Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Taking Love of a Place to Horrifying Heights

I realize the recollection of one of the key designers and builders of an American architectural masterpiece requesting that I disrobe is hard to follow--and I confess I let that post ride for a while--there's really so much more. So much.

Many of us who spent our days at Fallingwater loved it with a passion normally reserved for great romances, for spiritual pursuits--and of course that doesn't preclude us from those passions either--that we went to extreme lengths to engage with it, to learn its every secret.

One secret that it held of which few had real, practical knowledge was its nocturnal life. There was something so intimate about the idea of being there at night, of knowing what it felt like, of having that privileged experience, even though the privilege was, in our case, self-created.

One night watchman was a good friend, and one who, sadly, died not long after in an accident at home. He suggested a couple of us, including a couple architectural interns who were staying nearby, to take a walk there one night. He didn't let us in the main gate--that would have been too bold--but rather offered a route by which we could hike in. We didn't mean any trouble. We just wanted to feel it, to know it in a different way. And the interns wanted to snap a few night shots. And that's what we did. We never even went in the house, just walked around outside, reveling in our adventure.

But our friend, the guard, had a sense of adventure that went far beyond our nighttime hike. Telling us he had done so several times before to entertain himself at night, he climbed the stones of Fallingwater's massive chimney and stood on top, arms outstretched in the darkness, high above the waterfall and jagged sandstone boulders below. It was almost a ghostly image, and I marveled that his fear of death seemed hauntingly absent. All he felt was exhilaration.

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