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July 2014, vol 10, no 2

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Els van Leeuwen

Surface Tension

A time ago, daughter, before you, before me, tumbling through our humble days, was a man called John, who bought his young family a block of land out in a suburb emerging from bush. He had a driveway leading down into a gully, where he chose a site for a home for his three, on the other side of a tiny burbling creek. The creek would not do, it was sent underground, except where the garden was most sunken. There he transformed the trickle of water into three ponds, one falling into the other through orderly stone channels.

Over time he and his wife planted a profusion of flowering bushes along the sloping banks on either side of the ponds. In the spring it was a delirium of smells and colours, accessed by a winding stone path. Each pond had its own character. The highest was a mystery, inaccessible on all sides, except to the child’s imagined fairies. The middle pond was where the path crossed a quaint little bridge over to more stone pavers, all grown in the cracks with moss and tiny flowers. This pond so enchanted any child that came, that all fell in at some time. The third was the biggest, and reflected some sky. Here you sat long enough to notice water spiders skimming across the surface, and wondered where to from here for the water.

When John was long gone, and at last his wife too, my mother sold her childhood home, ponds and all. I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same, though I dream my feet in that earth some nights, and the calls of certain birds take me back there in my mind. I wonder did John, in all his years of love, work and duty, ever dream of that creek? As for me, one night, before you were born, when I was carrying a child who never came, I dreamt most clearly, dear daughter, that all the ponds had dried up.

still life the placement of shells by the outgoing tide