The Ivy

There was once a wooden house that stood alone in a wood. The house loved it when someone lived inside. He felt wanted – as if he had a purpose. Sometimes, when the winter wind blew cold around the house, the person living inside would light a fire. “Ahhh!” thought the house, as its wooden slats became warm and comfortable. Just as the house felt the warmth of the fire, so the person living inside felt safe and protected by the wooden building.

When the seasons changed and the sun came down through the trees, the occupier of the house sat in the doorway, peacefully smoking a pipe. The sweet smell of the tobacco merged with the smell of summer and the birdsong in the trees. All was well. Sad to say, the man moved out of the house. There were no logs stacked at the side under a tarpaulin, no sounds of activity inside the house and no sign of anyone coming by that way. Although there were trees and birds and the distant sound of a stream, the house felt bereft and alone. He began to feel anxious and wondered what would happen to him if it continued. He listened out for the sounds of humans but heard nothing. He waited for someone to stack logs ready for the approaching winter –no one appeared. The house became colder and colder as the temperature dropped.

In spring when the birds sang in the early morning, found mates and built nests, all the plants began to come alive with new growth. Some ivy that had grown up the side of the house found its way into the smallest cracks in the wooden panels. As the sun shone and the rain fell, the ivy grew and grew until it had covered the whole side of the wooden house and begun to grow over the roof, creep in through the windows and through the floor. The house didn’t want the ivy there and felt as if it was strangling him. In his anxiety he resisted, terrified that it seemed to have a kind of power. If the ivy won the battle, no human would even see the house, let alone want to live there.

Time past and the ivy grew inside the house and if you were to stand outside, you would hear creaks and groans made by the wood. The house was trying to speak, to chant spells, anything to ward off the encroachment of the advancing ivy.

One day, a human walked past the house and looked at it but walked away. The house felt by now it was losing the battle but could no longer remember what the battle was. It was as if he was the ivy, creeping and growing. Then the human returned and hacked back the ivy from the doors and windows and left. The house felt better and remembered then what the battle was. It was between him and the ivy. He was a wooden house, he was not the ivy, not any plant – he was a strong wooden house – stronger than a few leaves on a stalk! The house became aware of every part of his structure; he became aware of all he knew and understood about being who he was. With every fibre of wood, he felt a new strength he’d never felt before. He could repel leaves and stalks. The ivy loosened its grip and began to shrink back. As so often happens, one success leads to another and by the time the human returned, some days later, the ivy had died right back. The human removed the last bit of ivy and painted the wooden panels.

The sun was setting in a golden and red sky when the human left, and as he watched the sun go down and the blue of the sky turn to deep dusk, the wooden house felt good. He knew that even if no human came to live there, he was happy in this wood, in this time, standing strong and proud in who he was.

Hilary Farmer

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