My grandparents used to be fishermen, as did their grandparents and their grandparents. They lived on the edge of the ocean until they were forced to move here.
Between them my grandfather and my grandmother built this house that rests at the very bottom of the chalky ridge. The shape of it is familiar, I have seen it many times before: squares and flats, with the round circular, rice filled bellies of my ancestors standing in front. Remembered in the umber and yellow tones of the photograph my Mother kept beside her bed. Her: wrinkled hands clasped tightly, rendering them almost white with expectation and Him: noticeably distracted by the incoming dark clouds. This place has always been paused at this moment – sometime in the last century and fleshed out in our memories by secret family recipes, embroidered blankets, and the same long flat shape of all our feet. But always it returns to this: Two people, a house and a mass of earth waiting, like the marionettes and cardboard scenery in the local museum, orchestra ready, almost, waiting for the curtain to lift.
The picture must have been taken at the end of September, just before the rains give everything that dank green colour
Time has passed by heavily here, for me it seems like millennia have gone by. It is clear that any impetus for movement, the potential that photograph contained of a past and a future, and all the roundness of my grandparents bellies has pretty much vanished. Abandoned snail shells are piled against the walls and small faces no longer peer out of the windows with minds full of day dreams. All that is left of my grandmother’s house is a rudimentary construction of rubbed white wooden tiles hanging off a wooden skeleton. Each one of those bony white squares reminds me of dirtied paper flags still waving for last year’s fiesta.
Even now the house guards its precious inner organs idiotically protecting dust from the outside world. And had it not been such a stagnant afternoon I would have expected this skeleton sitting hunched over at the bottom of the slope to jangle his broken bones and brandish his papers at me hoping to see me flee.
The ridge was layered up like a patty cake of emptied out crab shells, coral and skeletal fragments of whales and krakens, compressed, buried and unearthed. It loomed over the house and disregarded the its presence. The fact that the two stand here together is a coincidence of geology and time, and, I guess, my grandparents’ desire to have a reminder of their previous life; sifting ocean debris from the fish that sustained them.
This great hulk of earth became my families’ closest neighbour, and it was treated as such, eliciting a contrary affection. In return, the weight of the high earth and water logged fields clasped the house in an embrace. The savoury blend of contempt and love that my grandparents were partial to revealed itself in the many irrigation canals that you can still see rudely carved in to the limestone. Once these were used to cultivate beautiful pearls of rice in the drowned fields behind the house but now they are only lines that connect the house to the ridge and the ridge to the field and all of this to me.