house of happy

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

Sunday, 19 October 2008

A Gift of Water

So you go and buy a house; a few days later – thunk! - a heavy wad of paper duly drops through the letterbox. It's the inevitable (and costly) legal take on the transaction. In the unlikely event that you are brave enough to attempt a peek, you will experience the equivalent of running full speed into a granite wall. A foolish, foolish feat.

And I know: we tried it ourselves. We perused words and expressions such startling and impenetrable unfamiliarity all we could do is read them again and again, in the vague (Hollywood-fuelled) hope that some time later clues would appear and lead to a secret code; then we'd give each other an ecstatic and exhausted smile and walk hand in hand into the sunset. Not. Moona thought the fact that it was written in a foreign language might add to the problem (not much, it was revealed later, when we sold our Edinburgh flat and had to read same in English).

A Brazilian friend was summoned to tell us what we had bought. Among revelations of “patrimonial value”, “herewith” and “henceforth” and “agricultural land” or “water mill”, there lurked something even more intriguing. Our friend stopped, scratched his chin, raised an eyebrow, declared: “it seems you have a spring or a well somewhere around the house”. The heart gave a small leap, I remember. I had to hide the great gushing joy in a pathetic cackle. Hey, it was like buying an egg and being told that it came with the golden goose!

Except, we had no idea where the well was, where to look. To start with, there was very little to see: the house was besieged by brambles and weeds, a whole hungry forest of them. A battle was bravely fought with strimmer and scythe and won (for a short while). Now we could see the land, but no water well. To avoid disappointment, I tried to forget it was “in the inventory”. More practical as always, Moona chose to ask around.

So he goes out and, by chance, meets someone who knew the late Senhor Felix well. Perhaps he knew about the well as well?!? One question later, the mystery deepens. Yeees, the well... a knowing smile and some vague directions. These are rendered even more abstract by language, heavy accent and visual clues that have long fallen down, rotten or been eaten.

Undaunted, Moona dashes to the land. After some measurements starting at the eastern edge, one 180-degrees turn away from the stone wash tub, keeping the fig tree to his left, and dropping down one terrace, he finds himself on an improbable spot right in front of the house. Granite stone everywhere, a cover of leaves, rusted wire and bits of bramble.

He must have been quite deflated. So sure he would find it, and now denied. Despondent, he turns to leave and stubbs his toe against the black muzzle of a pipe protruding from between two granite slabs. A pipe? That little vein in the left temple starts to twitch. Moona picks up a small rock and drops it through the pipe, puts his ear to it, counts: one... two... three... four... splash. The vein in the temple is now drumming like mad.

Fingers claw at earth and twigs to reveal a smooth granite slab. A handle appears, he pulls hard and the heavy lid lifts. After how many years? Inside, spider webs cover the mouth of the well like an intricate veil. The shaft is round, not too narrow, made by hand from smooth river stones. Deep down, there's an eye of dark water, beginning to stir. On a stone ledge, covered in mud and moss, a perfect clay cup. Who was it who drew the last bucket of water up, then closed the granite lid? When? As they drank, were they sad or just ready to go? Did they know, could they imagine how long the well would sleep under a thick blanket of seasons and thorns?

Until today. Moona stands up and I think I know how he feels. His chest aches with the joy of so much hope, the gushing of untold possibilities. It's a bit like leaving the hospital after Nikita was born: elated, scared, so much in such a short time and such a small thing changing the whole future so fundamentally.

Like then, Moona waits for his heart to stop drumming, his vision to clear. Like then, he comes back and tells me about it. Like then, we both get a little choked up. The spring he awoke mirrors a dry crippled vine and the entire sun.


At 22 October 2008 at 17:45 , Blogger jon said...

All those possibilities of water pumps, tanks and suchlike. It takes me back. The house is probably worth it for all that fun potential alone!


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