top of page

The Abandoned Watermill (Day 8)

The building looked like it was in shatters as the foliage fell quietly from the surrounding overgrown trees. The weight of it had built up over the course of the month, creating a stream of vibrant color that allowed for the resistance of life to bleed into the crevasses of time edged in the corners and side of the building. A water wheel was present on the opposite side of the structure where a river once flowed. The water had since been diverted and a new watermill had been built. This particular one hadn’t been functional for years. Though it was still completely intact. Believing it to have been haunted by the ghost of the late Norah (Sally Ann) Woodrow. George Peterson, the owner of the building, had since abandoned it. Superstition kept others away.

Norah was a young woman who worked and often slept at the mill. She preferred it to going home to an abusive father and absent mother. She had been working there since she was 14. Now 18, she had since become both professionally and physically mature. She was proficient at her trade and sincere in her graciousness to all that she helped. She inspired the hearts of many and had come to be the main reason that patrons both young and old, frequented the mill. She just made them feel wanted, important and taken care of with respect and love. This particular mill was used for grinding grain, producing flour for bread, malt for beer and coarse meal for porridge. Norah as responsible for helping organize orders, and bag the grain, flour and barley. Though what she was known for was her customer service. She listened to their hearts and say their orders, their work and their words as an extension of them. There was always more work to do, as the farmers love to drop off their products, and she loved it there. Norah found it particularly comfortable to be there because it the building was 20 minutes from anything by foot. It was purposely placed off the beaten path because Mr. Peterson preferred his privacy. He was sensitive to stressful environments and stayed away from the city yet he was passionate about his work and loved the metronome of the water wheel. Structurally the building had several small nooks that, when she was 14, Norah could easily hide in late at night and not get caught, while the sound of the river was hypnotically calming to her system. It became a home where her heart could rest while serving and reminding others of their beauty and value. Eventually Mr. Peterson was aware of what was happening and approached her about it. More out of concern then blame. He was a quiet widowed man, in his 80's who had come to know life and always believed that everyone had a good reason for what they did. He wasn't one to judge. Instead he always approached things with a quiet curiosity. Five foot two and just over 180 lbs, he was still strong yet his fight was gone. Now he just loved people. The conversation was very liberating for her easing whatever tension was left in her overnight adventures. He said she could stay anytime and that if she needed anything to just let him know. Three other young men helped out at the Mill while Norah, along with Mr. Peterson, were the face of it. Yet they worked as a family. All finding there what they were not able to find at their own homes. Taking care of one another, the mill, their clients and staying on top of everything. The Mill itself was like a member of the family. They treated it with respect and were always looking for ways to upgrade the facility or make things more efficient. They called her Bessy. Operations would often go late into the night. This gave Norah the perfect excuse to not go home. At that point her parents would often be asleep. When asked if she came home she would tell them that she had to leave early in the morning because they had a shipment. This particular mill was like a womb. One could say it as birthing Norah in the woman she was becoming. Complete with a fire place, rocking chairs and a stove for heating the room, water or food through out the winter. The ceiling was high with a loft for excess storage where Norah would sleep. The heat from the stove would rise up keeping her warm at night in a space insulated my old bags of oats, grain and hay. As much as it was her home no one else knew it. It was a secret between her and Mr. Peterson that they kept close to their hearts as he become a kind of surrogate father, grandfather, employer and friend.

As Norah grew older Bessy transformed from her refuge into her home. Mr. Peterson liked it because he knew the space would be loved and the building was secure providing her with a safe space to grow. Hidden nooks that she used to hide in, became her library, space to keep her clothing, some personal items and pads of paper where she wrote letters to her future self as she sat out on the deck about the river and fantasized about her life. She loved nature. One of her favorite things to do was, late at night, under the light of the night sky, slip out of her dress and into the river. The cold water was exhilarating to her system. The shock and feeling of it injected life into her. Reminding her what it was to be in a body as she cleansed herself among the rocks under a gentle cascade of water. Often singing a song or humming a tune. A natural siren whose only purpose was to inspire life and celebrate all that was around her as she basked in her own freedom. All this time she though she was alone. And she was. Kind of. It depends on what you consider to be alone.

25 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page