Once Was, Will Again

Being back in the Gwaii, I get to indulge my love of a very specific type of porn.

No, you misguided children of the internet; this ‘compulsive interest‘ has nothing to do with the objectification of sex, or the construction of lonesome realities, but is instead a fascination with material abandonment.

The history here is rich. There are, of course, the mysteries and clues forever embedded into the land by the Haida people, who have called this place home since the Hecate Strait was a vast plain, upon which they hunted giant elk and bear. Then, there is a history that connects far more recently to my own Ancestors and culture. I’m not necessarily proud of it, but the loggers and colonists who came here yielded from many of the same lands my own family comes from, and it would be a disservice to them and myself not to acknowledge and explore their legacy here as well as the Haida’s.

Also, who doesn’t want to carefully comb over an abandoned lot, taking nothing but deep breaths and pictures (and, I’ll admit, two glass jars in which I’m going to plant micro-gardens – better than having them break, but not break down, on the forest floor). I love imagining the reasoning behind the abandonment – was it urgent, or did it happen slowly?

I’ve noticed this old wooden cabin almost every time I’ve driven by on the way to Tlaal or Massett, and after ensuring that it was actually abandoned, I parked the van on a long-forgotten logging road and began to carefully poke around.

Cabin in the Woods?

The first things I noticed were the vast amounts of machine components, from cars to logging equipment, that were strewn everywhere. There was a lot that I could see, leading me to wonder just how much had already been reclaimed by the lush mosses, brushes and saplings.

Come on, baby, let me take you for a ride - through rain-soaked forests and shimmering tides. A mystery of history, Grand Theft Auto by the land, grabbing at you, visually, from an ancient Cedar stand.
‘Come on, baby, let me take you for a ride – through rain-soaked forests and shimmering tides. A mystery of history, Grand Theft Auto by the land, grabbing at you, visually, from an ancient Cedar stand.’

As I walked further up the old road, specks of out-of-place colour pulled my attention between the trees. There were the remnants of at least five more old cars, I’m guessing from the 50s and 60s, based on the taillights and dashboard remnants.

There was a lot of plastic, too. That was sad to see, but even though it won’t break down anytime in this millenia, the forest still has a unique way of dealing with it. The smooth, artificial surfaces take on whatever seeds them, and not unlike a fallen log the plastic pieces are adapted to suit the forest’s needs. In this way, the trees sweep the dust of human’s long past under a carpet of moss, welcoming the mess into the local ecology. It will always blow my mind, that the forest has this ‘life will cope’ attitude – not to be taken advantage of, mind you. There is no real excuse for leaving these debris behind, but at this point they’ve become part of their environment. To return to those glass jars for a second though – they seemed to be the only thing that the moss wouldn’t grow over. A few of the jars were on their sides, and the forest floor expanded into them, but those leaning or standing on their own were clear and untouched.

Of course, not to be outdone by moss and gloss and metal, the mushrooms offered up all of their own vibrant colours, too.

Further up the road, where the impact of logging was much more visible, were two large pieces of machinery. There was a plaque on the first machine, pictured below in the birch stand: The ________ Machine Co. If anyone knows what these bad boys are all about, please share your knowledge in the comment section! I would love to know more. There were even big metal tracks left along the way, from some kind of forest-thrashing device.

I wanted to continue on further, but at this point it was getting a little late and my camera battery was very nearly kaputz, so I walked back to the cabin to snag a few photos there before it was completely dead. The cabin was scary, I didn’t want to get to close because I recognized it had once had a cellar and an attached outhouse, which meant that its floor and the surrounding area could be very unstable. Coupled with all of the rusted metal and glass, it really wasn’t worth endangering myself for a good picture. That said, I found a solid log and walked its length to the cabin door. Peeking inside, just like the surrounding area, I saw that it had been left on a whim. Mysterious jars of pickled goods, as well as some old-time Canadian favourites, sat half-empty on a kitchen counter. The shreds of wall-paper again made me think that this was a construction last decorated in the 50s-70s. Strange things remained, like a pair of cowboy boots strewn across the floor, and the original curtain leading to what was once the bathroom.

With the camera battery now completely toast, I took my leave (and the jars).

I was almost relieved to return to the van and see it unclaimed by the scenery, tire-marks still fresh in the mud. Thank goodness it hadn’t been a lifetime since I drove Bertha in there, because in some senses it definitely felt that way.


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