At the end of a dusty road, beyond grey and faded-green trees, past a chipped and peelingorange Cadillac of a run-away bride, there is the Story House.
This is not the real name of the dwelling dozing heavily off the highway in the warm hills of Austin, Texas. Its real name is something earthy and brown, at one with nature, but there it sits, the incarnation of a long-dead hippie, his idyllic escape still filled with Texan people. It rims the dip of a hill, the grass tumbling down from ivy that stalks up the back of the house, all the way down into a creek, where the grass lunged forward into wide reeds and a tree with a rope-swing. We slept there on that hill. In tents, on sleeping bags, on the old ground itself, just like our ancestors. And we listened. We listened to the crickets, to the worried question of the owl, to the crunch of leaves by wind. There, gazing up at bejeweled stars on the throat of the Sky Goddess, we listened to the creak of summer.
The house itself is old. The wood groans but never breaks under the continuous tap of rough feet. Doors swing open and shut unhurried and the walls, decorated by a smearing of dedication and good will, keep out the coyote spirits. Every room is different, themed by cowboys, or the ocean, or the voracious presence of animals. For a moment, we are spinning among the rings of Saturn in the Space Room, or listening to Ella Fitzgerald croon away the Commies in the 50s Room. The old hippie god who owned the house collected treasures of the past and trinkets of the future and placed them here, a sentient being overlooking all time and space. He aimed for smiles. He actively grasped at dreams and wants and desires and made them reality just for a moment of quiet contentment. Inside his house that surpassed the makings of a home, he put us to sleep under the coverings of an unimaginable, promising future.
I call it the Story House because of the bottom level. It has no walls, only wooden pillars and staircases leading to rooms unknown. But it is the faces on the frames, on the pillars, on the staircases that make it so memorable. Just as in the rooms, the hippie god collected dolls, and baubles and figurines, and tiny stone faces of the sun and moon, and lunchboxes, and ceramic dogs and pins, and cats made from lollipop wrappers, and magnets of cowboys, tiny crossbows, and flags and prayers on stones and colored mirrors, wooden mermaids and shiny toy guns. He strung up paper dolls in the ceiling, and checkered plaid on the tables, doilies on the fans and, birds of gold and silver in the corners. The flagstones, baked warm during the day, were worshipped as they pictured rising suns, waters in the lakes near burning villages, an Aztec priest waking his jaguar son, a Virgin greeting the world— the gods were pleased.
These are faces— of memories new and old and still to come. In the summer, we clamored into the creek, yelling and running and singing. At night, we’d eat sweet blueberry pie and soft vanilla ice cream. We drank tea and wished for the moment to last a bit longer. But that’s the covenant of the Old Hippie God: your story must end, but it will always be here, sleeping among the rest— in the old Story House.
Photo credit: http://www.ixiphotography.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/casa-rio-de-colores-wedding-funky-austin-tx-wedding_0001.jpg