Friday, November 11, 2016

Crumbling, Circumlocutory Crisfield

Richard headed back to DC Saturday night leaving us 3 girls to continue on Sunday. In the morning we made our way towards Crisfield, stopping to explore and take photos on the way down.
There are so many old abandoned houses in this region that it's impossible to stop at every one, and some were too dangerous to even approach, let alone go inside. Roofs sagged in the middle while some houses skewed to one side, slowly being toppled over by the gales coming in from the sea. It was a miracle how some still tottered on broken boards and crumbling foundations, winds whistling through the broken panes and split boards. It seemed they were only held up by the creepers that climbed and clambered over them, stitching the broken houses together with their tendrils and roots.
We drove through Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, where there seemed to be more water than land. Patches of marsh grass tufted up through the blue water, the horizon seemed to stretch off in to a never ending flat distance, broken up only by small groups of tall pine trees or just upright bleached poles, the remnants of pine trees that had succumbed to either the salty soil or had their needles stripped by heavy grabbing winds. It was a blustery day today and we passed a couple of cyclists, their faces screwed up against the breezes that were no doubt causing eyes to water. We were glad to be in our car.
Once we left the refuge, farmland appeared, fields of soybeans or newly plowed earth with fresh green shoots poking upwards. We drove along many of the roads with small creeks running beside us, which were alive with tiny fish. I loved the tall pampas grasses, also bordering most roads, that glimmered in the sunlight like torches. These were often in huge patches and if you looked closely you could spot old trailers or boats among the 6ft rustling stems.
As we approached Crisfield, more houses appeared, but most were empty. Bare wooden walls, stripped of paint many years before, were now bleached by the sun and winds. Many had old trailers, cars or boats left next to them, or tractors or bicycles. This place was like one huge scrapyard.
One old house with a wooden front porch and once white curtains fluttering in the breeze was a draw to us, and we were amazed to see what had been left inside. It appeared someone had started packing, then decided to just take a few important pieces, leaving everything else behind. The floors were covered with belongings, strewn with old clothing, magazines, pulled down curtains, toys, ornaments, and beautifully carved vintage furniture stood dark in the shadows, avoiding the bright sun as it pushed its way through torn and dusty drapes.
Such a shame that all this has been left behind, to be flattened and lost forever when the house finally gives up trying to remain upright, or when the encroaching marsh rots the foundations causing a slow creaking collapse.
We came across this sad scene, a house fire that had occurred only a week earlier in which 3 people had perished. Crime tape was stretched across the yard and the family's chickens still clucked in their pens, waiting to be rescued. But there were neighbors very close so we hoped the hens, as well as the cats we saw peeking at us from under the debris, were being cared for.
There were very few people walking about Crisfield, once the crab capital of the world, a city built on oyster shells, it's history is here.
It almost seemed deserted. We drove up and down streets, noting most businesses were closed, and not just for Sunday. A few kids played outside the projects but that appeared to be the only activity. There weren't even many cars in the parking lots outside the housing, the whole place was like a ghost town. We were astounded at how many of the few residents left had already put up, or were working on putting up, their Christmas decorations. We passed a few yards with lights and ornaments and more than a couple of trees glittered through windows. Amazing. We were particularly saddened to see the brewery, Brew Thru, had also closed down. This place had nothing. We didn't even bother getting out of the car. The winds were pretty strong here and only a couple of hardy fisherman stood resolutely on the boardwalk, holding grimly onto their fishing rods.
We decided to start driving towards home. The afternoon was passing by and the light waning. but as we headed towards the main road, Margie spotted an old church, so we stopped.
It was in poor condition but glowed inside with the golden sunset illuminating the remaining stained glass. The entrance and back of the church had very poor flooring, it was unnerving walking through but we tottered inside and took shots in the last light, as the neighbor's cockerels hooted loudly and continuously from their enclosure.
The last building we stopped at was the Marion Baptist church in Marion Station, built in 1925, but it looked a lot more interesting outside than in. It was wide open for exploring but a quick pass through failed to uncover anything interesting or even warrant my lens cap removal. We called it a night, stocked up with coffee, and drove home as dusk turned to darkness, and I wondered if I'd ever see these places again before they disappeared under the sea forever.

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