Sunday, January 22, 2012

Just a little bit of history repeating Part One

William Faulkner writes in Requiem for a Nun, "The past is never dead. It's not even past.

Such a sentiment, to an extent, could be applied to the area in which I live where traces of the centuries past abound around every corner. History is, of course, essential to any small town's understanding of itself, imbuing it with a sense of tradition and—more importantly—continuity. However, living in Niagara has thrown into sharp relief for me the different ways history is preserved and the very different effects that each has.

About a twenty minute's walk from my apartment is the Ball's Falls Conservation Area, which on its property has preserved some buildings from the mid eighteenth century (a church, a barn, a flour mill etc.). Many know it for being a popular wedding destination.

Such historical preservation areas are of course quite common. Just last summer I visited the well-preserved birthplace of President Calvin Coolidge in Vermont. As someone interested by the lives of generations past, I've always found myself drawn to such places.

That said, it would be misguided to believe that one goes to such areas to have an authentic experience of the past. Quite the opposite, in fact, since such places endeavour to ensure that such artifacts of the past really have no past themselves but are rather subsumed into the immortal and totalizing fabric of the present. Just last summer, for instance, workers at Ball's Falls were hard at work repanelling the exterior of the flour mill situated directly above the mighty Ball's Falls. It will live on into perpetuity, trapped in amber; it's history will be one of preservation.

In terms of experiencing history, I generally just prefer plain old-fashioned ruination a la Tintern Abbey. Consider the hallowed carrion of the old cotton mill pictured below. Clearly, no efforts have been made to preserve it (save for a mediating informational plaque that somehow detracts from the whole experience). What remains are quite simply (and I think more appropriately) the old bones of time's passage, reminding those who happen to saunter by that one day, with much luck, we will all be reduced to a pithy paragraph and a pile of rubble.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Welcome to Bucholia

On the street where I’m living now there is not one but two yarn shops. There are two restaurants, a Parisian-themed bath and beauty shop, two art galleries, an artisanal ironworks shop, a place to purchase fine hardwood floors, an antique store, a winery, a luxury “inn” and spa, a store that specializes in gardening paraphernalia, a clothing store that I’ve never visited, an historical museum and village, and a heritage shop that exists in order to fund the aforementioned museum. Toward the southern end of the street there is bar and across from this bar is a store that might best be described as glorified gift shop (a description that may be equally applied to the entire town). For little over a year I have lived above this shop with my partner, Marlie. Directly behind us are thousands of trees, which—taken together—makes for a vista that often helps me forget that I am poor. Indeed, Jordan is about as pretty and quaint a place as is plausible in this day and age; this is perhaps what makes it so problematic.

In what are shaping up to be my final fleeting months in the Niagara Region, I have decided to use this blog to eulogize my waning experience just south of the big city. Far from a tourism blog or a blissful reminiscence, this blog will take inspiration from the bucolic Niagara environs in its exploration of what it means to live anywhere—to hang one's hat and call someplace home. In this endeavour, Bucholia will consider such concepts as the divide between ruralism and urbanism, aestheticism, history, community, nature and authenticity. In short, this blog will attempt to answer two questions: Who would be deranged enough to want to stay here? Why would anyone ever want to leave?