(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 76, as I begin this blog, and it is only a preparation – things I write on the way to writing the memoir.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Crossing a Threshold, Part 1

Arriving

It was late 1987. I was still married to Bill, living in Melbourne with our sons. David had nearly completed his first year at Monash University, Steve was due to begin at Melbourne University in 1988. 

Bill knew he'd about reached retirement age for an abalone diver. His experience of being 'bent' had shocked him. Without Ridge's urging that he phone a specialist who was an expert in the condition, he would probably have been crippled and might well have died. As it was, he had to spend days in a decompression chamber, closely supervised, gradually getting his body back to normal. He was 51. He could still dive, but started to think he should get out while the going was good. 

It would make a big difference in our lives. He had encouraged me to give up my library career years ago, to concentrate on poetry. (Not that I needed much encouragement.) Without the diving income, he tried to tell me, we could no longer afford our big, sprawling house with the swimming pool, in a posh, tree-lined, bayside suburb. It was a great house, scene of famous parties combining poets, ab divers, and musician friends from when Bill owned a coffee lounge before we met (the first in Melbourne to invite musos to play, though others soon followed). Our kids had grown up in that house. Several beloved pets had lived and died there.

Bill wanted to get a much smaller place in a less prestigious locality (therefore cheaper to buy). I remembered the fortune-teller I consulted soon after we bought our house (not realising then that I myself was psychic). She read tea-leaves, and was famous. Everyone was traipsing to her door, and friends persuaded me to join them.

'Never sell that house!' she had said, long before we had any thought of selling. 'You will never again get that house for that price.' She was right about that – and about a number of other things – but Bill insisted that we must, for the financial reasons. I couldn't make a convincing case otherwise. It soon sold to a young couple. We needed to find somewhere new before they were due to take possession.

At this point our friend Gabriella (not her real name) and her new boyfriend came to see us. They had not long before become interested in a channelled being known as Ramtha. Bill and I never got to any of his public events, but saw a DVD, got some of his books, and were very taken with his teachings ourselves. Gabriella and Tom told us excitedly that Ramtha was now advising people to move out of the cities, grow their own food, preserve and store food supplies, etc. etc., in preparation for earth changes to come. 

So they had been looking for a property in the nearby hills, which was where Ramtha seemed to be suggesting, and had found one which sounded perfect – only it was more than they could afford on their own. But it was a big place, with space enough for all of us, including her two young sons, if we would go in with them. Not what Bill's thrifty down-sizing ideas had been running to exactly, but he got caught up in the excitement and so did I. It sounded much more our kind of thing than a small house in some run-of-the-mill suburb. We arranged to go and have a look. 

It was wonderful. We fell in love with it at once. 14 acres, seven of which were uncleared bush running up behind the house in a gentle slope, with a dirt path dividing our bush from more on government land. Beautiful gardens around the house. Some cleared paddocks beyond a stream. Views of hills and mountains opposite. 

The long, ranch-style house was spacious indeed, with the huge lounge-room that we later used for Reiki seminars, another big living area adjacent to the kitchen, and – as well as four bedrooms and a decent bathroom along a central  passage – at the other end from the huge lounge, an enormous  master bedroom with ensuite. 

Gaby and Tom told us we should have the master bedroom, and also the huge lounge, suggesting we could walk around the outside of the house to get from one to the other, rather than go through 'their' area. (Later, in practice, that proved inconvenient and silly, and we all used the passage.) The smallest bedroom, next to the master bedroom, could be my study.

As someone said afterwards, our sons didn't leave home, home left them. We were moving too far for them to commute to their universities, so they found share houses with other students. The only animals we had left were our two young cats, Sam and Ishtar, who came to the new home with us.

On the same day that we saw the property and immediately decided to buy, the men repaired to the local bank with the owner and got bridging finance. They arranged between them that Bill and I would pay the first instalment off the loan, Gaby and Tom the next, and so on, turn and turn about.

We only found out after we moved in that Tom had lost his job. He was sure he'd find another without trouble, but it didn't happen. Gaby wasn't in a 9-5 job either, but starting a business as a beauty consultant, working out what clothing colours best suited her clients. However, they both seemed very certain that the finances would be no problem. More fool us! 

(Much later a neighbour remarked that when he asked them what they did, they replied, 'Oh, we are very creative people!' without any further particulars. They could cook nice meals, I'll give them that, but I never saw either of them create anything else.)

And then we struck the usual snags of sharing space with other people, as well as some unusual ones.

The kitchen was the first point of contention. At first we thought to share all our stuff, plates in this cupboard, saucepans in that, and so on. I liked things stacked neatly for easy retrieval. The other family was used to shoving things in any-old-where, and scrabbling through the higgledy-piggledy piles to find what they were looking for. It freaked me out. My neatness freaked them out. We ended up assigning separate spaces for 'ours' and 'theirs'.

'If we'd known you were FUSSY...!' Gaby exclaimed, putting me sweetly in the wrong. I refrained from rising to the bait.

We had different tastes in art, too. Gaby put up pictures and ornaments which we privately considered the height of kitsch, though we didn't say so. She, however, did keep remarking on our differences in taste, in ways that insinuated she had all the knowledge and class whereas we were uncouth. 'Oh, you LIKE that?' she would say, staring at one of our pictures or ornaments, sour-faced. (We kept our decorations to our own quarters but they weren't so separate that we could avoid seeing each other's.) 

It became apparent that she was a drama queen, always wanting all attention on herself. Life around Gaby was not peaceful! She resented the fact that we didn't want to buy into the dramas. We refused to take sides in their many stormy arguments. She wanted to have long talks to me complaining about Tom; Tom wanted to do the same about her, with Bill; we kept shutting off those conversations. 

One night we woke to hear cries and loud thumping coming from their bedroom. I started up. Bill grabbed my arm firmly. 'Stay here!' 

'But he's hurting her!' 

'Sounds like she's giving as good as she gets. Don't you dare go in there. You'll be the one who gets hurt.' 

Eventually everything went quiet. I lay awake, feeling fearful for her, and guilty about not having rushed to the rescue. 

They didn't emerge first thing in the morning. When they finally did, Tom apologised sheepishly for 'the disturbance'.  I was horrified to see that Gaby had a split lip. But they assured me he was the one who needed to be taken to hospital right away. She ushered him tenderly to her car and drove him there. I wonder how they explained the injuries! It turned out he had a dislocated arm and a broken rib.

Relations deteriorated. Things got edgy behind a surface politeness. I felt I had to be on my guard all the time, in my own home. Yet Gaby kept up the fiction that she and I were affectionate girlfriends.

Even when she was being snide, she was also flirtatious, not only towards Bill but me. I don't think it was seriously seductive, so much as a compulsion to get everyone on her side.

One little incident was quite funny. She was in our room discussing something, probably trying to wheedle some favour, Bill dug his heels in, and it deteriorated into an argument. She said something to which Bill rudely replied, 'Up your bum.' She, wearing only a dressing-gown, immediately turned around and flashed her bum at him. A very pretty one, I couldn't help noticing, but Bill, keeping his cool with some effort, said, 'I've seen better.'

She was outraged, and came cuddling up to me, all little-girlish and pouting. 'You have not! Has he, Rosemary?'

'Well,' I said, extricating myself from her clingy embrace, ' you can't expect me to agree to that. The one he sees most often is mine.' She flounced out, somewhat abashed, having suddenly realised that she had just exposed herself to him in the presence of his wife. For a moment there she had me so firmly cast in the girlfriend role, she rather forgot herself.

Money was tight, as Bill had stopped diving and was getting work as a builder's labourer and handyman wherever he could. We couldn't eat into capital we needed to finance our home. 

Our son Steve had a birthday coming up. I asked him what he'd like to do to celebrate. Perhaps thinking of our pockets, he assured us he didn't want anything fancy. He just wanted to come up and have a quiet dinner and chat with me and his Dad, and stay the weekend. We told 'the others', as we had taken to calling them, what would be happening. It would be very low-key, I explained, and asked what time would suit for us to have the kitchen. No problem, they said – they'd be buying dinner out that night, anyway.

We were sitting at the kitchen bench over our meal, chatting quietly and happily, the three of us, when Gaby and family breezed in with a couple of their closest friends, laden with fancy food and wine, and gathered around the nearby coffee table. 

'It's George's birthday!' she called to us gaily, and they proceeded to celebrate with ostentatious merriment, making a big fuss of their pal George (who was probably unaware he wasn't the only birthday boy present), toasting him, exclaiming over the goodies they were eating, and generally upstaging our modest get-together with Steve. It was very pointed. Gaby was clearly the script-writer and main actor in this drama (as she was in most). Steve said afterwards that he didn't mind, but she succeeded in making me feel that we were treating him shabbily. 

When my friend and mentor Jenette visited one day, she told me afterwards that she was worried about me. 

'She keeps firing verbal arrows at you. It's quite sneaky. You need to bring it out into the open – like, next time you could clap a hand to your chest and say, "Ouch! You got me." '

I did that once or twice, which Gaby found disconcerting. She didn't know how to reply, and got all flustered. More often, I started challenging some of her remarks and standing up for myself, rather than hoping politeness would prevail. She would make excuses, but did back down – in a roundabout sort of way.

One day I decided to play her at her own game. She had a way of saying things with apparent innocence, but with a cutting edge. It was indeed as sneaky as Jenette said. She would be subtly wrong-footing me all the time, but with a veneer of friendliness and even helpfulness. I decided to become her for a day.

I can do that sometimes, but I couldn't tell you exactly how. It's deeper than play-acting. It's the same kind of thing that made me a good High School debater, and later on a good performance poet. I get into a zone.

Gaby was totally flummoxed, getting more and more uneasy and agitated as the day wore on. I look back now and see that it made her lose control; I had wrested it from her, and that was seriously disturbing to her. 

It was kinda fun for a day – a small, sweet revenge. It was also exhausting to sustain. I realised I had no wish to do it any longer than that one day. It would be awful to live like that! She was actually never real, never authentic, always calculating, always adopting a persona. 

Then came the day when Bill said to Tom, 'Our quarterly roll-over of funds is coming due, and it's your turn to make the payment.'  

'You know we've had a bit of a delay with our work situations,' said Gabriella. 'Could you carry us, just for this time?' It turned out that they had imagined Bill and me to be far more wealthy than we were. When he outlined to them the true state of affairs, Tom went a bit pale and said, 'We'll have to leave.'

They organised that quite quickly. As they packed up their stuff, she begged for various items that came with the house, for example some curtains I thoroughly disliked. I told her she was welcome to them. 

'Because you don't have my taste!' she cried, with the usual superior toss of her head.

'No,' I said, 'I don't.' My tone was ever-so-slightly dry, but my face was straight. She looked at me suspiciously, before deciding – I could see the wheels turning – that I couldn't have meant it the way it almost sounded. 

She kept asking for things, things that came with the house – the house which she had not paid anything for. In effect they'd had three months of free accommodation at our expense. She would have half-stripped the place, but we calmly said we needed most of the items – which we did. As they bundled themselves out of the door for the last time, she cast an eye at a stained-glass lampshade, one thing we all agreed was beautiful, and opened her mouth. I gave her an 'I dare you' look, and she shut it again. 

And off they went, adults, kids and luggage, practically overflowing his smallish car. It was only mid-morning. I waved goodbye, feeling a little sentimental after all. I told myself that although it hadn't worked out, it had been a noble endeavour, entered into with honourable intentions.

I walked out our front gate – truly ours now – and down the dirt path to the letter-box at the roadside, to fetch the morning paper. I had it open as I walked back, glancing at the headlines, only looking up as I made the little turn into our gate. And I was nearly knocked over.

The whole place was shining – every leaf, every grass-blade: radiant, glowing, golden. The trees were positively beaming at me, absolutely sentient and intentional. It was the concentrated energy that took my breath away, so that I felt I might be knocked over by the sheer force of it. But it was far from aggressive. The place was rejoicing! 

I not so much heard as felt – as something addressed to me by the place and all the natural components of it, individually and collectively – 'NOW we begin!'


3 comments:

  1. I loved this fascinating read, especially the trees and leaves and yard all rejoicing at the departure of such jangly Energy!

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  2. What a great story. Can't wait to read the next part. How wonderful that you could see the house rejoicing, knowing something negative had just left.

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