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brown seashell - ornamental icon A Small Blue House

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A Small Blue House

It is a small house, nothing special. A ready-to-order house out of a catalogue, fitting squarely, conveniently into its niche between apartment buildings and family homes that are just that much bigger.

The surrounding garden is really not much more than a towel, and, tied around its middle, cannot conceal that it has not the size of a top model. When the garden was new, it was quite impressive, published in “Home and Garden”: “even small gardens can look good”. The modern touch, not quite successful, was plant-containers made of concrete instead of a fence. Concrete, however, even in an elegant cast, does not look like natural stone.

But it is blue.

The luxury that even a small house, model no. 57b in our new catalogue, house “Bella” – enjoy the Italian flair on your very own terrace – can afford: a bit of colour. Therefore: a light blue on a white background. Blue shutters, and a strip around the windows with a blue that’s a little bit darker. Sky blue rather than powder blue. (The children don’t care; the proximity to the local soccer field is much more important. Oh well, boys at that age…)

This is also the reason for having lavender instead of the undemanding dog roses you know from public parks, even though the boys would have liked those better, because of the itching effect of the seeds if inserted in the cleavage of the adversary. (And that squishy-smacking noise they make if you step on them! And the spot of red fruit pulp and light-yellow seeds!)

“A real home,” she says, and smiles.
And he does, too.

A small, blue house, with a hedge of lavender, in a small niche of boyish laughter and the roaring lawn-mower of the neighbour just across the street. In the windows are crocheted, freshly starched curtains, made by the grandmother, a present upon moving in. There are terracotta-pots on the terrace, waiting for their herbs: thyme, rosemary, mint, and definitely lemon balm, because that smells so delicious.

Then, suddenly the curtains are gone, and the boys, too. It’s summer and the lavender is blooming and its perfume fills the air. Butterflies and bees enjoy it, and the pot of lemon balm that has been forgotten, because a kid put it into the corner behind the terrace. The blossoms of the lavender have dried in autumn, but they have not been harvested. And the lemon balm dried up and died, because no one watered it.

“A divorce,” the neighbour with the lawn-mower mutters.
“No,” his wife says. “He had cancer and died.”

Next spring three lavender plants are dead. Two froze during winter, a third did not manage to fight its way through the dead growth from the past year towards the sunlight. The remainder of the hedge buds with the arrival of spring: leaves of light velvet and panicles promising blossoms, blue, even bluer than the small house, and they will fill the air with perfume!

“They’ll never find buyers,” the neighbour says while fertilizing his lawn. His wife, busy with the vegetable plot, nods her head.
“With the real estate prices bein’ what they are, it’ll remain empty for some time, I guess.”

Come summer, the lavender has grown into bushes, and they are so blue, so blue, so fragrant blue that the summer sky, the summer holidays and August sky, has trouble to keep up. The rest of the garden decays, bushes remain untrimmed, and in the vegetable plot thistles are growing. A couple of boys steal stones from the wall of the vegetable plot, but the containers with the lavender are set into the ground. One day someone is sent by the office of the estate agent to mow the lawn and get rid of the weeds in the splices of the carport. He doesn’t clean off the cobwebs in the window that faces the street, but he does close the shutters.

In autumn the neighbour watches how a family inspects the house. Their car is a dashing BMW and he knows right from the start, just as the lady from the real estate office, that no contract about that small, square, blue house will be signed.

The winter is cold and a tile of the terrace cracks. The pot that once held fragrant lemon balm bursts, drenched with freezing water. It was a cheap product, what do you expect. The real estate office has forgotten to send someone over to trim the bushes and the lavender plants. But lavender is tough, tougher than terracotta-pots and terrace tiles. Only one plant doesn’t survive the winter.

This spring is a dandelion spring, with the meadow yellow-golden from one day to the next, and a short time later, soft and white with drifting seeds, again, from one day to the next. And the neighbour curses, because he has an allergy. And the lavender blossoms, hopeful panicles, shimmering blue in gentle green. The blue colour of the house has paled with the change of the seasons. It seems the colour was not a brand product after all. But it’s still the only blue house in the area.

What a lavender summer! The heat is heavy with blue perfume, passers-by and butterflies are drunk with it. But there are more thistles in the vegetable plot and the real estate office has to send someone twice to keep the weeds at bay. But no one asks for an appointment to see the house. The small house remains alone with its cobwebs, its dust and its lavender, and there are other boys who sneak through the garden to steal stones from the wall of the vegetable plot.

“You can’t simply pick that lavender!”
“But there’s no one livin’ there…”
“Still, you mustn’t do that.”

Just one last panicle, fastened to the top-most buttonhole. It smells so blue and of summer.

“Orphan of a divorce.”
“Who?”
“That house.”
“I thought he had cancer. I’ve seen him once, and he had no hair left at all.”
“But they were still young.”
“Yeah. Horrible.”
“Two kids, boys I think.”
“Yeah, if I recall correctly. Horrible.”

And it’s winter again.

Then a movers’ van arrives. And a small red car. Things are carried and hauled around, there’s sweeping and cleaning going on. The bushes are trimmed, just in time. But they don’t know what to do with the lavender, in that winter another two lavender plants die.

“That looks shaggy! And what is that anyway?”

That’s the end of it. The lavender has to go.

Come spring there are planting pots on the terrace again and a bag with earth, and in the carport there’s the small red car.

Summer arrives and everyone knows the new neighbours by name, and no scallywags dare to touch the wall of the vegetable plot. Butterflies are dancing, bees are searching for blossoms.

The small blue house has curtains and a family.

But they did not plant lavender again.

photograph of 'Stephantasy'

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Wise Words

“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

—  Ursula K. LeGuin