Mar 23, 2009

Walking Feeds the Imagination

I’m interested in the doors I see during my walks.

I find them interesting not only because they tell interesting stories of care and neglect, but also because they hide historical secrets either innocuous or serious. For example, take this door, which I photographed recently one Saturday afternoon during a walkabout of the Halifax Citadel. The paint on the door – faded, blistered, and peeled – reveals character and history. Who knows, maybe the faded initials are the result of an enamored worker; the pockmarked imperfections the result of a misplaced hammer; and the rusted metal the result of a harsh winter.

I don’t know the initials, the pockmarks, and the metal that make up the door, but I can try to imagine those who built it and fixed it and it could go like this: a Parks Canada employee applied a layer of paint to a door years ago placed there by a Canadian Forces corporal a century ago. The two individuals separated by time are connected by the object. For the employee, the door is old. For the corporal, the door was new. The employee a student of preservation; the corporal a student of engineering. The employee a young student working to pay for school; the engineer a young corporal working to protect the fortress. The employee, soon after, graduated school and left; the engineer, soon after, was transferred overseas and killed.

Doors are important because they hide secrets not just behind them but also about them. This door is important because for three separate days it occupied the attention of three separate individuals: the photographer, the employee, and the engineer.

I can’t tell you how much this city has to offer to those with active imaginations. Clearly, it does. However, to let that happen for you, you need to get close to them, study them. And to do that you need to get out of your vehicle and out of your house. By valuing the historical spaces around us, we can begin to appreciate them, honour them, and preserve them, to say nothing about letting our minds wonder about them.

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