.
Steve Skafte © 2020
Caleb Miles © 2019
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