Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shadow Play by Tracey Sargent

There is an old house that crookedly stands on the corner of two intersecting streets. Back when a family first called her home, she must have been a highlight of the suburb. With freshly painted gables, sparkling windows and a garden neatly trimmed; she would have charmed all who laid eyes upon her.

Now though, instead of gleaming with pride, she recedes into the background. Her paint is worn and peeling, those bright shining windows have dulled beneath years of dirt, and that once tidy garden has hungrily reclaimed its natural territory. Neighbouring houses turn their gaze away in embarrassment.

From outside she looks not just old and tired, but abandoned - like all hope has long since been lost. All is still and quiet, and it seems that no life remains, and yet .... there is that wild garden which grows unchecked. The trees that stand to her front have spread their branches both up and out, obscuring the ground floor almost entirely from view. A vine once used to visually soften the hard edges of the attached carport, has stretched sinewy limbs across every available surface, covering the front stairs and verandah with an imperfect, yet ever changing mask. The shrubs that once formed a precisely trimmed hedge along the fence, now cascade beyond the property boundary and on to the footpath below, like slowly crashing waves on an ocean of green.

With a subtle change of focus, it does appear that abundant life is to be found here, but its movements are slow and inelegant. It is only on the stormiest of days, when the dark clouds hang heavy and low in the sky, and the wind roars through the streets, that these green inhabitants display their true energy and inherent grace. As such rain-threatened days draw to a close and the street lights begin to flicker and hum, these botanical dancers are enticed to the stage.

Under steady gaze of artificial light, the rain and wind collaborate to push and pull the leaves and branches of this urban wilderness in accordance with some unknown rhythm and unheard beat. The steps are fluid and natural, and each plant knows them well. The performance is intoxicating, soon luring other players to join the stage. Moving in unison and growing steadily stronger, dark shadow twins throw themselves up against the surface of the house, in mirrored and silent homage to the green performers.

This house, she lives. Even if one day the green ultimately overcomes her, life will continue on - ready and waiting for the next act to begin.


Anonymous said...

I like the idea of the garden almost reviving the house in some way. I have seen a few houses like that around my area. Very well described.

Tracey said...

Thanks so much Selma ... I love those old mysterious houses, even though sometimes they make me a little sad as they fall into disrepair.

Jill in a Box said...

What lovely, delicate and evocative writing. I would like to live in this house, just the way it is.

Quite a coincidence that I should come across the phrase 'throwing shapes' here: I heard this for the first time today in my office, spoken by my much younger neighbour, whose response to me showing him 'The Rock Steady Crew' on YouTube was "let's throw some cardboard out on the office floor and whoever feels like it can 'throw some shapes'". I thought it was an incredibly cool way to describe breakdancing. But now I see its application is far wider!

Anonymous said...

I love this, and I like a lot the way you write too.Old, abandoned houses make me feel sad too. I always wonder what they were like when someone lived inside, why everyone has left.