The February sun shown brilliantly, that afternoon as I passed its entrance. I would think, “Someday, I shall hike down that old road and see where it leads.” This was that day!
Although the wind was rather brisk, it was a lovely day for a hike. In its heyday, the ancient road had been a wagon trail which country folk traveled in their mule-drawn wooden wagons, traveling to a long-forgotten country store, which served this quaint, little community in by-gone days.
The road winded through deep forests and small meadows, along a high ridge. Along the way, I encountered a large rock formation, which overlooked a deep-wooded valley. the rocks seemed to beckon to me so unable to resist, the climbed over the large boulders, laughing like a child.
Finding a suitable spot, I took a seat in the forested arena. Then, as if on cue, three magnificent white-tailed deep quietly made their way through the time below. A study in grace, they soon disappeared in the cover of a thicket of evergreen below me.
“I must continue on,” I thought to myself. Rising from my bouldered seat, I began again my journey.
The wagon road, in places, was impassable; causing me to hike in the thick forest from time to time. It was in such a place that I found the clearing and the old school-house.
I stood in awe of what lay before me. I had heard of this place, since childhood. It was an old abandoned country one-room schoolhouse from long ago. now I was actually seeing it for myself.
Hesitantly, I moved closer for a better look. The giant sandstone chimney still stood intact, except for it’s leaning to one side. Four large windows on each side of the wooden building stood gaping, empty of glass, staring out through the forest that threatened to swallow the entire structure. A withered, ancient apple tree stood beside the front door.
The floor, supported by large timbers and rock, had given way in places, causing the floor to sag.
Gingerly, I peered inside. The elements had certainly taken their toll. The debris which littered the inside of the school was unrecognizable, with the exception of an old piano. I could hardly believe my eyes! A piano? Here? But it was.
The old upright piano stood in the corner, leaning with the sagging floors to one side.
Covered with the dust of time, it seemed to whisper, “Touch the keys… one last time. Let us sing, before we die.”
Very gently, I reached out trembling fingers and touched the ivory, dust-covered keys. A clear, beautiful sound echoed through the crumbling old school house, then promptly stuck. I tried another key – same thing; a beautiful, clear tone. Then nothing.
“Their final song,” I thought. “Just as this leaning, rotting building is dying.”
Soon, it will fall and the forest will reclaim this spot and it will live, only in our memories.
Perhaps there is a parallel between the crumbling school building and man-kind.
Once, the old school was young and new; flourishing with the attendance of country children who sought its shelter to learn, laugh and play within its perimeter. Then, as time marched on, it was abandoned for newer, more modern schools and left to exist for the rest of its days in the quiet solitude of the forest glen.
Are we not so unlike that old building? When we are young, we laugh and run through golden fields, anxious for life’s next moment. Then, as great age touches us, we find solace in our memories of what was, and live out the rest of our days, peacefully.
The sun was sinking, as I started back home. I turned to look, once more, as the last rays of sunlight, lit the silhouette of the old building, encasing it in a gold halo. “Goodbye,” I whispered, as the winds sighed through the ancient apple tree, as if to bid me farewell. A final farewell to the old country school house and its piano, which played its last song … for me.