a red house in a flat land

I come from a flat land, a long, flat valley.

A ridge of mountains and hills rises in the west.
A river works its way, as rivers do,
from those hills, across farmland, to the sea,
flooding when the rains are heavy, and the seas run high.

One long straight road runs the length of this plain,
from south to north,
passing through townships,
that spread out on either side.

This flat land, where trees are a feature, two storied houses a novelty.

what effect does this horizontal landscape have on the soul?
is the only way, up and out
or to dig deeper?

I was taken to a city surrounded by hills,
cushioned in their green embrace, some might say,
or restrained, contained,
depending on your point of view.

I had a friend who would leave town every chance she got,
driving up and over those hills
to the wide open spaces of yet another flat land,
where she felt she could breathe.

I would head to the coast,
and stand watching the sea stretching ahead to the horizon.
I’d hold my breath and imagine drifting away,
across impossible distances to invisible lands, Chile or Peru.

When I go home to the land of my father,
I travel south to north,
and I pass an old farm building,
just past the town I was born in.

Its been falling down for all the years that I’ve been driving past it,
clinging on to its place,
held up by weeds and lichen and rust,
keeping its head up, for the photographs of strangers.

A rarity with stairs going up to an empty landing and a second floor.
If I lived here, I could climb those stairs and watch the sunset
watch the clouds building up over the western hills
watch the traffic heading north and south.

Empty windows and collapsing walls
would make for a quick escape
but maybe these open spaces mean
you would never feel confined.

Now its for sale
along with its own expanse of flat land,
just over eight hectares.
I read that its known as “the red house”
built in the 1870s, an “icon” of the area.
Fame has reached its doorstep,
its hand is on the door.

As soon as its sold
I hope there’s a storm
I hope the wind and rain bring it down
before some shiny-shoed developer
has their way with it.

This old girl needs the dignity of being dismantled by the elements
not to be pushed over by some anonymous digger.
And I hope some builder of a tiny-house sneaks in,
and takes the wood to reuse in their own home,
reds and yellows to brighten their days.

what effect does this horizontal landscape have on the soul?
is the only way, up and out, or to dig deeper?

well, there’s room here to expand
a soul has room to see in all directions, to turn and breathe and stretch
to build its own way up, to reach for stars and clouds
to dig into the earth, to plant, and grow, and harvest
or to discover how to swim, as it flows south with the river to the sea

this flat land
its expansion all the way
in which ever direction
you need to follow

©clairegriffin2018

 

2 thoughts on “a red house in a flat land

  1. This is such a beautifully written piece and I love this line: “there’s room here to expand / a soul has room to see in all directions…”

    When I first travelled the South Island I was amazed by all these kinds of old nearly fallen barns and houses. My friend and I were writing songs for an album called ‘Disappointment Island’ which never eventuated by I would love to have had a photographer take black and whites of just these sorts of images for the inlays.

    Liked by 1 person

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