Monday, June 29, 2009

Ranch House

The darkness wraps around the low lying ranch house like blanket. All around it, the vast countryside is quiet and dark, an extension of the shadowy gardens that make up the estate. The warm yellow light of fire spills out of the windows of the house, laced with laughter and faint music. The door is ajar, casting a sliver of illumination onto the porch where an orange plastic bowl adorned with black cats and cartoon ghosts sits filled with individually wrapped sweets. It is a single story home adorned with wrought iron lanterns and wooden shutters and doors; frosted with stucco like a mocha flavored cake topped with a red tile roof. The house rests like a sphinx, stretched out upon the earth, gazing with glowing eyes into the night. The air is damp and filled with the autumn odor of crushed leaves, damp hay, and moist ground cover. A mischievous wind promotes these scents and adds a fresh ionized quality to them as they circulate together, wailing and whispering over fences and through the branches of trees. Many little gardens surround the house. Each unique community of plants is linked by stone lined paths of compacted dirt. In some, there grow little pea plants, broccoli, and other plants which are presently out of season so that their little beds of soil lay dormant. In other gardens, squash grows happily on twining green vines adorned with broad leaves that specialize in soaking up the photovoltaic power of the sun. Other garden patches are for flowers and ornamental shrubs. Little brass wind chimes hang from trellises laden with creepers. Weathered wood and wrought iron benches appear in little coves off of the main pathways. These are usually accompanied by trees. Some are laden with little green apples, others bow under the weight of ripe red pomegranates. Yet others are standing naked upon a blanket of their discarded leaves, ready for a long nap before spring returns to insist that they put on flowers for her. There are stepping stones with designs engraved upon them; butterflies, flowers and the like, positioned to add beauty rather than to serve any functional purpose. Now and again, a bird bath is tucked along some path, but the waters in them are filled with soggy yellow leaves. The little dirt trails wind their way through the gardens in search of the buildings that make up the estate; wooden barns that house workshop space instead of livestock, a cottage or two for guests or servants and sheds for gardening tools. They make up their own little village set in the vast nothingness, adrift in a sea of field grass and old oak trees that sprawl out into the blackness of night. A dirt road passes the east side of the ranch house, a main road that must lead to other lonesome estates, and farther off it must at some point connect to one of the black roads of civilization. Here, however, it sleeps silently under the moon whose white fullness is obscured by black clouds that assume phantasmal shapes. They drift across that glowing patch of sky, absorbing the illumination and keeping it to themselves, using it as a backdrop to showcase their eerie forms. The road trails off at the crest of a hill in the north. Crowning the hill on the west side of the road is a gnarled old oak that bends over like a an elderly giant with a crooked back. The grasses sway and shake when the winds icy hand rumples them like a brother mussing up the hair of a younger sister. The grass protests with a low hiss and the wind howls with delight.

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