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Friday, March 6, 2009

The House on Guin Road

by request from Lynn, who wanted a description of my getaway house.

I spent the week in a small, Midwest Missouri town, with my daughter and her welcoming housemates. The house is the childhood home of the two brothers who live here with three additional friends. It is an impressive dwelling, built into the side of a hill, and boasting two roomy levels. The beautiful hardwood floors and stone fireplaces complement a great-room that looks out onto an expansive deck. The light from the windows is perfect in the mornings, and makes me wish I were a painter, so I could capture the view on canvas and take it back home with me. Instead, I stand at the railing of the deck on this blustery March morning, and paint with ink and words into an old journal.

Behind the house is an old concrete structure, probably five feet above ground. It used to be a swimming pool --- but now it’s a bent, rectangular hole filled only partly with dirt and carpeted with a blanket of rich, green, mossy-looking growth. That green provides a sharp contrast to the winter yellow grass of the surrounding yard and the field beyond the gaping, weathered barn. Leggy, bleached-white saplings densely populate the hole in the concrete. Their bony limbs scrape and knock against each other in the wind like so many skeletons.

Towering over the south side of the pool of emaciated remains are two great pine trees, looking like worn bottlebrushes. Next to them, what were once second and third brothers are now a couple of bare stumps. One is probably eight foot tall, and the other nearly fifteen, both cut down in mid-life. Who can tell what mid-life is for trees of this magnitude? Perhaps they lived long and well, and their bottlebrush brothers are really living on borrowed time. Perhaps not. Nevertheless, they are imposing, stark creatures, peering desolately into the pool of skeletons, next to their aged brother pines.

Just beyond this band of brothers, stands a grey and weathered barn. The gaps between the boards of the doors and walls are wide enough to afford a view straight through the structure, into a newer, more modern barn directly behind. The older building still stands, though covered in brown, stringy vines. They blend into the fa├žade on this warm, late-winter morning that only hints at spring. I wonder whether these vines will green once again when the season completes its change. Today, they line the front of the barn like wrinkles on the face of an old seaman who has seen every part of the world from the deck of a ship. Rusted metal farm implements of various shapes and sizes hang just beside the door. They sway in the wind that twists and tugs the curls from my hair, and brings tears to my eyes.

In an adjacent field, sit a curious sight---a black and yellow school bus with weeds growing up around the tires. Faded black lettering on the broadside is indiscernible from my vantage point. Crouching out there all alone, the beast looks rather ghostly, and I wonder about the person who sat in its driver seat, day after day, year after year. I imagine the school students mounting those steep steps through the folding door, and making their way down the aisles to find a place to sit. My memory is filled with the smell of green leather, high backed seats from my childhood bus rides; and I can faintly hear the clack-clack-clack of a dozen or more windows being opened to this relentless spring-warm wind. I wonder if today, that breeze carries the voices of children, echoing through that school bus.

Just up from the deep end of the pool is an odd little building, square with a peaked roof. Screened walls make up two sides, and the remaining two are crafted from the same grey boards as the older barn. There are gaps, probably sixteen inches wide, above and below these walls, and the screens on the opposite sides flap in the wind like dishtowels on a clothesline. I imagine that a strong gust could lift the entire structure from its foundation and transform it into a fantastic flying machine.

It’s amazing to me, how a change of scenery can fire the imagination of an artist, a musician, or a poet like myself. This old house with its strange noises, lovely angles and pools of light streaming into so many windows has made me feel quite welcomed. The first weeks of March are the last days of winter in my part of the country. Too often in that bleak barren time, creativity is a challenge. Who would have thought that an unassuming two-story home with a view like any other in this once rural community would give me the boost I needed to open my mind and move my pen?

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