There are signs on this old farm of life from a distant era, one that feels almost as far away as the Middle Ages. One vestigial piece is the outhouse, wired for light in the 1950s, when electricity finally came to the property but plumbing had not. Pieces of decaying knob and tube hang loose above the entry door.
The second family to live here added a stained glass window. I suppose we are probably the only ones in the area to have one of these, although the tilt of the house has put a crack through the middle of it. Combine this with the trailing Wisteria cathedraling over the small building and the image of the outhouse changes all together.
It’s more of a conversation piece these days than a utilitarian feature of our property. I suppose we keep it because you never know when the power might go out for a very long time and we would regret its loss. There is a bucket of lime left over from the last tenants and even some poetry written on one of the walls. The building leans a little more each year and awhile back we (I) decided to re-roof the house to preserve what little of the structure was left. (It was at this point I wondered if we should have started with a more secure foundation!)
This became an opportunity for me to learn the basics of shake roofing. We didn’t cut new shingles, but reused those in good shape pulled from the barn. I sat on a ladder with my barn-roofing friend as he tried to remember exactly how to place the shingles for overlap. I am not totally convinced we put the roof on the correct way, but for an unused outhouse it seemed good enough…and better than the bathrooms in our house that now use tarps to stop the winter rains!
What I like most about this outhouse is how it presents in the spring. The young purple flowers of the Wisteria set against the old barn gray wood are easy to capture in a photograph. Every year I take a photo or two, just for the irony of it! I added my own bit of whimsy to the building several years ago when I found a bird house made like a stacked outhouse, one for girls and one for boys. I nailed it to the telephone pole at the back of the building just for kicks… and to see if anyone would ever notice.
I feel a ‘moment’ coming on. An outhouse ode to spring? A shot at a non-rhyming poem? Here’s what I’ve got so far:
The Wisteria Outhouse
When purple flowers bloom and fall around your weathered wood
And young birds rest upon your wizened roof
As well they should
When creepers trail through cedar seats and wrap along the walls
And light falls brightly through the cracked stained glass
And lands upon the poem in the stall
I marvel at the strangeness of it all…
An outhouse decorated by the spring
To wear a mantle made of leaves until the fall
Photos: top – leaning outhouse; middle – stained glass in the outhouse; bottom – bird houses as outhouses
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2009 Scottie Jones