The White House

At the last minute David agreed to take us up to the white house himself. Through the valley and over the river we went. The sky hung low with shifting insubstantial cloud that at once suffused the day with a soft light and drained the fervor of the summer sun.

Opposite the first farm gate someone had built a house. A clumsy and sullen thing, made worse by doric columns, faux-romanesque domes, gothic arches, the works. The dirt track that led up along the hill was steep and if not impassible, at least impractical to traverse in the average car. Beyond the second gate, at the top of the hill, the road all but disappeared in the tall grasses of a pasture. Sticking close to a farmers fence we bumped along the forgotten track and as we turned a corner near the edge of the escarpment, we caught our first glimpse of the white house.

At that distance it was little more than white line etched on the uninterrupted green of the narrow hilltop.

The house was not at all what we expected – a long low monolithic block that hunched close to the ground and exuded a sober gravity. Having weathered both drought and torrential rains the lawn had gone to seed. Fine cracks snaked along the white walls and the silver timber deck underfoot felt now solid now spongy. Far from being a ruin it gave off the sense that its front door had been left open simply to admit the breeze, that its owner was away on an errand and would momentarily return. We crossed the sunken pebbled courtyard and stepped inside.

The house revealed itself, what it was and wanted to be: a belvedere perched on the edge of a deep ravine, an abstract frame for the near infinite recession of ridges and valleys sprawling ever outward toward the blueish Tsitsikammas.

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