haibun
A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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March 2008, vol 4 no 1

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Giselle Maya

 

Finding my House

Long ago when looking for a house in Provence  I drove east from Apt towards Manosque.  High up above oak forests I saw a village perched like a white ship in the sun, with towers  and close clusters of stone houses? I drove up along a hairpin road, left my car and walked the village streets.

At the entrance a spaniel, a calico cat  and a rosebush climbed up a stone cross greeted  me.   I entered the narrow streets,  past an old mulberry tree.  The stone houses seemed mute and wind-carved,  the old wooden doors varnished and solid. Many of the blue and sage-tinted shutters were closed.  I did not see a soul though it was midday.

Halfway through the village I came to a fountain, it trickled and seemed to laugh softly? a geranium stood on the stone ledge above. I was tired from exploring lanes, crevices and stonesteps rising to a niche where a blue-robed madonna smiled at her son? I offered her wild flowers.  Suddenly a great fatigue came over me  and I fell asleep leaning against the fountain.
                  
                            stone houses
                            lean forward to touch
                            the estranger
                  
I had a dream: dressed in a long pleated skirt and a wide straw hat, looking into the clear water of the fountain,  a woman  stood near me.  Her face was peach-colored  and smooth, she smiled and invited me to her house. She said she had been happy there for a long while with her husband, until the war came and he did not return.  She kept his dark embroidered vest tacked to the chalk wall,  as one might hang a painting, in memory of the man she loved.  She had a fireplace and at dusk lit great oak logs,  opened a jar of cherries and read.  Her name was Rose Santon.

I woke  by the fountain close to the house I had dreamed of and noticed that it was  for sale.  I asked to visit it,  looked at the inside and felt comfortable  in the long high room  with a view of the Grand Luberon mountains that stretched like a sleeping leopard along the valley towards Manosque. Formerly silk worms were raised in this  room under a tiled roof.

After some deliberation I bought the house. I have painted and written here these last thirteen years.  The seasons have come and gone, the profound silence of winter ,  the sparrows of spring, in April the swallows^(1) return from Africa,  the mountain turns tea green in spring and golden in autumn :   the presence of the mountain each morning when  waking,  the mistral wind  to clear the sky, the south wind bringing clouds, almond blossoms in March,  the cherries ripe in late May. 

                  
                  
                                    unfathomed roots -
                                    cats of may colors come
                                    to drink from the fountain