January Create: The Frailties of Stone

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Change comes to a farm home.

The Frailties of Stone

An open gate with a sign saying 'Please close the gate!
Arriving in September, we found the house
sweltering. The sun had scrubbed the limestone
walls, painted plump new tiles on the roof
as pink as piglets. In orchards in the valley
the air was sweet with plum juice. But the barn
wall tottered, about to tumble down the slope.
In these hills, every village sits atop a slope
and buildings gently slide. We renewed the house
with mundane concrete, overlooked the barn
with its broken roof. Even solid limestone
trembles as storms rattle across the valley.
The former owners shrugged about the roof.
Curious redstarts flickered on the roof
and vanished. Old vines straggled down the slope
to the orchard. We looked across the valley
to a line of fretwork hills. In the house
we pondered on the frailties of stone,
discussed a cure for the ailing barn.
The builder read the lines of land and barn,
condemned the wall, reckoned the roof
could be cut and patched, the tilting stone
softly pushed. The orphan wall might slope
around the corners, but the barn could house
tools and plants when ice lay in the valley.
Feathered clouds of dust concealed the valley
as the builders worked. They filled the barn
with a crouching yellow digger. In the house
I made coffee. They trod the broken roof
like redstarts, assembled a second slope
inside the barn with blocks of local stone.
Next day, a sweep of ivory limestone
framed unexpected views across the valley
to the distant hills. We climbed the slope,
watched and waited on a parapet of barn
as stars emerged. We’d won a better roof
and a secret viewpoint beside the house.
The barn is brighter with its mended roof,
still at ease with house and valley.
Everything changes, even slopes and stone.
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