Yesterday morning, sunny after a long stretch of rain, I headed out to the yard with a full list of maintenance and cleanup tasks, the first of which was digging out some of the dandelions that have taken over. I figured, correctly, that the saturated ground would more easily give up a long, deep taproot.
In one area of the yard, the digging fork kept running into solid impediments not more than a couple of inches below the surface. I had the same problem last year when I was putting in raised beds and blueberries, in roughly the same space, but I was in a hurry, so shifted over a few inches and went on. I still found a lot of puzzling stuff – glass bottles, pieces of metal – that made me wonder whether I had bought a tiny unmarked landfill. This time, I decided to dig a little deeper.
I plunged the fork into the earth and used it as a lever. Up came a brick – a whole, perfectly good red clay brick. Huh, I thought, that’s kind of odd. I pulled out the dandelion that had sat atop it and kept going. Again and again, I struck brick. Soon I had almost forgotten about the weeds and had undertaken a small archaeological excavation.
Brick by brick, I unearthed – what, exactly? They were all at roughly the same depth, some but not all symmetrically placed, and there seemed to be a break in continuity. Was this a broken walkway that someone had lazily covered with topsoil rather than repair? Were the bricks used as fill? For drainage? Was I making a mistake digging them out? After I’d removed the 67th brick, the yard looked like a mole convention had had a keg party, so I surrendered any remaining bricks to their burial spots and moved on to clean it all up.
An old house is like a new boyfriend: there’s a lot of history you just don’t know about. This old home has no ghosts, but it has its small mysteries: mismatched woodwork, cut off in strange places at odd angles; different walls in the same room made of completely different materials. Underground walkways and buried beer bottles. It has its own life story – divided up, added on to, remodeled, preserved. And still it stands, creating a space for yet another owner to make it all her own.