house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

A Casa do Senhor Feliz

One year ago, we bought an old house in North Portugal. It sits on narrow terraces facing the sun, on the lip of a lush valley. The first time we saw it, hungry shoots had grown through the windows and curled onto the dusty floors. The house and terraces were surrounded by dead vines, suffocated by brambles, drunk with the juices and ardour of a thousand roots.

And yet, beyond decay and delirium, we sensed something, a lingering story, a whole way of life. We could glimpse an older order in that jungle, and in the house a clean certainty. We found a book of fables on the floor, and a wooden board on which someone had painted purple grapes, and a cross. We found a photograph so old, the face in it had vanished.

Every time we went back, we discovered more. The fist of brambles grew with the seasons and tightened its grip around the house, but couldn't hide it any more than the Indian jungle can swallow its gods.

We finally moved here two months ago and started working. Clearing the terraces we found smooth stone benches and old fruit trees. Meeting the neighbours we learned that we were in the house of Senhor Felix. This sounds like “Feliz”, the house of Mr. Happy. The name, finally – after wondering all this time what the F on the gate stood for – the name made me feel the same: happy.

I am glad to be in the house of someone who built such beautiful terraces, who kept vines and fruit trees, who sat on stone benches at sunset looked over the valley. I am delighted to have a go at rebuilding the house of Mr. Happy.

P.S. The neighbour mentioned the wife of Senhor Felix today, Dona Beatriz. I almost wept with joy. I checked my Latin dictionary – Felix, Beata, Beatrix – I wanted to be sure. They both mean “happy, fortunate, blessed, fruitful”. Yes, it is clear now: we've stumbled straight into the House of Happy.


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