Sunday, June 16, 2013

'The House in the Forest'

My painting of the mountains after a storm.
Houses have personalities.
Our summer house at Fogland Beach stood empty, cold and neglected throughout the long winter months, yet welcomed us back with open arms.

Last weekend we flung open the windows, stocked the shelves and grilled chicken by the back door. Then we gathered around the old maple table, feasting and laughing for hours.
And the house smiled…

An unexpected invitation to stay at a timeshare property in New Hampshire’s White Mountains took us north last Wednesday.
Under darkened overcast skies, the Dodge Ram bounced violently as we travelled the last mile, climbing higher and higher into the deep forest.

I thought about the fairytale “The House in the Forest” by the Brothers Grimm:
“The next day the woodcutter was up before dawn. ‘Let Rose bring my dinner into the forest today,’ said he. ‘She has always been a good child. She will stay in the right path and not run after every wild bee’… But when Rose went out with her basket on her arm… she did not know which way to turn. She walked on and on, full of sorrow… At last when it grew dark, she came to the little house in the forest.’

Finally we saw the redwood-stained plank building clinging to the hillside shrouded by trees. Rough plywood stairs led to the door. A shovel leaned against the siding.
Opening the door, I noticed the sidelight of clear glass. Inside there was a living room, an eat-in kitchen, a small bedroom with bunk beds, a second bedroom and bathroom.

Then I noticed the dark green carpeted stairs. I found the switch, and the light at the bottom of the stairs hummed and flickered eerily as I descended.
The first thing I noticed in the basement master bedroom was the musty smell. A half-sized window over the bed let in little light and the master bath was windowless.

We knew that we could not sleep here. We retraced our steps and shut off the light.
After dining out, we returned to the house. When darkness fell, I closed all the blinds, and we watched the Bruins in the first Stanley Cup Playoff game.

I sat in the wingback chair, but as the night wore on and I began to tire as yet another round of overtime extended the game, I turned and shivered as I sensed unseen eyes (animal or human) watching us through the sidelight. We went to bed and shut the door.
There was no air conditioning so we turned on the overhead fan and fell asleep to its whirring sound.

The next day we left early. The sun finally came out, and we enjoyed shopping and dining in the nearby village. With dark skies threatening rain, we returned to the resort in the afternoon. On our way we stopped at the building that housed an indoor pool, as well as game and exercise rooms. No one was there.
Driving back to the house, my husband watched TV, while I read a lovely little religious book written by a medieval monk.

It occurred to me that although there were cars alongside the houses sparsely nestled in the woods, I had never seen a neighbor or heard the sound of voices since we checked in.
After supper in town, we returned to the house. My husband watched TV while I read in the bedroom.

During the night we both awoke hot and uncomfortable. My husband got up and left the door ajar. I saw the sidelight and once again sensed we were not alone.
I recalled the fairytale:

“At midnight a great noise waked her up. The doors slammed against the walls, and there was a crash as if the whole roof had fallen in. Then all became still.”
We heard howling, and my husband said it was just a dog. But I was not so sure.

When we awoke early Friday morning, we began to pack. We were scheduled to check out on Saturday morning, but I dropped the keys in the lockbox, and we drove away...

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