(I'm not a musician.) I was taught as a child that I must not 'blow my own trumpet' as in talking about myself – especially not to say anything good about myself. I was also taught that much of what I could say about myself was nonsense and I needn't expect anyone to believe it. If I myself believed it, I must be insane. If not, I was obviously a liar. Telling my story, therefore, became a very confronting task. I am now in my late seventies, as I begin this blog, and it is only a preparation – things I write on the way to writing the memoir.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Trials, Tests and Tribulations, Part 2

Matters of the Heart

We grew apart gradually, though to me it seemed sudden. Let me try now, with hindsight, to trace those unravelling threads.

I see that, in our four years at Three Bridges, while we had various adventures in the new way of life in the new location, many of them pleasurable, we also had as a constant backdrop the huge financial challenges which ultimately became too much for us. 

Early on we asked some wise spirits, via our Andronicus Foundation meditation group, how to be able to afford living there after our supposed co-owners left; how to make this unexpected situation financially viable. We were told, 'Use what you have.' It seems, now, such straightforward advice, perfectly clear and easy to understand, but at the time we couldn't grasp the obvious as we tried to find some deeper meaning. We puzzled and puzzled over it. Did 'they' perhaps mean we should cut and sell the timber on our property? Did they mean we should plant crops or run cattle? 

We didn't attempt any of those things, which would have been beyond us. But we did spend money on things we could have done without, which I see now (but didn't then) as directly contrary to the advice we received. We put in a modern stove in addition to the wood stove which was already there, because it was what we were used to cooking on. Bill did some building modifications to the house, which weren't really necessary – but he always needed to be physically active and would create such jobs for himself. 'Use what you have' seems to me, now, to say clearly, 'Be content, don't spend on "improvements" '. We just couldn't fathom it at the time. I guess we were caught up in the habit of doing rather than being. 

There was one crop already there, which we did use. The previous owners had planted a big field of daffodils. I asked the local florist if they'd be interested, and after taking one sample bunch to check the quality, they ordered some every week. It wasn't a huge number, but provided a bit extra cash for me to run the household on, and didn't need much work. There were proteas growing too, but unfortunately they weren't as fashionable then as they had once been. They had lost their novelty value, and the florist wasn't interested.

I look back and think that one thing Bill and I did together very well was parenting. Now we were without resident children, and that glue that had held us together was very much weakened. At first, when 'the boys' needed help, and called on us as they were used to doing, we'd drop everything and drive to Melbourne to the rescue, but this was now over an hour's drive to wherever they were. It soon became obvious to us all that it simply wasn't practical and they'd have to start standing on their own feet. Indeed, it was the right time for them to do so, having left school and started university.

We still saw them fairly often, either in Melbourne or at Three Bridges – they'd bring their girlfriends up for weekends, or we'd take the chance to drop in on them if we had errands in town – and of course we kept in touch in between times. But it wasn't the same as being a family under one roof. Bill and I were thrown much more on each other's company, without a buffer in between. This revealed that we didn't have so much in common any more.

He was busy trying to bring in money, getting building jobs in the nearby townships. Eventually he became deckhand to a new young abalone diver. This young man perceived Bill as an old has-been, and was probably insecure as well, so instead of respecting  Bill's years of expertise and taking his advice on things like the best fishing grounds, he treated him disdainfully. He was downright rude. We were so much in need of the money that Bill swallowed his pride and resentment, and the angry rejoinders he would have given anyone else. Some of the other divers said to the young man, 'Wow, you're lucky having him decking for you!' but it didn't sink in. Between hard work and mental stress, Bill was constantly exhausted and miserable. A naturally exuberant man, he did try to keep his spirits up, but it was more and more difficult.

As for me, I got very fat. Two things happened at the same time, just before we moved to Three Bridges: I stopped smoking after 42 years, and I started menopause. Either of those things on its own often causes weight gain, let alone both at once. 

I noticed that many people in the area were also carrying extra weight. When I moaned to Marie at the Neighbourhood Centre about how much I'd put on since moving there, she (distinctly plump herself) said, 'We all do here. It's the lifestyle.' There was probably something in that, too. Anyway, I think it's fair to say that I stopped being sexually attractive to my husband. There certainly wasn't a lot of sex happening between us in those years.

I wasn't initiating it either. I remember waking up one morning and, before I opened my eyes, realising that he, over on his side of the King-size water-bed, was masturbating as quietly and surreptitiously as possible. Instead of saying something like, 'Do you need any help with that?' I pretended I was still asleep. A marriage is surely not going very well when one party would rather take matters into their own hands even when there's a readily available spouse right there, and when that spouse would prefer to let them. 

Soon after that Bill made an excuse to start sleeping in one of the other bedrooms. I can't remember now exactly what he said, but I think it was to do with needing a sounder sleep now that he was working as a deckhand. It was plausible. He had to get up very early in the morning for a long drive, on the days of good diving weather, and it was a very physical job. Then there was the long drive home, and the need for an early night.

But, as I said, the disintegration of our marriage was a gradual thing. Or at least, it was for me. I've always been quite good at amusing myself when necessary. I was an only child for my first four years; perhaps it started then. With Bill being away quite a lot, either at the caravan park or working as a deckhand, and being more and more dour and distant when he was home, I increasingly relied on my own resources. They were the same ones as always: writing, reading, home-making, thinking and dreaming; exploring the esoteric. I hardly noticed that we were gradually sharing less and less real conversation. 

I look back and think it must have been very lonely for him. He was an extroverted, gregarious man. But that simply didn't occur to me then. He was busy doing his own things, as I was mine. I wasn't lonely; I was my own companion. I wasn't discontented; I knew how to make myself content. If our marriage had lost its spark, well, we were middle-aged, weren't we? I'd just make the best of it, keep myself busy, and enjoy other aspects of life – which of course, I see now, threw me even more on my own resources and gave me even less motivation to bridge the widening gaps between us. Back then I had no perception that something was seriously wrong. 

It came as a complete surprise to me when, on our 24th wedding anniversary, he came into the bedroom fully dressed to wake me – not with a cuppa and Happy Anniversary wishes, but to announce that he wasn't happy in the marriage and we had to separate. Then he walked out and drove to work. I still don't know if he realised it was our anniversary or if it was an unhappy coincidence. That's how little we were communicating then. It's not impossible that he might have completely forgotten; I was the keeper of significant dates like anniversaries and family birthdays.

I had just started my friend Jenette's Master Game program. Part of our agreement was that participants would contact her if any problem arose in their lives. I phoned her in tears. She said, 'Don't make any decision yet. Just keep doing the program. It's only a few weeks until you complete it. Put everything on hold until then.' That calmed me down, and that evening I asked Bill to wait those few weeks before taking any definite steps. He said it would make no difference to his decision, but he agreed.

It wasn't that Jenette or I imagined that her program would necessarily save the marriage. We both knew it would clear my energy, therefore Bill's energy would shift in response, and so we'd be able to make the decision lucidly, uninfluenced by extraneous baggage. 

For those weeks, things did seem to improve between us – to the extent that I confided in him that one reason I'd been so devastated by his announcement was that I'd been very much looking forward to celebrating our Silver Wedding Anniversary, in only one more year.

We did get to celebrate that anniversary. By the time I finished the Master Game, things were much friendlier between us, we were sharing a bed again, and the possibility of separation wasn't mentioned any more. 

Bill organised a wonderful anniversary party for me, as I mentioned in my previous post. It was a joyful occasion. Our friends were happy for us, we had a ball, and I was relieved that we weren't going to separate after all. 

This was still a year before he fell for someone else.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Tests, Trials and Tribulations: Part 1

Money Matters

Along with the adventure of making a new life for ourselves at Three Bridges, and the many new experiences, came some less welcome changes.

Money became a huge problem for us. Bill wasn't an abalone diver any more, I had no regular 9-5 job, and suddenly we were responsible on our own for a purchase we'd thought we'd be sharing with another couple. And that wasn't all.

While we were still in Melbourne, Bill had bought my Mum, who lived in the island State, Tasmania, a house in the town of Devonport. She wanted a move from where she lived, in Launceston, after being widowed. All her friends there started dying off, and her home was too big for one person. She moved to Hobart to be near family there but they were busy working, she knew no-one else and didn't drive. She sold the Hobart house and came to stay with us in Melbourne while deciding what to do next. Then an old friend from Devonport, where Mum had spent her girlhood, phoned to say there was this great house for sale. Mum was enthused by the description but felt it was more than she wanted to pay. Bill offered to buy it and rent it to her.

So then we had trips to Devonport to visit her, just a quick flight or a very short boat trip across Bass Strait. She caught up with old friends there, whom she'd grown up with, and made new ones. Bill, being a builder as well as a diver (building work had always kept us going in the lean times between fishing seasons) went over and made some alterations to the house according to what she wanted. 

While he was away, friends turned up to give me two kittens they'd seen in a pet shop and hadn't been able to resist. They'd bought two of four for themselves, then thought, 'Who else needs a kitten? Oh, Bill and Rosemary.' My cat and all our dogs had died by then, the last dog only recently. 

I had promised Bill, no more animals. He wanted the freedom to travel spontaneously, and not to have the expenses that pets bring. But I couldn't resist the kittens either, so I broke my promise. I felt guilty, though resolved. How would I tell him?

I had extracted a promise from him, too: no more major purchases without talking to me first. Bill had a habit of bringing us close to poverty with impetuous, under-capitalised business decisions, then working very hard and finally restoring the family fortunes. It was a recurring pattern.

When he phoned from Tassie and said, 'I've got something to confess. I bought a caravan park,' I didn't berate him. I told him I had something to confess too – we had two new cats. Neither of us felt we could object to the other's broken promise when we'd broken our own. Writing this now, it doesn't seem to be quite comparable in magnitude – but I still think we were even, ethically (or rather, unethically). 

That was in the boom era, notorious in Australia, when the banks encouraged people to borrow big. The bank certainly gave Bill every encouragement in this purchase and saddled him with hefty interest rates. I know; I was there in Devonport, in the bank manager's office, to sign new papers when Bill wanted extra money to upgrade the caravan park. 

We were already in sole possession of our Three Bridges property by then. I was worried about what we were asked to sign, as this property too would revert to the bank should we default. I demurred, asked questions. I was no business-woman, but it seemed to be risky and weighted against us. The bank manager said he'd leave us to discuss it a little while, and stepped out of the room. Bill turned on me and hissed, 'You sign or this marriage is over!'

I have often said since, in hindsight, that if someone says that to you, the marriage is already over. (Even if you stay together. Just the fact of them being able to say that and mean it....) But I didn't understand this then. I was completely taken aback. I actually didn't believe he would follow through on such a threat, but it did tell me how much the deal meant to him. 

I still said, when the bank manager returned, 'I'm worried that if the worst comes to the worst, we could lose our home in Victoria.' The bank manger said to Bill, with a smile and a wink, 'Oh I don't think it'll come to that, will it, Bill? We'd work something out.' And so I swallowed my reservations and signed.

Bill began spending more time in Tasmania supervising the upgrade, doing a lot of the physical labour himself. He had a friend managing the day-to-day running of the caravan park for him, and all seemed to be going well. Then the boom collapsed, Prime Minister Paul Keating gave us 'the recession we had to have' and suddenly, overnight, banks which had been lending money lavishly started foreclosing. It was a terrible time in Australia. Many people went broke, including, eventually, us.

But before that happened, or was even thought of, came news that there was to be a paper pulp mill built near Devonport. That proposal was delayed and eventually defeated because of the outcry from the population about the huge degree of water pollution involved. Up until then, Bill had been an environmentalist like me and all our family and friends. But he got dollar signs in his eyes. 

'All those workers they'll be bringing in to build the mill will need accommodation,' he said. That was the reason for trying to upgrade the caravan park and going further into debt to do so. Had he left it running as it was, we might have made enough out of it to stay afloat; it was the extra expenditure – even before the pulp mill was approved! – that put us too far in the red.

I and everyone else he knew tried to argue him out of it, fervently and repeatedly, on both environmental and financial grounds. We could all see that he was stretching the finances too far, as well as betraying his own principles. He wouldn't listen. (God, he could be a stubborn man when he wanted to be.) 

He went and talked to the bigwigs who were there ahead of time to prepare the way for the mill. He got copies of the copious literature they put out to convince the Tasmanian Government and everybody else that the mill would actually be good for the environment as well as the economy. And he bought the specious arguments, and argued for them himself. He would never have done so before, but I believe he was blinded by the thought of making lots of money and becoming the wealthy man he'd always dreamed of being.

But the mill didn't go ahead; and, pretty much simultaneously, the country went into recession. Bill believed he could trade out of trouble. He kept doing projections, putting his case with lists of figures appended, and sending them to the bank. It was before everyone had computers. I, who am not mathematical, spent hours typing and retyping them on an electric typewriter, making sure all the columns lined up as they were supposed to and double-checking that the figures made sense. 

I now think the bank manager shoved them in a drawer and never even read them. It was a new bank manager by then, whom we'd never met, and I think he was under orders to give no quarter. 

Finally seeing the writing on the wall, Bill told Mum she stood to lose her house unless she would buy it from him. She complained, but did. Sure enough, the bailiff came calling, and she was able to show him proof that it was hers, not Bill's. But the caravan park was sealed off. Bill was able to get some things out, such as big gates he'd installed, and sell them, just before that happened. We had other creditors besides the bank, and they got paid. But the bank got the caravan park. (And later sold it for a good deal less than what they said Bill owed, to someone who appeared to be 'on the inside'. Perhaps we were unduly suspicious, but in any case had no time or money to take the matter further, and nothing practical to gain if we did.)

We were asked to go to a real estate agent in Lilydale, down the road a bit from Three Bridges, to complete in person some paperwork about the bank's claim on our home. Apparently there were some necessary signatures lacking. (Perhaps my reluctance to sign things that day in Devonport had proved enough of a distraction that something did get overlooked and I got my way after all!) 

While we were talking to the estate agents, I noticed an interesting detail on the paper in front of us. I don't remember, after so long, exactly what it was, but at the time I thought I'd spotted a loophole – that we didn't have to lose our house if we didn't sign it away here and now. 

I indicated it to Bill with one finger, as surreptitiously as possible, and saw that he realised too. We didn't let on. The people in front of us weren't on top of the details; they were just delivery boys really. Bill asked if we could have a copy of the document we were about to sign. There was no copier on the premises, but they said we could take it to the newsagent a couple of doors down. We picked up the document, left, and drove away with it. A lawyer confirmed we were not obliged to sign, so when the inevitable follow-up demand came, we pointed out we were not required to comply. One small victory. The other was to go bankrupt voluntarily before the bank forced us into it, which left us in a marginally better position. 

Well, saving our home was not so small a victory of course, but we were still overwhelmed by the trouble we were in. We realised we'd have to sell that home, and did. We were still living there, renting it from the new owners and acting as caretakers, when we decided we'd have to go bankrupt too, before the bank inevitably did it to us.

[About 10 years later, when all this was long behind me, an Australian movie was made, called The Bank, starring David Wenham and Anthony LaPaglia. In it, an individual wreaks a brilliantly clever revenge on a bank and bank manager who ruined his family in those disastrous times – when, as I said, many Australians went bankrupt and lost everything. Though the story was fictional, it filled me with savage glee.

Much more recently I received a request to donate $17 towards an ad to try and stop this same bank from funding a huge coal mine that would destroy the Great Barrier Reef. (They haven't changed; they've only got worse!) I sign a lot of petitions but I am on such a low income that I seldom contribute financially, even small amounts. This time I did. Destruction of the Reef cannot be allowed; I think fossil fuels should be phased out; and ... only too happy to help screw that particular bank!]

This saga, which I've collapsed into a few paragraphs, stretched over several years. Bill bought the caravan park, and started work on it, before we left Melbourne. (I remember how fit and muscular my son David became one year, working there as a labourer in his university vacation.) Things deteriorated bit by bit during the following years. 

Alongside these trials was the gradual breakdown of our marriage.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Crossing a Threshold Part 3

The Good Stuff

I’m a Scorpio, sign of death and regeneration. I sometimes say of myself that I’ve lived many lives in one.  My four years at Three Bridges might be seen to constitute one distinct life: so different from how I lived both before and afterwards.  At the time it seemed that by moving away from Melbourne to the Upper Yarra Valley I had indeed crossed a threshold into a new life there. Later it became apparent that the whole of my time there was an extended threshold between two much longer phases – including two marriages, two different kinds of working life, and two stages of my spiritual/magical journey.

What I left behind (albeit by choice) was: having my children under the same roof; the easy accessibility of many good friends; a home and neighbourhood I enjoyed; membership in poetry groups, including a publishing cooperative; opportunities to showcase my work at festivals and performances; positions as Poetry Writing teacher in Professional Writing courses at two different Colleges; an invitation to join a State Government Board responsible for funding poets and poetry, issuing grants and so forth, which carried prestige as well as responsibility; proximity to my beloved theatres, galleries and bookshops; and living by the ocean. What I entered into after leaving Three Bridges … will come later.

Meantime, we settled into life in that part of the country. Various friends from Melbourne came up from time to time to spend weekends with us, and we made new friends locally. 

When our firstborn, David, turned 21, he and all his friends came up for a big three-day-weekend party. We parents made ourselves scarce fairly early in the evening. There was plenty of sleeping room, some of it dormitory-style; and they enjoyed walks in the bush or picnicking in the garden during daylight hours.

The nearby towns were Yarra Junction, Warburton and (a little further) Healesville. I discovered a second-hand furniture shop in Yarra Junction, where I picked up treasures very cheaply to help furnish our new home, and was proud of myself for finding these bargains. I still have a wonderful basket we used for logs for our open fire. It hasn't served that purpose for a long time – no open fires anywhere I’ve lived since – but has had various other uses.  It’s still good 28 years later, and I think it’s handsome. (That's the base of an electric fan behind it – a very different climate here.)


We decided to start a writers’ group at home, as we had sometimes done in Melbourne, because it’s fun to play with others. I approached the Yarra Junction Neighbourhood Centre and met the warmly welcoming manager, Marie. She advertised the writers’ group, took enrolments, and we ran it as one of their outreach programs. A diverse group of lovely people turned up, men and women both, with a wide age range. With my old contacts, I was able to bring guest speakers to talk to them at times, about different aspects of writing. Everyone chipped in a small amount to cover the visitors' travelling costs, and we fed them. We ended up producing a book of our work, using a local printer.

The group ran its course and eventually disbanded. Marie asked if I'd like to start another. On impulse, I said that what I'd really like to do was run a meditation class. I didn't mean esoteric meditation, just the relaxation kind. I'd been thinking I should get back into some of that, and that it might help to have a group around me. Marie got very excited.

'Ooh, can you do that? I've been looking for someone!' And so I ran successive short, basic meditation classes.

I met a wonderful woman, an author called Dulcie Stone, who ran an innovative Adult Literacy class. We were kindred spirits! I trained with her as a teacher of Adult Literacy. But as it turned out, I never used that qualification professionally.

A poet friend from Melbourne was working as a tutor at Box Hill College of TAFE, a suburb on the side of Melbourne closest to the Upper Yarra Valley. They needed a Poetry Writing teacher in their Professional Writing course and he suggested me. I was surprised and pleased to get the call. It was work I loved, we could use the money, and the travelling was reasonable. I did that for some years, loved my students and fellow staff, and we even hosted some wonderful writers' weekends for them at our place. (Later someone pointed out that we could have charged money for that, but we never thought of it. We did it for the enjoyment.)

I met the editor of a local newspaper emanating from Healesville;  she asked if I would contribute occasional poems and articles, so I did. At one time we collaborated to run a poetry competition through the newspaper

Because of Reiki, I became fascinated by healing and energy, and while I lived there I had the opportunity to learn other forms, such as Touch for Health, which is the beginners' version of Kinesiology, from a local teacher, and Shiatsu in Melbourne from visiting American teacher Denise Linn. (They are good modalities, as are others I've studied since, but I always come back to Reiki for its ease, power and beauty.)

My friend Ann Adcock came for a visit. I had met her through Reiki, and she had recently become a Reiki Master. When she saw our big room, and the number of bedrooms, she got excited about the idea of holding Reiki seminars there, and as she spoke of the possibility, we got excited too. We went on to hold several weekend classes there, Level I and Level II, with both local students and some who came up from Melbourne.

Ann and I soon realised I would do Reiki Master training with her – but not just yet. I had to be a Reiki channel for five years before even being eligible to train. Because she knew of other healing and spiritual work I’d done, Ann waived the fifth year, but I still had to complete the fourth. I finally began training late in 1991.

Meanwhile, this was when my friend Jenette invited me to do her course, The Master Game. She promised it would be extremely confronting as well as transformational. It was! And perfectly timed for me, as it turned out – of which more later.

I was invited to do a course in intuitive drawing, taught by an artist called Valerie Anderson. We worked with chalk pastels, and I loved it. Bill made me an easel, and I set it up on our long veranda. Also I spontaneously followed my teacher's example, with her approval, doing aura drawings for people (aka energy portraits). I used coloured pencils, tuned in, and got a knowing about what colours to select and what they should do on the paper. I don't actually see auras; it was all channelled. I would simultaneously get a type of spiritual reading for the person, different colours signifying different things. (Later on – post-Three Bridges – this became a professional skill.)

In June 1991 Bill and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with an 'at home'. People could come any time afternoon or evening and stay whatever length of time suited them. Lots of friends travelled from Melbourne – we had plenty of parking space – most of them arriving mid-afternoon and staying late into the night. It was a great party!

The Committee responsible for the annual Warburton Bookfest asked me for input. I became one of the organisers several years running. (Three? Four? I’m not sure now.) Naturally I brought poetry into the mix – and again I sometimes brought big names up from Melbourne to participate, as well as getting local poets involved.

In Melbourne I’d had my own independent publishing business, Abalone Press (because Bill, an abalone diver, was funding it) which published contemporary Australian poets. It was pretty well defunct by the time we moved to Three Bridges. But while I was there, I wrote a poem I was pleased with called 'The Small Poem in Autumn' and showed it to my friend Jenette, who said, ‘You could write a book called "Small Poems of April".  So I did: a new small poem most days, and sometimes more than one a day. Abalone Press had never published any of my work – I thought that wouldn't be quite ethical – but I decided I could wind the business up, 10 years after it began, with a book of my own. So Small Poems of April was launched at the last Warburton Bookfest I was involved with.

Warburton had a lot of nostalgia for me. The Bookfest was held in what had once been the cinema – which my (paternal) Uncle Don had run decades before. I had memories of attending that cinema during my teenage visits to Grandma, who lived with Uncle Don and his family in a granny flat. The old Mechanics Institute Library was still there. My Grandma ran it when I was a teenager. I used to go and help her when I was visiting, and that was no doubt a factor in my becoming a librarian after I left University. And there had been Aunty Amy, my spinster great-aunt, Grandma’s older sister, with her beautiful home and all her old family stories. My late grandfather, whom I never met, had been one of the founders of Warburton; he and his brother had the pub. But that was long before.

Now Grandma and Aunty Amy were dead. Uncle Don, once a builder (his day job), had long been in care elsewhere, after becoming a paraplegic when he fell off a roof. My cousins were grown up and married, and only one still lived in the area. I knew Aunty Margo (Don’s wife) was somewhere around. She finally caught up with me at one of the Bookfests, and that was nice; but although it was  a friendly encounter, we didn’t have any great stake in socialising with each other.

My Dad, my connection to the place – though he spent his adult life far from there, first in Tasmania and then Mildura – died in 1988. 

In 1991, the year before I left Three Bridges (though I didn't yet know I would) I saw in the paper that Don Robinson had died, and his funeral would be at one of the Warburton churches. I put on a smart black suit and attended. As I walked towards the church, an elderly woman learned out of a car window to ask me, ‘Where’s Don’s funeral?’ and I directed her. I thought she must be my Aunty Margaret, sister to my Dad and my Uncle Don, whom I hadn’t seen since I was 15.    

Don’s eldest, my cousin Bernard, whom I also hadn’t seen for many years, spoke. Afterwards I went up and said hello to him and his wife and congratulated him on an excellent speech. ‘Your father would have been proud,’ I said, truthfully. But then I left without greeting anyone else. I had grown up in Tasmania, didn't really know the extended family in Victoria, and I was embarrassed that Bill hadn't come with me. He’d refused.

I’ve made it all sound wonderful, haven’t I, up until that point? And I’ve told the truth. I look back in amazement at how much I accomplished during those four years. But there was another side to the story, running parallel.


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Crossing a Threshold Part 2

Occupying the Space

(Apologies – some people who have read earlier attempts at this memoir may find me repeating familiar information at times.)


Why were we there?

We were still attending the Andronicus Foundation meditation group. It was a longer drive from Three Bridges in the Upper Yarra Valley than it had been from the Melbourne suburb of Beaumaris, but quite do-able. 

Then Ian, who started the Foundation, organised a residential long weekend for members from any of the meditation groups to get together for an in-depth sharing of our experiences and exploration of the phenomena. And it was to be in the Upper Yarra Valley, at another little hamlet just down the road from us. He hired a  comfortable venue with several bedrooms and a couple of meeting rooms, as well as kitchen, dining and bathroom facilities. 

Bill and I didn't sleep there, being so close to home, but attended daily. I suppose that meant we missed out on some of the after-hours fellowship, but on the other hand it meant Ian could offer a couple of extra places as we weren’t using the sleeping quarters. It also meant we didn’t particularly notice one attendee called Andrew, whom we were not acquainted with. Nor did he particularly notice us. Four and a half years later he was my partner, and a year after that my husband! 

The sessions were arranged so that the assembled company broke into smaller groups for the exercises and discussions. Andrew was in a different one from us. I didn't even remember his name or face afterwards. I expect it was wise of the Universe to ensure that we had no closer interaction ahead of time; no doubt there was a reason. We worked it out later that we'd been at that same event, at which point I vaguely placed him in memory but he still didn't recall me at all.

I did remember a story he told, though, of a very strange craft crashing in the playing field behind his school when he was a little boy, after which men in suits arrived and sternly told the kids they must say nothing to anyone – albeit giving them some explanation which would have been believable to people who hadn't seen the event. In hindsight he was sure it was a spaceship.

Various people attending had had personal ‘encounters of the third kind’. Others had done a considerable amount of research into the subject. Both kinds of information were shared and discussed. We also looked at more ‘spiritual’ or ‘psychic’ experiences. One woman present was a channel who could see into the deep reasons behind things. During a lunch break I asked her how come we had been placed at the property in Three Bridges by such a strange set of circumstances. I was wondering also how we could survive now that we had the whole financial responsibility. She closed her eyes and held my hand (a familiar method to me by now!).  

‘Do you have some special flowers growing by your gate?’ she asked, attempting to hone in on the property, which she had never seen. I told her that, yes, it had Bella Donna lilies (aka Naked Ladies) growing by the gate. When we first saw the place, I had taken them for a good sign, as they grew at my favourite childhood home and again at Bill’s and my place in Beaumaris, and I’d always loved them. [Picture from public domain.]




She told me that we were meant to be there. She said, ‘They have given it to you as an oasis of peace for your development.’ (We were familiar with ‘They’, whom Jenette referred to as ‘The Guys Upstairs’ even though some were female. We had all experienced the presence of multiple benevolent guides.)

‘That must be for Bill’s development in particular,’ I said. At that time Bill was the psychic and the healer, and fairly new to both, having received the gifts quite suddenly after particular life experiences. I was just a former librarian who wrote poetry.

‘No,’ she said.’for YOUR development.’ She added that I would be there as long as I needed to be. I was surprised, but she didn't offer more information, just said, ‘It will all unfold.’ I have learned since that things do. On another occasion, in our own meditation group, I enquired why I was seldom given much detail about my future. The reply, via the channel, was, ‘Because you like surprises.’ True, I do. I much prefer not to know everything beforehand. I certainly had plenty of surprises in our time at Three Bridges.

With that reader’s words in mind, I made sure to get outside a lot, and to meditate daily – both of which were very easy there.  Bill palled up with our next-door neighbours, a large Italian family, and tried to learn from them how to manage our property. There wasn't a lot we needed to do, as we didn't have cows like the neighbours. He just liked to be busy and have projects. He got Council permission to slightly divert the stream. I can’t think why now, and possibly didn't understand then either. It somewhat spoilt the beauty of it, and involved removing some bushes which had acted as a natural filter keeping the water pollution-free. But anyway, he did that sort of thing, enjoying the ride-on tractor that came with the place, and also found building and handyman jobs in the locality, while I wrote, meditated, and minded the house.

Our two cats thrived. They would come for long, frolicsome walks with us up the bush track. I used say that Sam got his balls back! Despite being neutered, he started acting like a big alpha male, leaving his droppings on top of tree stumps or flat stones instead of burying them – a sign, in the wild: ’Dominant male here. My territory.’ Sometimes we would look up to see both cats peering down at us, side by side, from the roof of the house. At night they would be on our laps purring in front of the TV – and the log fire in winter.  

We had no TV reception, being in a deep, enclosed valley, but we could hire and watch movies on video instead. We were among the few who didn't see newscasts of Tiananmen Square at that time – which may have been a blessing. We got to know spiritualists Doug and Rita Osborne, who lived in the hills closer to Melbourne, not too far away. They had been guided to their home and were advised from Upstairs not to have TV because it would interfere with their energy. They heeded the advice, and had remarkable gifts. So I guess that the lack of reception at our home was necessary for that spiritual development I was promised there.

Flint

Then my dog arrived. As I walked down the path to fetch the paper of a morning, I began ‘seeing’ in my head a dog accompanying me – a big, brown dog with a long nose and floppy ears. I felt I could reach out to where he (I knew he was male) trotted beside me, and give him a pat – which meant the top of his back was as high as my thigh. Sometimes I saw him dart into the bush beside the path and nose around as if chasing a lizard or rabbit or something. I had never wanted a dog for myself, only cats, though as a family we had had several dogs, but now I got interested. I mentioned the experience to a few people, and I’m glad I did or they would never have believed me when he manifested. I tried a manifestation spell and included a date by when this was to happen.

A musician friend was hired to present a special course at a school for a few weeks, and was  required to live in a cottage on the grounds so as to be available for more informal contact with students too, after hours.  Her young daughter was welcome, but the school could not accommodate her dogs. She had a black Labrador-Collie cross, a female, and that one’s son, who looked mostly Golden Lab. She asked if they could come to us for a few weeks; she would supply their food. Of course they could! This happened by the due date for my dog manifestation, and no other dog turned up in that time, so I wondered if maybe the boy, Beau, was the one I had been seeing. He didn't quite fit the description, but came close. 

Mother and daughter popped in to see their dogs at our place now and  then, but missed them greatly. So one weekend, when the school was empty except for them, Bill and I went over for dinner on the Friday evening and left the dogs there to be returned to our place late Sunday.  We woke Saturday morning to the sound of a bark in our yard. But hang on, the dogs were away. We looked out and saw a dog resting his head on the top rung of the metal gate to the back paddocks – standing on his hind legs to do so, we assumed. We thought he must belong to some nearby farmer, and if we ignored him he’d run back the way he’d come. 

Then he barked again, so Bill jumped up and opened the gate to let him through that way. It was just near the French windows to our bedroom, so Bill dived back into bed, and we saw the dog run past. Oh, much bigger than we’d thought. He would not have had to stand on his hind legs to rest his head on the top of the gate! Our front gate was open, so we expected him to run straight through our front yard and out.

We lay in bed then, idly musing on what kind of dog we’d like if we were to get another. We liked big dogs, but couldn’t decide what breed. Eventually we settled on German Shepherd. It didn't feel quite right, but we’d had two of them before, they were lovely dogs, and we couldn’t come up with anything else …and after all, we were just fantasising.

I got up to make us a cuppa to bring back to bed. Outside our glass front door, on the mat, lay the strange dog. I opened the door to shoo him on his way. He stood up, half eager, half tentative, and I took a good look at him. He was dirty and skinny. 

‘You’ve been on your own a while, haven’t you?’ I said. Well, I had dog food in the house, so I invited him in. He came hesitantly. I had to coax him. I wondered how many places he’d been chased away from before he found us. Or perhaps he’d been owned by people who thought dogs that size belonged outside.

Then, as he came in, I took another look and said, ‘Oh. You’ve arrived.’ Yes, he was the dog I’d been seeing. I gave him food and water and brushed some of the dirt out of his coat. He was very hungry and thirsty! Then he lay down happily by the hearth. I finally took Bill his cuppa, at the other end of the long house, and explained. ‘Congratulations!’ he said. ‘You’ve got yourself a dog.’

‘What will we call him?’ I wondered. From somewhere Bill hit on the name Flint, and I liked it too. ‘But first I’d better ring the police and the vet and see if anyone’s reported him missing,’ I said – hoping desperately that no-one would have done so. And they hadn’t. ’How long should I wait before I decide he’s mine?’ I asked the policeman. He said about two weeks, and  that I should advertise him as found. I put a notice in the local paper and displayed flyers at the vet’s and in shops. To my great happiness, no-one claimed him. I didn’t expect anyone would. I had already asked The Guys Upstairs if he was mine to keep and been told yes. But I did the right things for form’s sake, and so no-one could ever say I hadn't tried hard enough.

We had someone else’s dogs coming back the next night, and two cats in residence. I booked him into the vet that first morning to get checked for any diseases (not that I saw signs of any), to be vaccinated, and – with a leap of faith that he really was mine – to be neutered. Well, it wasn't such a huge leap, after the way I had ‘seen’ him, morning after morning, accompanying me to the letter-box, and after the reassurance from Upstairs. It had got to be how I lived then: in this world and the other-dimensional simultaneously, knowing both to be real and natural.

There were seldom-used leashes for the other dogs hanging in the cupboard. I borrowed one, and Flint drove with me happily on the back seat of my car to the vet, and sat politely in the waiting-room. I was to leave him there and come back three hours later, after his operation. Everything was fine until his name was called. I passed his leash to the receptionist, and she started to take him through the door. Suddenly there was a commotion, as he tugged against her and scrabbled frantically to get back to me. I turned round, put a soothing hand on his head and said, ‘It’s all right. You go with the nice lady and I’ll be back to get you later.’ He calmed instantly and went without any more fuss. At this point he’d known me less than half a day, and already had such trust. He was mine all right! 

The vet put his breed as Curly Retriever X. He said he couldn't tell what breed the ‘cross’ was. Flint was very much bigger than anything we see in Australia with the name Curly Retriever.  We used to say he must have been crossed with a Great Dane. A couple of years later a friend found pictures in a dog book of pure-bred Curly Retrievers in Ireland, the same size as Flint. He was beautiful, anyway, with a smooth face, curly hair on ears and body, long sweeping tail, barrel chest for swimming, and more delicate hind legs. They are bred to accompany duck shooters, and have soft mouths to retrieve birds from the water without damaging the feathers. But to us he was a dear companion, not a working dog.

When our musician friend brought her dogs back, they were outraged. They clearly thought we had moved them out in order to move Flint in. But he was gracious and deferential, putting himself at the bottom of the pecking order, so they tolerated him. He and Beau became pals. I’d had to train Beau and his mother not to chase our cats, but never needed to do that with Flint. He loved them and they him from the start. 

In a few weeks our friend’s time at the school ended, she retrieved her dogs, and then Flint came into his own. He was the most good-natured animal I ever met, as well as highly intelligent, obedient, and protective on the rare occasions that was called for. He had a deep, baying bark which could sound terrifying to people who didn't know him. Mostly he was the gentlest of giants. I don't have a photo of him, but this (from the public domain) is very like, except that his expression was even sweeter. 



Clairvoyance

It was a time in our meditation group when we were given various kinds of homework by The Guys Upstairs, and had astonishing experiences as a result. We became highly clairvoyant, though it was not permanent. I suppose we were being shown beyond doubt how much there is outside the limitations of the physical, but did not need to retain it all for daily use. 

I remember one time looking at a tree in our front yard and seeing – with my physical eyes – the foliage suddenly full of faces of Aboriginal men, women and children. Then in the blink of an eye (except I didn't blink) they changed to a group of different Aboriginal faces, before eventually disappearing. I spoke of it to a friend later and she said, ‘Oh yes, when you unfocus your eyes you can see all sorts of things.’ I have experienced this, but it was not what happened looking at that tree. I wasn't doing anything with my eyes except look, in a perfectly ordinary way. Another time I was in a building with group photos (stills) on one wall, and as I looked, the people in the groups started moving and interacting. (No, I wasn't on anything, I promise!)

Jennette suggested Bill and I might start a new Andronicus Foundation meditation group in our area (while continuing to attend the one at her place). We liked the idea, and put an ad in the Foundation’s newsletter. One young woman phoned up immediately to enquire, and so began my long association with Denise.

Reiki

We saw an ad for Reiki classes by Beth Grey, a visiting Reiki Master from America. I had experienced Reiki, from a massage therapist I sometimes had treatments from in Melbourne. We’d met at a personal development course. She said to me, ‘You look a little stressed; I may be able to help,’ and gave me her card. She was way across town, so I only went when I felt particularly stressed, often leaving many weeks between appointments. One time she said, “I’ve learnt this new thing called Reiki. It’s a more gentle laying on of hands. May I try it on you?’ I said yes, and blissed out, unaware of what she did exactly except that it felt good. Some months later, she said, ‘I’ve learned the advanced technique, Reiki II. May I try that on you?’ I said yes once more; blissed out once more. I didn't realise until much later that after that treatment I never felt stressed enough to see her again. (Reiki practitioners tend to lose their clients quickly, like that!) And eventually I moved out of Melbourne to Three Bridges.

So I viewed Reiki as a kind of superior massage technique. When I saw the ad, I had a huge hit to do the course. I persuaded Bill he should do it too. I saw him getting tired and drained if he healed too many people in too short a time. ‘Who heals the healer?’ I thought, and decided this technique would enable me to do that for him. I thought I would be using it only on him. Also he had buggered my shoulder by trying to do massage on it, and Jenette (a trained masseuse) had to come and put it right. I thought he needed some technique to put to his gift. (He wasn't charging anyone money, but even so.)

The time and money for us to do the course became available with the greatest of ease. It was as if the Universe miraculously smoothed the way. And of course it turned out not to be another kind of massage – not massage at all – but energy healing. There was learning involved – hand positions, the history of Reiki, and so on – but the ability was imparted from Master to student by a series of attunements, and then was ours for life. 

Because it is Universal energy, Divine energy (aka Unconditional Love) it does not deplete the practitioner but tops them up on the way through to the client – so Bill never again got drained when doing healings. Also, it is perfectly possible, and highly recommended, to use it on oneself. We loved it and did Reiki II, the technique for healing ’in absence’ (or at a distance) when Beth returned six months later. That qualified us to become professional practitioners if we wished. Funnily enough, it was I, not Bill, who did so. 

I started by giving visitors free Reiki treatments so as to practise what I’d learned. I found it easy and enjoyable. We bought a Reiki table and set up one of the bedrooms as a healing room. 

Tarot

A very psychic friend from Melbourne, Maatje, came to stay a few days and, as a favour, gave me a reading with her Thoth deck (the same Tarot that Ridge used to use – when he wasn't just holding my hand and closing his eyes). She went into a sort of trance while reading. She  told me I would become a very powerful psychic myself. ‘You will see far into the future,’ she said. (She was also, on the same occasion, the first person to predict my move to Northern Rivers NSW with Andrew, but like others assumed the man was Bill.)

I was already doing Tarot readings for friends with the Rider Waite deck. I didn't need to be psychic. I just read the cards according to what I had learned. They always turned out accurate.

In Melbourne two different friends had read for Bill and me with the Rider Waite deck. It wasn't from any urgent need. They were readers, and we were curious. In both cases we were impressed.  One day at the local shops, I wandered into the bookshop and found myself led to a particular shelf, where a set of Rider Waite Major Arcana cards (the ‘destiny’ part of a Tarot deck, which can be used alone) fell off the shelf to land at my feet. Yes, I picked it up and bought it. I can take a hint! Someone told me,  ‘Your first Tarot deck is supposed to be given to you.’ Well, I figured the Universe gave it to me!

A range of one-word meanings was written across the bottom of every card. So I started playing with them, and later got a book with the interpretations. Later still – after Ridge died – I got the full Rider Waite deck. I used to read for people, ‘just for fun’, with the book beside me to look up what the cards meant.  

Ridge loved his Thoth deck, and I had thought to buy one like that, but when I went looking for one, it seemed to me that its energy was cold and sinister. The man in the shop said, ‘It doesn’t suit everyone,’ and found me the classic Rider Waite, but with an unusual back picturing pink roses, very soft and non-threatening.  Then, a few years later, when I saw Maatje’s Thoth deck, the energy seemed very different, full of love after all. Perhaps I had grown into it! Or perhaps the Reiki energy transformed any negativity for me. So then I got one, loved it, and used it happily for many years (still do occasionally).

Setting up in business

It was probably early 1989 that I got a strong ‘message from Upstairs’ to advertise Reiki treatments and Tarot readings.  I put a tiny little six-line ad in the local paper – and the phone started ringing. Some people wanted Reiki, some a reading, some both. They were mostly women, and with most of those who booked in as a result of that first ad, I felt impelled to say, ‘I’m starting a meditation group for – um – psychic development, and I think it could be something for you.’ They all accepted with alacrity.

New meditation groups

I invited Jenette’s daughter Kerry to come to an early meeting of our new group, to act as the channel. And that was the beginning of her long friendship with Denise. 

Denise herself was able to act as a channel, and by then both Bill and I had tentatively begun to do that too. We went in a somewhat different direction from the other Andronicus groups, as people asked to explore various ways  of being psychic, such as holding some item like a ring that one of the others had worn, and sharing what impressions they got (which is known as psychometry). We all turned out to be very accurate with pieces of information we couldn’t possibly have known by any normal means.

That group met of an evening. I started another, daytime group, and that too filled up quickly. We had some dramatic experiences, such as, on one occasion, a headache that leapt around the room from person to person. One person complained of it, then shortly afterwards said that it had suddenly gone, then another said, 'I've got a headache now,' and so on.

Other things that happened were pleasanter. Both groups rapidly developed their psychic abilities, learned about other dimensions, and found their health and their lives benefiting from regular meditation. The morning group didn't last long, however. I think such phenomena as jumping headaches proved a bit too confronting! A number of people didn't return after that day.

I myself was exhausted after that session, from trying to deal with the energy and look after group members too. Denise, who came to both groups, and had become a close friend, suggested I should lie down for a while, and helped Bill tuck me up before she left. I fell into a deep sleep. When I woke a couple of hours later, it was to see that the bedroom curtains had kindly been drawn to help me rest. I thanked Bill, but he said he hadn't done it. I thought it must have been Denise, but when I got a chance to thank her, she denied it too. Neither of them had any reason to lie, and seemed truly mystified. And I knew it hadn't been me! Next time that we went to a meeting of our original Andronicus group, I mentioned it. A kindly voice spoke through the channel: 'Yes, we are still looking after you.'

Spirit Visions

I saw some things which had a different flavour from the other clairvoyant experiences. I knew almost nothing about Druidry, yet one day when I was walking in the bush and 'saw' (not physically) a strange male face that gazed down through the trees, I got an inner conviction that this was a deity of the Druids. I got the name Tyr, which actually belongs to a Norse god, but I later discovered he has a Druidic counterpart. (Years later I joined the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, but they did not focus on particular deities so much as the creative force, or Awen.)

Another, unforgettable time, I looked out our bedroom window across to the back gate and the bush beyond. (The master bedroom was the width of the house; this window was the opposite side from the one through which we'd seen Flint arrive.) Standing just outside the gate, under a big tree, was a woman. She looked across at me, holding my gaze with hers. It was a long, serious look we exchanged. What did it convey? I search for words, and the one I come up with is 'recognition'.  Another would be 'acknowledgment'. Some deep knowing and communication passed between us, at a level beyond consciousness, though we were conscious it was happening.

I expect she was fully conscious of it all. I don't know who she was, except that she had no age. Neither young nor old, she was timeless. She was dressed very plain, some kind of long grey or brown smock or tunic, perhaps – I hardly noticed, I was so riveted on her face. Her hair, too, was a nondescript colour, loose but tidy and maybe shoulder-length. I saw her physically, but I knew she was not human and would not be visible to anyone she did not choose should see her. 

I knew she was a nature spirit, but nothing like a fairy, nor yet a being such as the Sidhe. I felt she was connected to the tree, or perhaps all the trees. I would have been willing to believe she was Earth Mother herself – only it wasn't fertility that was displayed, so much as wisdom. I felt understood and approved.

At last we broke our gaze by mutual consent – knowing that consent at the same moment, without word or gesture. Quietly, undramatically, she vanished.

Why did I receive such visions? Confirmation, perhaps, that I was indeed in the right place at the right time, and that Nature gave me permission. Permission for what? To be there, I suppose, and to do whatever I was given to do there.

I expected to stay there for the rest of my life. I imagined myself as a slightly eccentric old lady, years hence, still walking through the bush with my staff and my dog. But no, the Universe had other plans. However, that would be a few years down the track. We still had things to do and experience in that oasis of peace.