Abandoned Pieces of a Life

* I wonder if I should apologize for once again bringing up the rather weighty topic of death – late autumn and early winter seems to be a pensive time, and the dark nights and misty mornings are ideal for darkly wandering thoughts. Also, this season, until the solstice, is traditionally known as veļu laiks – “the time of spirits”, where the souls of dead ancestors are, for a while, released back into the world, to tread through the fog on familiar paths, and be welcomed into the household. In olden times, extra place settings would be set out, and foods left by the door to feed the hungry ghosts. This is not to say that there are no celebrations – there is at least one more harvest festival coming up soon, and the dark season is also rife with mummers and random visits in costume to one’s nearest neighbours. But one must also be wary out on the roads, especially after nightfall, so be kind to your ancestors and remember them well (the ones who deserve it, at least). In any case, the point of this ramble is that I feel affected and the lack of sunlight is very conducive to not only depressing thoughts, but also existential themes. Not everyone has to follow me, though. I promise I won’t haunt you about it.

I once read somewhere, I forget where, that we die incomplete – always, always there is something that remains undone, at the end of the day. Nothing shows this more than the things we leave behind. Anyone who has ever sorted through someone else’s things knows that feeling of loss, sadness, rediscovery, wonder, boredom and inevitability – after all, one day, death will happen to all of us.

Recently, a certain historical property has come into the possession of a member of the family – it is what is locally known as a ‘castle’ but is in fact a large manor complex from the 17th century, consisting of the residential building (I won’t say house – it’s a mansion), the kalte (grain drying shed), stalls, a large creepy cellar (in addition to the large creepy basements!), and various other outbuildings. Much of it is in a state of tumbled disrepair, though the main residential building is in decent enough shape. Decent, at least, in that several people were living in it until last year. One of them was a former actor of popular standing in Soviet times, and it seems he lived well at the peak of his career – but the end of his life was spent on the borderline of poverty, out of the public eye, in the middle of nowhere at all.

Walking through his former residence was an interesting experience – the collection of things was quite impressive, some of it of historical interest, most of it not – just the random common detritus of everyday survival, no drama, no swelling orchestral chords, just a lot of dust, dead flies, and illegible notes.

These photos are all from the inside – where things were moodiest. Hopefully I will pull together a post about the buildings and surroundings themselves, the colours are brighter and the scenery is rather lovely. Today, though, we spend the trip inside – in no particular order.

Doorways and exits.
©rq, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The work of time and weather – the part I was standing on was in much better condition because the roof had remained in decent condition. This half of the loft, though, probably won’t be worth repairing.
©rq, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Library dreams of abandoned books.
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The leftover pieces of a profession.
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Cellar dreams.
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There’s a certain expectancy to empty chairs.
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A portrait of the artist as a young man.
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The original Tame Impala version has a neat video.


  1. Raucous Indignation says

    Do not apologize. It’s okay to talk about death and loss. I haven’t been around much because I’m still grieving.

  2. kestrel says

    These are very haunting photos and just beautiful, as well. They really capture the mood.

    For the US, our house is considered old (built about mid 1800) but it’s got nothing on this house, and since we are constantly fixing ours, I can’t help but look at these and think just how hard it would be to fix up that house. If you could, though… it would be a very impressive house once again.

  3. jazzlet says

    Abandonded books and … bus seats? I wonder how long the trade of second hand book seller will be viable? When my father died we all six of us took what we wanted of his books, but there were so many more, including two methodist ministers’ (my grandfathers) libraries of commentaries on individual books of the bible, collected sermons for cribbing from, etc of no interest to any of us, but the second hand book sellers took them joyfully secure in the knowledge they would sell to trainee ministers from the local faith colleges.

  4. says

    What a truly haunted building, with the ghosts of old still lingering.

    As I said on TNET, we just had our first annual family gathering to remember my grandma. When she died, her life was quickly packed up. She had lived in a nursing home, so most of her belongings were already gone (I have her good china) and since she died at the end of the month, everything needed to be moved out quickly. Later we looked through some things, old pictures, wondering who those people were.

  5. voyager says

    What a wonderfully moody place. It looks like somewhere that I would keep going back to. Abandoned buildings have a personality and character and you’ve captured it well in these photos, rq. I love the library and could probably spend weeks in there going through the books looking for notes or clues. It looks as if the collection has been kept dry. I also love the empty chairs in front of the window. I look forward to seeing your next photo essay about the place.

  6. Nightjar says

    These are very powerful and poignant shots, rq, they convey the mood of that abandoned place very well. And I love this type of photography so much, even though I’m not that good at it, perhaps because I rarely have the opportunity to practice it. But it’s one of my favourite themes and I follow a photographer on Flickr who is just excellent at it, I find his work marvellous. You can take a look at his “Abandoned” galleries here. Your photos reminded me of his work, which must mean you are doing something right! :)

    Also, I like that cover a lot.

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