Fragments of a former life

There’s something quite beautiful about old buildings that have fallen into disuse.

I contemplated this as I stood before a shattered house outside the entrance of The Castelo de Sao Jorge in Lisbon. Stripped of its life and warmth, it looked so out of place next to the pastel coloured homes that had aged more delicately.

As I gazed around the square at the foot of the castle – at tourists whose hands and eyes remained glued to their cameras – I noticed how this building was the only one veiled in shadow. It had been banished to a corner where no people gathered, and where no sunlight could share it’s warmth.

I looked up at this place held hostage to the past: at the boards placed adjacently over the windows, where only a crack of light could escape, and at the wrought-iron balconies wearing thick jackets of rust. Weeds had made their way into every crack, sprouting ugly thistles and ash-coloured buds, while plaster fell as dust to the ground below. A palpable sense of loneliness seeped through the walls.

An old sign reading Largo de Santa Cruz Do Costelo bore the name of the home that had been disgraced by its abandoners. The stone steps beneath that used to yield to pattering feet were now stained and empty. I sat there, if only for a moment.

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This house was a symbol of memory, a sad representation of a former life. I thought of the people who had lived there before: how their furniture had been arranged inside and what flowers they has placed on their windowsills. Could they have imagined that their home would one day be in ruins?

I looked at this house, at this soul that had been hollowed out and left for dead, and thought of the chaos it had endured. I thought of my home.

In life, we all want things to stay the same. We remain in comfortable surroundings, afraid of our lives crumbling to ruins.

Shameless in its wreckage, this former abode stood firm. Nature persisted, instilling life in the old bricks where there previously was none. This house was both a relic of the past and a portent of the future. I felt hopeful that a day would come where it was adapted or built entirely anew.

A lady dressed in red would come to her small, rectangular balcony to smoke a cigarette. Flowers blooming at the windowsill would throw spots of colour in the eye of both owner and passer-by, and in the evening, moonlight would line the narrow alleyways for night strollers to chase down the street.

In a moment I was reassured that life isn’t as turbulent as it may seem. Chaos is sometimes just a reminder to begin again. To create something new from the ruins.