My home is across the road from a lagoon, it’s an old house with million-dollar views of the water and bush. It has a rusty tin roof, it there’s a large hole in the ceiling and it rains in my kitchen. I even have vines growing through my bedroom wall, and I kind of like that, but what I don’t like unwanted house guests. They always arrive with the first autumn cold snap. That’s when they move across the road seeking the warmth of a family home, my family home.
Unwanted House Guest
I knew I had a rat in the house, I read it in the runes-his little black dropping on the kitchen bench. This particular rat was sneaking in at night, right under the sleepy noses of our two dogs Patch and Pixie. Rat would help himself to a midnight snack, making sure always to leave his little black calling cards on the kitchen bench for me to find in the morning. Even then, I had noble intentions, I didn’t want to kill him merely remove and release him back into the wild.
At the local hardware store, I approached the expert handyman and asked for a humane rat trap. When his raucous laughter died down, he explained. “No such thing luv, just kill the nasty buggers, funniest thing I ever heard being humane rat trap”. He handed me a very ugly instrument of death.
That night after the kids had gone to bed, I sat with the trap….To kill or not to kill Would it kill cleanly and swiftly? What if it didn’t kill cleanly, would rat suffer? What if he was still alive but incapacitated, would I have the guts to finish him off…. Would there be blood and guts?
Late that night, instead of setting the trap, I decided to give rat three warnings, verbal not written. “Rat, you have three days to leave the house or I will set the trap.” The next morning, I found his little black runes once more. The second night “Rat you have two days to leave the house or I will set the trap” Again he mocked me with his droppings. The third night “Rat, please, please, please leave the house or tomorrow I set the trap”.
Alas, the third morning dawned with sun shining on those little vile black bullets scattered with such disdain over my kitchen bench. As with all unwanted house guests and relatives who outstay their welcome, drastic action was called for……
I baited the trap with organic peanut butter, my conscious smoothed with the thought, rat would enjoy a wholesome last meal of crunchy peanut buttery goodness. I pulled back on the spring, set the trap... then to sleep perchance to dream.
SNAP! 3am, a scream and the scrambling of paws. I raced to the kitchen and beheld the grisly scene…one bloodied rat running in circles dragging the trap, trailing bright red blood on the white kitchen floor. The two dogs stood in the corner of the kitchen, they looked at rat then each other “Wouldst thou put an end to this foul deed? Nay I shall not sully myself”. Their eyes turned to mine. The burden was mine and mine alone.
Clad only in knickers, I stood wondering what the hell I was going to do…when rat ran drunkenly out of the kitchen still trailing blood and headed for the lounge. Spurred into action, I grabbed my trusty broom and nudged rat towards the back door, but with every touch of the broom rat screamed, screamed! I didn’t know rats could scream! Nudge scream, nudge scream. Every scream cut like a knife. Eventually I pushed rat to the back door where I putted him out into the yard. He flew in one direction and the trap in another. I slammed the door shut. Then I returned to mop up the grizzly crime scene in the kitchen under the accusing glare of the dogs. “Yet Who would have thought the old rat to have had so much blood in him.”
"Out Damn Spot"
I washed my hands over and over again, “Out damn spot! Will these hands ne’er be clean? No more my lord no more”
Well the next year another cold snap brought more unwelcome guests. I couldn’t face the trauma of madam guillotine again and so I after three verbal warnings I put out rat bait. I felt awful, I didn’t want anything to suffer, not even rat, but I had a family to protect. Consumed with guilt I laid out the poison…
Now it says on the poison packet that after consuming rat bait, rats will go outside to look for water. Perhaps my rat was illiterate,or a lateral thinker, perhaps a vertical thinker, because my rat decided to die in the bathroom ceiling. At first there was just a whiff of something not quite right…and then after an unseasonably hot day with the sun on the rusty tin roof, the smell of death and decay, “all the perfumes of Arabia would not sweeten this little bathroom”. On that first day, you could hold your breath long enough to use the toilet but then came the flies! The room turned black overnight. A black seething mass covered every surface in the room, maggots dripped from the ceiling vent. We couldn’t use the bathroom for 10 days, and the smell lingered even longer than Lady Macbeth’s damn spot. It seemed a fitting punishment for my heinous crime. “Will these hands ne’er be clean? No more o that my lord no more o that”
The next year a new mega hardware store opened…I asked the young handyman What do you have to have to kill rats?” “We have large range of humane rat traps, mam” he admonished and he showed me a whole aisle with a dazzling bright selection. They looked very modern indeed, lovely steel and glass apartments for rats and mice. I perused the shelf, reading all the information, gauging each humanitarian ranking. This wasn’t an instrument of rat torture this was a rat condominium. My nobility restored, I hurried to catch my rat and return him to the wild.
That night I placed the organic chocolate in the condo, I rushed out in the morning eager to find my house guest but he was a no show. The next night I tempted him with the pungent aroma of Italian Parmesan cheese… but still no rat. The third night I went all out wooing rat, with Parmesan cheese, dark chocolate and a bottle top filled with hunter valley’s finest chardonnay. I drifted off to sleep confident rat would fall for my gastronomic charms…
Five Star Restaurant
The next morning, I peered through the glass window of the rat condo, no rat! The chocolate, cheese and wine were all gone to! It wasn’t a rat trap! It was a 5-star rat restaurant.
And so now with the end of another summer looming, we catch glimpses of pointy noses and long tails running around the outside of the house knowing the first cold spell will send them in to share in our food and the warmth of our cozy home once again. Again, I will be faced with the question to kill or not to kill. And if to kill, what manner of death should I deal? I know there is a lesson for me here, is it about guilt? Perhaps it’s about taking responsibility for my actions, but what if it’s bigger than that? For the life of me I don’t know, maybe I should consult a priest, or a fortune teller… or perhaps just ask rat, and he can spell it out for me on the kitchen bench in little black runes.
This is a story of life, death, everything in between and what comes after. It is the story of Warren Zevon, American singer song writer, death expert and me.
I was studying for my arts degree at Newcastle University in2005. I had just begun the subject “the sociology of death dying and human mortality” when I suffered a loss. It wasn’t the death of a loved one but the death of a significant relationship.
I had fallen in love with a gifted psychic. As well as my partner, he was my teacher in all things supernatural. And he was a great teacher and soon I experienced my first clear physic vision. Sadly, he not such a great boyfriend, as my vision was of him in bed with another woman. Our short but intense love affair was over, dead. Have you ever felt your heart ripped out of your chest and stomped on?
Death, Dying & Human Mortality
Well it was in this state I dragged myself to my “Death, Dying and Human Mortality” class, grieving for every bit of my frail human mortality. My class was to pursue individual major studies on some aspect of death dying and human mortality… Fellow classmates were enthusiastically picking their topics; suicide poetry, roadside memorials and death rites were a few. I however, was concentrating on getting out of bed and trying to eat.
Then I met the late great Warren Zevon. My brother-in-law Jack, gave me a cd, Warren Zevon’s “The Wind”. I played it…and I played it and played it. Here was a musician who understood loss. Warren Zevon wrote and recorded The Wind, his 15th cd as he was dying.
Warren wrote and sang songs of goodbye, of regrets, and of his thoughts on impending death. The songs touched a chord deep within, they gave me comfort. I remember after every song, shutting my eyes and taking a moment to say “thank you Warren”. Not only did I find comfort… but a subject for my major study; Warren Zevon.
Werewolves of London
Now I don’t imagine too of you would be familiar with the name Warren Zevon, but you might remember his hit song “Werewolves of London”, and he wrote hits recorded by many other artists. Warren was credited by his peers as one of America’s greatest ever singer song writers.
With a renewed sense of purpose, I set about researching the life, times and death of Warren Zevon. I listened to his songs, all 15 albums over and over, day in day out, much to the dismay of my children who despaired at my taste of music and state of mind. As I researched, I realised that it wasn’t just his last cd that was an exposition on death but in fact more than half the songs in his 15-album career concerned death. On every album cover and every poster Warren had the picture of a cigarette smoking skull. Irreverent, sardonic, poignant and thought provoking, Warren explored every manner of death, dying and human mortality through his songs.
Warren grew up with death. One of the first stories his grandmother told him was how his birth had almost killed his mother. Warren’s father was a Russian gangster with a history of violence, who courted death daily. And hanging on the lounge room wall was a portrait of Warren’s uncle and name sake, a dead war hero.
Poor Poor Pitiful Me
Warren, a classically trained musician, embraced rock and roll music and the rock and roll lifestyle of excess. Warren attempted to emulate his uncle by dying a young hero, a young rock and roll hero. Besides drugs and booze, Warren also played Russian roulette with real bullets. At this stage of my break up I could empathise with his death wish, “Poor, poor pitiful me. Poor, poor pitiful me, poor, poor pitiful me!” - that song particularly resonated with my post break up mood.
After a few albums and some years, of exploring violence, excess and death, Warren didn’t die, he went to rehab. Warren’s songs then reflected his ongoing fight with alcohol and drugs while I battled my own post relationship demons, with songs like “Accidently like a Martyr. The hurt gets worse and the heart gets harder”
Themes of death and dying continued to inform Warren Zevon’s songs. As the reckless years of his youth and addiction passed warren’s songs began to reflect his concern in broader social issues such as death by war, pollution, domestic violence and the breakdown of society. At this time of my post breakup blues the song the song that resonated was “Splendid isolation, I don’t need no-one, Splendid Isolation”
Life'll Kill Ya
When Warren turned fifty his thoughts turned to sickness, decrepitude and decay. His 14th album “Life’ll Kill Ya” was a hilarious, slightly scary and somewhat disturbing look at old age and dying. Out of all the ways to die, Warren said it was sickness and doctors that scared him the most.
Ironically it was Warren’s song “My Shit’s Fuck Up” about a belated trip to the doctor, which proved prophetically and fatally correct.
"Well, I went to the doctor
I said, "I'm feeling kind of rough"
"Let me break it to you, son"
Your shit's fucked up."
I said, "my shit's fucked up?"
Well, I don't see how-"
He said, "The shit that used to work-
It won't work now."
At warren’s first visit to a doctor in twenty years he was given the diagnosis, inoperable lung cancer, three months to live. Well and truly fucked, with a death sentence hanging over his head Warren set out to write and record his last album to say a few goodbyes and share his final thoughts on death and dying.
Home alone one night, I sat on the wooden floor in front of the TV and watched the documentary of the making of Warren Zevon’s final album The Wind. It follows Warren’s struggles to write and record the album as the cancer ravaged his body. The first song he wrote for the album “Keep me in your heart for a while” was the last one he recorded. Too sick to record in the studio, he recorded it at home on the lounge surrounded by his family and the paraphernalia of death.
Shadows are fallin' and I'm runnin' out of breath
Keep me in your heart for a while
If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for a while
When you get up in the mornin' and you see that crazy sun
Keep me in your heart for a while
There's a train leavin' nightly called "When All is Said and Done"
Keep me in your heart for a while
Sometimes when you're doin' simple things around the house
Maybe you'll think of me and smile
You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for a while
Hold me in your thoughts
Take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes
Keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you
Engine driver's headed north up to Pleasant Stream
Keep me in your heart for a while
These wheels keep turnin' but they're runnin' out of steam
Keep me in your heart for a while
My tears flowed, and as they did, several shells sitting on the TV flew off then landed in my lap, then some ethereal fingers caressed my cheek …. Warren.
The weeks passed in Death Dying and human mortality, I continued listening to his songs, researching, writing and discussing my project in class, all the time comforted by his presence.
As I handed in my finished project, Warren Zevon. Songs of Finitude, I thought it only right to acknowledge Warren’s presence and influence throughout the entire project. So, with some trepidation I raised the spectre of supernatural with my lecturer “Warren Zevon has been helping me” I said, to which my lecturer replied “Oh yes, he was standing by your left shoulder every class.”
Sometime later I received MY grade, a high distinction, but it wasn’t about the grade because it wasn’t just an academic study, it wasn’t even a study about dying. Warren sung me from grief and loss, to love and life. And he taught me, death isn’t the end, there are no ends, just verses in the exquisite, eternal, song of life… and that song is love.
And my project, well that was a collaboration of love between Warren Zevon, American singer song writer, friend and me.
Songs By Warren Zevon.
1 thousand, 2 thousand, 3 thousand, 4 thousand, 5 thousand, 6 thousand.
It was Easter 1980, I was 19, married with a 1-year old baby and spending the holiday parachute training with 60 young officers from the Duntroon Military College in the ACT.
Some of you might wonder, what a tender young mother of 19 was doing parachuting with 60 soldiers. But the question I was asking myself was, how did I end up a 19 year old mother living in Canberra?
Not that I regretted motherhood for a second, but it just hadn’t been my plan….my plan was to buy a kombi van, drive north to join a commune in Hippy central tropical Nimbin, tie dye, make soap and live in bare feet. But there I was in cold Canberra, our seat of government, as far away from Nimbin you can get in climate and ideology, knee deep in nappies, and wearing two pairs of sox and boots. My plan in tatters, my sense of identity shattered and my self-esteem flattened… that’s why I was lining up in the ranks of our defense forces finest young men, taking a leap of faith…to restore my faith in me.
Every year the local skydiving club hosted the royal Australian army’s Duntroon officer cadets’ compulsory recreational parachute training camp. And that was the weekend I signed up for training. Our Instructor was Major Andrew Harris of the S.A.S, the special armed services- our elite trained killers, the toughest of the tough, the bravest of the brave and in major Harris’s case the macho-est of the macho.
One of the first things he taught us was the PLF, the parachute landing fall. In those days, we only had round parachutes and they came down hard and fast. So, to avoid breaking bones you had to land with your feet and legs together at a slight angle then roll onto your thighs and hips to help distribute the shock. Major Harris had us jumping off the back of an army truck to practice. However, It was painfully obvious that I couldn’t do a PLF to save my life.
The 1 thousand, 2 thousand was our parachute drill. 1 thousand you arched your back, arms and legs out to fall stably, 2 thousand look and grab ripcord, 3 thousand pull rip cord, 4 thousand roll slightly to see if parachute deployed, 5 thousand grip reserve ripcord and 6 thousand pull reserve rip cord. The drill I had, I still have it, what I didn’t have was the strength to open a reserve parachute. My partner repacked the reserve chutes yearly and he often ran me thru the drill on the ground with a reserve chute which needed repacking but I in all the years I skydived I never managed to open one reserve chute on the ground.
Despite my lack of grunt power and the injuries I sustained just falling of the back of a truck, I was allowed to jump (Remember this was 1980 before health & safety seemed important.)
The day of our first jump dawned, a chilly Canberra morning, crunchy frost under foot and air so crisp you could almost snap it. My nerves were so tight you could have snapped me! I wasn’t alone, the soldiers’ fear shrouded the drop zone like fog.
Time to kit up, leg straps check, chest straps check, helmet check, “all right soldier in the plane”. I waddled over to the plane looking more like a turtle than a burly soldier. My fears crowded into the plane with my fears, I thought this could be the last time I see my daughter. But as the plane ascended into the crisp blue sky a calmness descended on me.
Jump Run: Go
On the first jump run, Major Harris ordered power down, the plane backed off its speed and he sent the first soldier out. Hand over hand with military precision, the young soldier climbed out and hung off the plane’s strut. The Major yelled “go” but the soldier hung on, The Major screamed “go”, still the soldier clung to the plane, Major Harris roared “GO”, and still the stricken soldier hung on for dear life. In a change of strategy Major Harris called to the pilot for “power on” and the reluctant paratrooper was blown away.
Second jump run and my turn. “Power off, all right girlie out you go” Unlike the soldier before I was slow and clumsy climbing out but when Major Harris ordered go, I went! 1 thousand 2 thousand three.....my chute opened…. I enjoyed a few minutes of euphoria till I come back to earth with a thud…. I jumped up, waved to the crowd and smiled… then made my way to the hospital to check for fractures… luckily there were none just a massively bruised pride.
While most skydivers claim they lose their fear after a number of jumps, I never did. Though I continued skydiving for many years, while I was on the ground there was fear, I would always think, this could be the last time I see my children but once in the air, I was ready for that leap. Luckily during those years I graduated to the modern and softer landing square parachute….which was a great relief as I never mastered the parachute landing fall…and I still hadn’t managed to open a reserve chute.
One hot summer’s day when the heat was rising off the tarmac in shimmering waves at the Australian National Skydiving Championships, I was jumping out of an old propellered DC3 with 49 other skydivers. This many skydivers in the air at one time posed all new dangers. You could be hit by someone in freefall and killed. You could open your parachute, be hit by someone in freefall and killed or you could open your parachute and slam into someone else who has just opened their parachute and killed. But 50 of us took that leap of faith.
Do Or Die
We exited the plane at 15,000 feet, giving us over a minute’s freefall in which we were to perform numerous formations. At 3000ft we broke contact and I headed for a clear space to open my chute. At 2000 feet I pulled my ripcord…nothing, I tried again, nothing-terminal velocity, seconds to impact and time stopped. I remember thinking “SHIT this is it, do or die” (my military training), The emergency drill kicked in, I took hold of the emergency ripcord in both hands and pulled.
My emergency chute had an interesting history. It was secondhand and known locally as the “eighth of an inch chute”. You see its previous owner, deceased, had neglected to pull the emergency ripcord all the way out. Accident investigators found that a mere eight of an inch stood between his life and death.
I pulled again and again…. The chute snapped open. Somehow, I had found the strength.
I guess it would be true to say that all my parachute jumps had been physical leaps of faith…and though there was fear, it doesn’t compare to the fear that comes with life’s metaphorical leaps of faith, starting relationships, ending relationships, changing jobs, moving home. In comparison skydiving is easy, make the decision then leap. No time to wonder did I make the right decision, no time for regrets, definitely no turning back and once you leap, the outcome is known within minutes, or if you are unlucky seconds.
But metaphorical leaps take so much longer to land. They allow so much time for agonizing and that’s when the fear really kicks in. Did I make the right decision/ the wrong decision, what if it goes wrong, what if what if what if… time stops as the what ifs immobilize you…. And with the metaphorical leaps you can even turn around and scramble back on the airplane and continue on as before, safe and sound… but long plane rides though safe n sound eventually feel confined and uncomfortable…..and at some time you are forced to stretch your legs…. just like life sometimes forces you to stretch.
My Soul Called GO
I recently made the biggest metaphorical leap of my life… but when my soul called GO, I went. The fear was overwhelming. The “what ifs” and “what have I done’s” plunged me into free fall. Not a nice stable free fall but a messy out of control flailing decent-terminal velocity, seconds to impact, then, grace and courage unfolded like an emergency chute. And I landed that leap when I married my new Swedish husband Ulf. And now we take another leap of faith as we look for a country to call home but happily that leap of faith is a tandem leap.
The Journey Begins
This journey began in 2011 when I googled the International School of Storytelling, UK. When the photo of Emerson College appeared on the screen my heart burst into song. I didn’t know how or why, but I knew I was going there; my GPS had been set.
But I wasn’t to take the quickest route there and the school said they were not taking students outside of the EU. But I persisted and encouraged by my terminally ill mum, I embarked on an email campaign stating all the credible and incredible reasons why I should be allowed to attend.
After 2 years, on Christmas eve 2013, I was finally accepted into their flagship course “Storytelling as Performance Art” and excitedly I booked my flights and accommodation. But then I received an email from head teacher and master storyteller Ashley Ramsden, “if you haven’t booked don’t, this isn’t a suitable course for you because you don’t have the prerequisite of attending earlier courses, “too late coming ready or not”, I replied. Ashley said the pixies must addled his brain when he rubber-stamped my application.
So, with my late mum’s blessing (and eventually Ashley’s) and with the funds from mum’s estate, I flew to England. It was midsummer, and perhaps it was the pixies again or midsummer madness but I was filled with joy, dancing through the summer country, singing to the fairies. There was a deep sense of coming home.
In the storytelling class of eight, there were eight nationalities, a blonde Columbian, a small Geordie Jew, a young Japanese warrior, an Irish pirate queen, a Danish Valkyrie, a Mexican goddess and a tall serious Swedish storyteller.
Beware of the Woods
In those first days, I was walking everywhere barefoot to connect with the English soil and I soon noticed there was another barefoot enthusiast in the group, Ulf. The rather shy Swedish storyteller, eventually asked if he could walk with me and as we climbed over the stile and headed into the woods- I remember hearing a little voice saying, “Danger! If you go into the woods with that man, things will never be the same ever again” but I wasn’t some naive fairy tale character!
Our first walk was a two-hour barefoot stroll meandering through the woods and down the hidden paths of the summer country. The second was a three hour hike over hills and dales and through paddocks of stinging nettles. The third walk was an epic four-hour barefoot journey with a much needed “stop revive survive” at my first real old English pub.
It did appear at times that Ulf didn’t always know exactly where we were, or where we were going, but some-how he always managed to get us home…. eventually. On these glorious twilight walks we exchanged stories and discovered a beautiful soul connection.
While Ulf introduced me to the enchanted countryside, English pubs and East Sussex Best Bitter, I introduced Ulf to the pixies, and the pixies to Ulf
Walks, Pixies and Work
Of course, it wasn’t all walks and pixies, there was hard work, as we each had to present an hour plus long performance for the public at the end of the course. It was confronting, difficult and oh so wonderful. Ulf and I rehearsed together, Ulf brought his wisdom and experience and I provided the pixies. The weeks flew by and our friendship grew.
After the hectic final week of performances, in the last days of the course, I had time to reflect on my 5 weeks at Emerson. The learning, the striving, the walking, the journey and the wonderful man. I couldn’t imagine not seeing that tall whimsical Swedish storyteller again. We both sensed that together, we held the potential for something wonderful.
On our final walk, a five-hour trek through fading golds of summer harvest, Ulf surprised the two of us saying… “I think it would be good idea if you married me”.
However, the next day Ulf left the college for Sweden, without my answer. I was in shock. My stomach was churning and churning, my thoughts were turning and turning, my heart was yearning and yearning and my big toe was throbbing and throbbing as almost tore the top of it when I was packing.
By the time I picked up my hire car from London… I was a mess, I didn’t know what to do, I wasn’t sure of my feelings… all I knew was that I needed to go to Findhorn in the north of Scotland. It was another irresistible urge, the same global pixie signal(GPS) which led me to Emerson. I didn’t know how or why but I set the hire car’s GPS for Scotland and drove.
I discovered European cars have the indicators on the opposite side of the steering wheel. I was already confused and this just compounded it. I spent that first day driving, flicking on the wipers every time I indicated and indicating when it rained
Scotland-the Long Way
And I had to indicate a hell of a lot, on the first day I drove 5 hours and ended up only an hour or so from London. In my defense, I was still in shock; from my mangled toe and the unexpected marriage proposal. I was in a strange country, I had no idea what direction I was going, or where I was…. But it did seem like I was driving a long way without getting very far.
When I pulled into a small petrol station and asked the young attendant if I was heading in the right direction for Scotland, her face might have given me a clue that something wasn’t quite right. I mean I had heard that English roads were narrow and quaint but every road??? All the way to Scotland??? I was ready to murder my GPS as she said for the 366th time in a posh English voice “In one hundred yards enter the roundabout and take the second exit.”
It was a slow trip to Scotland, an incredibly slow trip to Scotland. If I had been in a better state of mind I might have enjoyed the scenery, if I had been in a better state of mind I might have thought to check the car’s GPS settings. Even glimpses of large straight motorways in the distance just added to my confusion.
My hire car’s GPS reflected my emotional state…
Fairy Godmothers do Exist in Findhorn
At last I arrived in Findhorn, spiritual home of the Scottish wee folk, only to find everything booked out. Well, I did what all tired stressed out tourists do; chucked a temper tantrum, I jumped up and down; “Pixies, if you want me here, give me a place to stay now or I leave” and then “poof”, a woman appeared and said, “Are you looking for a room, I have a room”. Obviously, Scottish fairy godmothers do exist.
Sheepishly I followed to her beautiful B &B and the first thing I noticed on her wall was a photo of the Blue Mountains, then she told me about her connection to Australia and how she met a Swedish man on a short course and married him…and that’s when I heard my GPS giggle.
Findhorn is a magical place. Every time I felt overwhelmed by emotions I’d walk outside, and tree or a rock would call for me sit and rest. I even found my ancestors in a graveyard on the banks of the Findhorn river and I sat with David and Margaret and poured out my heart. They listened as only great great, great, great grandparents can. My ancestors and beautiful landscape of Findhorn calmed my mind and let me know my heart; I reconnected with my internal GPS; my Global Pixie Signal and it was calling for a complete change of direction.
Could I, would I really leave my old comfortable life in Australia for a new life with a man from the other side of the planet, who I‘d only known for 5 weeks?
You can ignore your GPS’ instructions…. but if you do she will tell you to do a U-turn at the first opportunity, and if you don’t do the U-turn she will simply recalculate the route to get you where she wants to take you. So, I went with my Global Pixie Signal. She had bought me to the joy of Emerson College in England, and then to the peace of Findhorn in Scotland and now she was guiding me Sweden and marriage.
New Setting on the GPS
So, with the new destination on my internal GPS, I took some time to check the settings on my hire car’s GPS…yes it had been preset to avoid all major roads and motor ways so I reset it too and “poof” the motorways magically appeared. I drove down the motorway back to Heathrow and caught the plane to Sweden. And we married 4 months later.
I highly recommend following your own Global Pixie Signal. You can take the direct route or the scenic route, it doesn’t matter. Only on the scenic route be prepared for roundabouts, lots of roundabouts but both routes will get you to the same place eventually. And keep a look out for your GPS’ “POI’s” or “places of interest” Because there just may be a “Person Of Importance” there, and he’s sure to be pure pixie magic.
The Forest of Fairytales
The Swedish forest, so very different from our leathery blue grey bush here with its brash cacophony of cicadas, cockatoos and kookaburras. The Swedish forest is dark, soft and hushed. Tall spruce and pine stretch into the sky like ancient battlements… beech and birch leaves glow green and gold in the shadows, blueberry bushes droop with plump ripe fruit and soft moss muffles all footsteps.
Dark soft hushed, the forest of fairytales ….
It was just such a forest I found myself living on the edge of this year. The forest was just metres from the back door of the folk school where my new Swedish a husband and I lived. I wasn’t surprised when local news reported wolves in our area, as I fully expected to see little red riding hood skipping through the trees at any moment.
A 5km circular walking track wound its way around the forest from our door down past a lonely lake and back again. Some days I would walk the path, content to tred barefoot where countless others had gone before but sometimes I stood on the edge of that forest… and it called me to explore its mysterious dark depths. And so, like Little Red, I was lured from the well-worn path.
Bigger on the Inside
The path which circumnavigated the forest was only 5 kilometers long, so that meant the forest was… I don’t know, smallish? (I studied humanities not mathematics) And indeed some days it seemed very small. The forest called and I would step off the path onto the royal green carpet of moss before me. I would wade through the blueberries bushes into the dark cathedral of trees. Somedays, I could walk through the forest and be out the other side in just ten minutes but other days, I would wander over verdant hills & through shaded valleys, lost for hours. You see this forest was bigger on the inside.
I have always loved walking in nature, connecting with the trees and the elemental forces. However, in Sweden, walking in nature moved to a whole new level. I enrolled in my friend Caroline’s online course “Walking with Heart” and it focused on opening to childlike wonder, engaging the senses, and allowing gratitude to flow.
How do you open to childlike wonder? You experience everything as if for the first time, seeing it, smelling it feeling it, touching it appreciating it, talking to it and yes, listening for the replies. You explore everything through the rose tinted magnifying glasses of possibilities. It’s being mindful of the magic and the miracles in nature. And with this wonder, I experienced the forest through my heart.
One day I was following a trail of golden chanterelle mushrooms and they led me to a valley I had never seen before. With my golden treasure spilling from my arms I sat within a stone circle that unknown hands had formed. Tiny forest frogs no bigger than my thumbnail leapt for their lives as I, the giant walked through their Lilliput land.
Connecting heart to heart
Another day when the forest called I went looking for the stone circle again but instead found the ruins of an ancient building. I sat on the lichen decorated wall plucking ripe blueberries and popping them in my mouth. I closed my eyes and imagined who might the ancient builders been, Vikings perhaps? I sensed a presence, the ancient stonemason? I opened my eyes, a deer and her fawn stood before me, for a long moment her deep brown eyes looked into mine. And in that time, it felt we had connected heart to heart, and I was welcomed there.
Of course, there were days when I forgot the childlike wonder, and I walked through the forest like I was bustling down a city street. I would circumnavigate the forest and realised that I hadn’t seen a single tree. One evening, I’d been bulldozing through the forest, when I stopped and realised... I was laughing at myself when I saw a flash of light in a tree. Intrigued I wandered over and stood at the base of the tall pine. The tree showered me head to my feet in peace and from the earth joy snaked from my toes to my head. Then I heard grunting and snorting from the thicket in front, Wild Boar, more dangerous than wolves, so the Swedes say. Part of me screamed RUN! But the other part said Chill, its fine, you are welcome here. And I stood with the tree as two wild boar snuffled by.
I loved the generosity and bounty of the forest. To take a basket and gather berries, wild berries, rosehips and mushrooms was an absolute delight. The sitting and gathering invoked a sense of timelessness in me and awoke an inner ancient feminine flame. I began cooking and baking with a joy I have never experienced before or since. I baked bread, made rosehip soup and cooked blueberry jam & blueberry sauce, baked blueberry cakes and blueberry crumbles, all with the sense of wonder that the forest had freely gifted me all her bounty.
Early in September, the beeches leaves hung like golden hearts from the trees. It was the day after my mum’s birthday and two years since she died. She would have loved the forest and I wished that she could walk with me. I stood there in the dappled sunlight and shut my eyes. Instantly I was transported back to garden of my childhood under the massive eucalyptus that shaded the backyard, with the comforting sound of mum in the kitchen, mum was so near. When I opened my eyes, I felt her, right there beside me laughing.
Walking to Bliss
We wandered, whither the wind took us deeper into the forest. I told her all that had happened, about married life with my new Swedish husband, about the magical Swedish forest. And while we walked and laughed, I over-flowed with happiness, in a state of bliss. As we came to a rise in the forest, we stopped, I felt the invitation, the pull… here was a threshold. I felt the beckoning to step across, to lose myself. To lose myself… in oblivion? Oneness, nothingness or was it everythingness?
Perhaps I wasn’t ready to let go of my body, perhaps I wasn’t ready to let go of my identity. Perhaps I wanted to linger longer with mum. Perhaps it was an invitation to the great spiritual awakening. Perhaps it was a doorway to the elemental worlds. I don’t know for sure but I do know I spent the best day ever with my mum in that Swedish forest. And who knows, maybe one day, I will wander again whither the wind blows and that doorway will again open, and maybe, just maybe this time I’ll step through.
Did you do anything to commemorate your 40th birthday? I marked my 40th with few small acts of rebellion. You see at 18, I was married with a daughter, at 23 I had 2 daughters and by 30, three daughters….much too busy to rebel back then. So on my 40th birthday I rebelled with a divorce, a tattoo and a nose piercing, … and when I looked in the mirror at the nose stud I knew I was thumbing my nose at the men in my life, an ex-husband and a father who couldn’t love me... (they both really disliked tattoos but they especially hated nose piercings)
My ex-husband said he loved me, he seemed to love beer and pubs a hell of lot more than me. And my father? Well, perhaps he was a product of his generation... but not the father of my dreams. I longed for a father that would play games. A father that would hug and kiss me, a father who would tell me stories and say “I love you, Lindy”. A father who just wanted to spend time with me.
But dad was not a father to play tickles or ball, dad was not a father to chat or talk, or kiss and hug and hangout. He was a good man, he provided for his family, he was of sober habits except on Anzac day, when perhaps he remembered things he wanted to forget. Yes, dad was good man, but he just didn’t have much of a relationship with children. Mum reasoned that dad had never actually been a child himself. An illness had robbed him of his childhood, while his brother was playing sport, dad was cloistered at home. Mum reckoned dad grew straight from toddler to adult with all haste and seriousness.
Not Much of a Talker
Dad was great with babies and quite good with toddlers but after that? He just didn’t know how to play or talk with children. Our conversations were limited to he “good evening Lindy” when he came home from work and “good night Lindy” when I went to bed. Dad never came to watch me play softball or perform in plays, and Dad didn’t come on family holidays because he didn’t like the beach, surf, camping and I thought, perhaps he just didn’t like me.
I only remember two conversations, one about tomatoes, and one when I was 39 and I told dad I was getting a divorce… “good" he said, "I never liked the bastard anyway”.
Dad had a massive stroke a few years later, and the whole family, my mum 2 sisters and brother our kids spent the next 4 days in the hospital with him. Luckily for dad he was unconscious because he would have hated the noise. And dad’s funeral was huge, they had to rig up a video link to the church hall because the church was over flowing. So many people I didn't know stood up and told wonderful stories about my father and I learnt more about him in that hour than my whole of life. it seemed everyone knew him, but me.
Dad, On a Beach?
I was a little surprised when, one day when a clairvoyant told me my father wanted to talk to me, I was a little skeptical, dad talk to me? And then she said, dad suggested I should imagine myself on a beach, beside a campfire and he would come and talk to me. My dad, on a beach, a campfire, talking with me? I knew the woman was a charlatan because she definitely wasn’t channeling my father
Still, the thought of having a heart to heart with dad was tempting….so that night, I lay in bed I breathing deeply and allowed my thoughts to drift down to the beach in front of the campfire. And the fire fanned my memories.
I was about 4 or 5, very young. I had been sick in bed for a couple of days. I don’t remember what I had, but I was in mum and dad’s bed during the day, so it must have been a real illness because mum didn’t let you in their bed if she thought you were malingering. Dad came home that night and with his usual “Good evening, Lindy” but then he sat on the bed and gave me a small parcel. Inside was a small blue plastic bambi standing on a pedestal. Elastic held the jointed dear together and dad showed me how to press the bottom of the pedestal to make bambi nod, bow and even dance. I loved it
I woke the next morning to the precious memory of dad’s gift. When I looked in the bathroom mirror I saw that my nose stud was half out of my nose, up till then, not one stud had ever fallen out. They are so tiny that if it falls out they are impossible to find. I poked it back in without thought, but all day I felt the warm glow of dad’s gift.
The second night, I drifted to the beach to meet my father. Again my memories were ignited by the campfire, this time my memories were of food. We were catching the train, mum my sisters brother and I, into Sydney to meet dad for dinner at the Cahil’s restaurant at the base of the Centrepoint Tower… … it was a family restaurant that had something for everyone, a carvery, Chinese, seafood and my favourite, Chicken in a Basket. There was something very exotic when i was eight, about eating fried chicken and chips out of a basket instead of a plate.
After dinner we stopped at Daryl Lee’s sweet shop and dad bought us each a small jar of boiled lollies, Bo Peeps which we ate on the way home. I gave dad my black aniseed ones to eat because I didn’t like those. Then the memories flowed to I Christmas. Dad made the Christmas pudding and hid sixpences in them and though I hated Christmas pudding, dad always made sure a sixpence or two found its way to me.
I woke feeling nourished by my memories. When I went to the bathroom and again I noticed my nose stud was hanging out. “Funny” I thought, that’s two days in a row, then I pushed it back in and continued my day, filling full with memories.
The third night I again breathed myself onto the beach in front of the campfire, as the embers glowed, the memories flowed. I was 12 or 13 and I at beside dad in church for the Sunday service, at the keyboard of the grand pipe organ. As dad played the organ, the choir and the congregation sang, and my heart soared for he played the hymn, the Cat Stevens version of Morning has Broken. He must have known it was my favourite.
When morning broke, I woke with the song on my lips and the warmth of dad’s music in my heart. Then looking in the bathroom mirror I saw my nose stud was gone. I checked my bed, not there, I looked on the floor, nowhere to be seen. I jumped in the shower thinking about the nose stud and what it represented, a thumbing of the nose against the men who could not love me, and I wondered if dad, had somehow put an ghostly finger up my nose and pushed it out, to make some sort of point? In the shower I asked “So dad, is that everything you wanted to say, are we good now?”
The Language of Love
As I walked into my shag piled bedroom, one beam of light shone through the window lighting up a few dancing motes of dust and that one beam of light fell on the tiniest silver sliver in that deep forest of shag pile… my nose stud and I finally understood. Dad loved me. My father didn’t speak my language of love with the words & stories I longed to hear, or the hugs and kisses I desired, or the games I wanted to play but his love had always been there; expressed simply and quietly with a small blue bambi, a few sixpences and a Cat Stevens’ song.
Heart to Heart
There is an old Scottish saying, ‘A story should be told, eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart’ and that’s just the way Ulf & I love to tell our tales to children; No books, just the children, a story and us. And we have discovered that in this intimate space, magic happens…
Experts in the field of education & child development, while they may not believe in magic, they are now rediscovering of the ancient art of oral storytelling. Of course, story reading has long been recognised as a wonderful educational tool, however oral storytelling has now proven to have many extra benefits.
The oral storyteller focuses his or her attention on the listeners, ‘connecting eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart’. The storyteller brings not only their undivided attention but their own unique personality to the story telling. Ulf and I have very different styles of storytelling, I tend to be exuberant while Ulf has a gentle Swedish manner. The combination of personality and undivided attention gives the storytelling a sense of intimacy which children respond to.
The Storyteller is Free
The story reader is bound by the book and the text and occasionally looks at the listeners, while the storyteller is free to respond to the listeners’ reactions. The storyteller may even change the story, expanding sections when the interest is great or altering the story to fit the needs of the listeners.
The freedom afforded by oral storytelling allows Ulf and I to take any story and rework it for a specific audience. When sharing stories in early childhood we always add rhymes, repetitions and actions in which the children can join in. We also encourage their contributions by asking questions such as, “What would you put in the magic stone soup?” and incorporate the children’s answers into the story.
Children are Active Participants
Oral storytelling is a shared experience in which the child becomes an active participant in the creation of the story, while children who are shown illustrations and read to, are passive in comparison. Children listening to oral stories must exercise their imaginations, to create the pictures in their minds, that the storyteller forms with words, facial expressions, tone and gesture. There are many benefits to exercising the imagination such as, the development of empathy by the ability to place one’s self in another shoes and greater problem solving skills.
The ‘active’ nature of oral story listening supports concentration and comprehension skills. Recent research shows, that storytelling listeners retained more information and demonstrated better comprehension skills than children who were only read to. A mum recently wrote to us and said that her daughter’s preschool was amazed when her daughter, Gaia, consoled a young friend who had fallen over with a 10-minute story, complete with actions, that she heard us tell on the weekend. Later that week Gaia told another one of our stories to her grandparents! Even we were amazed at how much she retained.
Storytelling is of huge benefit to children who are not ready to read or are having reading difficulties, as it is an enjoyable activity which increases their vocabulary and teaches them the sound and form of narratives without focusing on the written word. And, if children have participated in oral storytelling, they would have experienced the joy of co-creating stories, generating an eagerness to learn more literacy skills.
Enhances Emotional Intelligence
Storytelling also enhances emotional intelligence. The reactions of the storyteller to the story, the teller’s tone of voice and facial expressions, model emotions and the appropriate responses to emotions. Learning how to recognise emotions and how to express them is a vital step in child development. Listening to oral stories, also gives control to the child over the level of fear they experience, as they create the images in their minds that they are comfortable with.
Watching emotions play on the upturned faces of our audiences is an absolute joy for us. Their expressions tell us that they are fully engaged with the story and us, the storytellers. We are truly on the adventure together, that is the power and joy of storytelling.
Now that you know just some of the benefits of oral storytelling, we hope you feel inspired to put the book aside and try telling a story eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart…it’s absolute magic.
While pondering stories for the "Out of the Frying Pan", I decided that there were three things that catapult me out of the pan into the fire... opinions, actions or lack there of, and emotions. The following story is about the frying pan of opinions;
A few years ago, I was invited to guest on a US radio show “Spiritually Raw”. It was after the release of my first book “The Elf that Flew” and somehow, they had heard about my claims that I had been visited by the fairy folk.
I was invited on the show to talk about my different meeting with the gnomes, fairies and elves.
I was rather scared about the prospect of being on radio and especially as I was going to be interviewed at 3 in the morning, not my finest hour for being charming, quick witted and engaging. I was expecting to find myself in the frying pan but it was in fact a very pleasant experience the hosts were lovely and seemed sincere in their appreciation of my experience. It went so well, they invited me back for the Friday panel program!
Of course, I agreed, they were obviously keen on fairy folk themselves… so again I rose at the witching hour to prepare myself to be charming and engaging once more…. However, it wasn’t so much of a pleasant panel party but the Spanish inquisition! I was out of the that frying pan in to the fire, or the firing line!
Straight to Hell
The panel consisted of a scientist, a southern fundamentalist Christian and a psychiatrist. The Christian woman said I was trafficking with the devil. I replied That I had felt nothing but loving intentions from the fairy folk and she countered with “the fairies were the devil’s minions sent to seduce me and lead me straight to hell”.
The scientist argued that there is no scientific evidence to support the existence of fairy folk. I said there was no scientific evidence of love either…. But he said it’s all woo woo and make believe
While the psychiatrist claimed, I was clearly delusional, I assured him I was in my right mind and perhaps my mind was more open to unseen forces than his. “Yes, drugs will do that to you” he said
I had my opinions and they had their opinions… I was a delusional Satan worshipping nincompoop!
I knew I would never convert them nor they me. We were never going to agree.
I had remained calm under fire, I didn’t yell or scream, during the inquisition, and I thought I had been rather magnanimous with my compassion for them and their sad narrow minds…
But I realised while writing this, I wasn’t being magnanimous I was SMUG and just as narrow minded and righteous as I perceived them to be. After all, I was right and they were wrong!
Pondering the Frying Pan
And so I’ve been pondering opinions & frying pans How often do my opinions land me in the proverbial frying pan…. And when I defend or fight for my opinions, I find myself jumping out of the frying pan straight into the fire like over enthusiastic popcorn…
But when I find people who share my opinion, we share the same frying pan, my tribe of beans, gently simmering together, and we like a little bit of fire under us, a little heat from another tribes’ opinions, because then we can rub up against each other in our frying pan and bubble and spit in our righteous indignation.
And why do I get so hot and bothered about my opinions or other’s opinions? Do I hold so tightly to my opinions because my sense of identity is tied up with them? Could I let go of being a green leftie tree hugging hippie fairy lover and embrace being a pragmatic right wing conservative industrialist?
I didn’t study science, medicine or theology, I studied English literature and the poet William Blake said, “Without contraries there can be no forward motion” Maybe every opinion must have its contrary its, opposite. Perhaps opinions can’t exist in isolation… perhaps as Blake suggested all our opinions are driving the evolution of humanity.
All in the Pan Together
What if we are all in the frying pan together, and life is the fire...and we can make like popcorn and individually shoot out of the pan into the fire to be burnt up …. Or we can be like a big pan of chili con carne… we can all just rub up and down against each other sometimes simmering sometimes bubbling. We are the beans and our opinions the spice and of course, a good chili con carne needs many different spices to give it its zing.
So, next time I get hot and bothered about opinions, maybe I will remember the delicious spiciness of chili con carne. If there is no spice it’s not chili, it’s just boring beans, and if there’s no opinions then it’s a bland stagnant world.
Perhaps all we can do is hold our opinions a little less tightly….
But hey that’s just my opinion and I might just be a delusional Satan worshipping nincompoop who talks to fairies.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the un-rightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
All my life I have loved the stories of the great heroic quest, fairytales, King Arthur, Lord of the Rings
As a child I longed to go on the adventure, to take up the sword, ride the dragon or plant the magic beans, to face the giant, battle the balrog and meet the challenge
That song to Dream the Impossible Dream by Leigh & Darrion seemed to say it all. And it was possibly the most popular song to sing on TV talent shows when I was growing up. In the 60 & 70s, New Faces and Showcase were our versions of X-factor and Idol… and there were two types of contestants that left a lasting memory for me….
Young boys of Italian heritage with impossible smiles, faces full of hope and promise playing the piano accordion….
And middle aged or older men, looking uncomfortable in their new shiny suits, singing to dream the impossible dream.
The Unreachable Star
And I could see, that those contestants they too longed for an impossible dream, most of them probably lived ordinary lives… and appearing on National TV, facing a panel of judges, was a brave step on their quest to be seen and heard and perhaps one day reach the unreachable star…or be that unreachable star
As the youngest of 4 children I also longed to be heard and to be seen. Whether it was true or not, in my childish heart I felt forgotten, overlooked and unheard. One day, I don’t remember why but I hid in my cupboard all day and no-one came looking for me!
Of course, no-one in the family believed I was forgotten… Mum always said that I could not walk through the loungeroom without making it dramatic, I think it was my way of saying, see me, hear me!
Again, I can’t say whether it was true or not but in my teenage heart I felt forgotten, sitting out the front of the house waiting for my car rides to arrive… I remember thinking that they wouldn’t come… they had forgotten me. I felt as insignificant as a hobbit.
I married young and started a family, my husband, he had a voice, a loud voice and a temper to match…I did not compete, I could not compete, I could not confront and I could not voice my hurt, my anger, my frustration or tears…. During those years, I lived the hero’s journey vicariously through fantasy novels as I relinquished the power of my voice.
Oh I still had a voice but it was a thin whiny imitation and oh how I whined and told the same story to friends & family, to anyone who would listen…over & over again
A New Path
Then one day, an acquaintance, like a wise woman met unexpectedly in the woods spoke 6 simple words “Life is not a dress rehearsal”. Those words cut through the tangled hedge that strangled my life!
At 40 years old, I saw a new path. I divorced, completed Open Foundation and began University…
Oh how I loved it and hated it. My voice was weak & insipid with lack of use, I could barely speak in class… or if I did speak it was accompanied by heart palpitations, shaking and blushing blood red. So, I developed a strategy. Prepare something intelligent to say, and get in fast, say it first, then sit back and rest on my laurels, trusting I wouldn’t be asked unexpectedly to contribute anything else. It worked…most of the time.
After university, I wrote a children’s book The Elf that Flew… but I didn’t want to just read it to children, I wanted the characters to live, I needed to give them voices so they didn’t just have to tell the same story over and over again like I had… and so I googled oral storytelling.
Next thing I knew I was participating in a storytelling workshop with the Australian Storytelling Guild NSW…. I palpated, shook and blushed through games, and exercises… I was way out of my comfort zone… and I oh, how l hated it. And oh, how I loved it.
I went back again and again, I found my calling, my quest, to be a storyteller. I longed to tell tales… I could feel stories, straining like dragons in my chest, fighting to fly free…. But my lips were locked shut. I swallowed the stories like bitter pills.
I am a Storyteller
In the solitude of my bedroom I announced to the universe “I am a Storyteller”
And like a fairy godmother the universe soon delivered many storytelling
Opportunities “umm not ready yet, I’m not ready yet”. And this continued for a long
while until another wise woman, this one deep within me spoke more magic… “Every
quest begins with one small yes.”
And so… I vowed (if you are undertaking a quest you must make a sacred vow) I
vowed to say yes… to all storytelling opportunities and I did. Oh, it was a small
squeaky “yes” at first, and my heart palpitated, my hands shook and my face
blushed blood red and I said “YES” again, and again…
Most of us will not battle a fire belching balrog, but perhaps our quests are the
Millions of smaller challenges we face everyday…to take up the sword and cut
through our self imposed limitations, to ride our dragons of potential, to plant the
magic beans of our impossible dreams and climb the bean stalk to that unreachable
Perhaps heroes are not mighty armour clad warriors, but we small scared
vulnerable people who say a small, squeaky yes to Life’s challenges….and each time
we say yes our voices become stronger & deeper as our voices journey from our
heads to our hearts and bellies…till our voices firmly rooted rise….
Then we can say with every fibre of our being:
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause
And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest
And the world will be better for this
That one woman, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with her last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star
"The Impossible Dream"from MAN OF LA MANCHA (1972)
music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival
A joy, a depression, a meanness
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor
Welcome and entertain them all
Even if they be a group of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of furniture
Still treat each guest honourably,
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight
The dark thought, the shame the malice
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in
be grateful for whoever comes
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond. (The Essential Rumi. Translation by Coleman Barks)
There was a knock at my door, I was awaiting delivery of my new desk, the place I would write my stories, it was due before nine am. The smell of Saturday mornings Bacon and eggs filled the air. I answered the door cup of tea in hand…. It wasn’t my desk but Enthusiasm who bounded in upsetting my tea. He must have been sculling shots of espresso because he was bouncing all over the place… he’d heard about my creative hub and was eager to lend a hand.
Nine am, ten am, eleven am… After three hours, Enthusiasm packed up and left passing Impatience on her way in… she paced the kitchen for an hour and then exclaimed that she couldn’t wait around all day…
Finally, at one pm the delivery van arrived with Surprise. We were expecting a large grand desk, one befitting the masterpieces awaiting to be written -not a flat box! I must have left the front door open, for as I opened the box and found the instructions and an allen key, Frustration strode in. He even kicked the box when we saw that English was not the first language of whoever wrote the instructions..
Just then Hope floated in… and Enthusiasm came back. “I think we can do this” said Hope, “We can do this” affirmed Enthusiasm.… A slots into B, affix b to c, then screw to d. It was going together beautifully till Frustration could not find piece F. Hope said “it must be here somewhere” and Enthusiasm searched and searched, but F was missing.
Enthusiasm and Hope fled as Frustration kicked the box again… Pessimism wandered in to see how the project was going. “I knew it wouldn’t be built…it’s hopeless” he lamented.
Then Steely Determination rocked up like a super hero, he had tools and he knew how to use them. None of the other pieces of the desk were coded but Steely Determination said it was just a matter of trial and error and Patience…who was a late arrival.
By 6 pm Steely Determination was done…. Oh, the desk was still in pieces but Steely packed up his tools and admitted Defeat… Defeat just looked at the desk and said “what’s the point, you probably would not have written anything anyway” Pessimism nodded half-heartedly in agreement. Frustration kicked the box again and again and….
Bang bang bang at the door- “Oh god its Anger…. Don’t let him in” said Worry who’d crept in the back door… “He always causes a scene…what will the neighbours say? Let’s just pretend we’re not here and maybe he’ll go away” Anger banged and yelled for a good hour well, an awful hour really.
Then all was quiet…. I gazed at my unfinished desk… there was a soft slow knock and a crowd of Sorrows shuffled in, they bought chocolate, tissues and a DVD Beaches. They moved all the furniture and crowded into the lounge room. We ate chocolate, watched the movie, sang “You are the wind beneath my wings” and cried.
In the morning I wandered groggily to the kitchen for my cup of tea but the houseful of Sorrows had drunk it all. I really need my morning tea, I turned to yell at the Sorrows kicking my toe on the half-finished desk as Anger pounded on the door again…. The crowd of Sorrows were still sighing in the lounge room as Anger burst in the front door ranting and raving. I threw open the back door “here’s your hat, what’s the hurry” and shuffled him straight to the back door… but Anger was having none of it. Anger pushed his way into the lounge room and you’ve never seen a cluster of Sorrows scatter so swiftly. Again, I motioned to the backdoor and said “here’s your hat, thanks for dropping by…”
THWACK! Anger picked up a pillow and hit me, thwack! That’s was it, I snapped! Dish towel in hand and I snapped at Anger, Thwack snap thwack snap like a sword fight thwack snap thwack snap all over the house, no quarter giver no quarter taken, up the stairs, thwack snap, down the stairs, it descended into an ugly undignified brawl, gouging, pinching, biting, till we both fell exhausted on the lounge…
And that’s where Joy found us… and we laughed and laughed and laughed.
Then Calm strolled in with a book of poetry, an allen key and F, the missing piece of desk. And he read,
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival
A joy, a depression, a meanness
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor
Welcome and entertain them all
Even if they be a crowd of Sorrows, a crush of Worries, a bench of Judgements, a melee of Chaos, a fright of Fears, a disgust of Dissatisfactions,
or a pomposity of Arrogance
Don’t open the front door just to push them out the back door
Serve them tea and cake,
Wear party hats
Play games and listen lightly to their concerns
be grateful for whoever comes
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.
After I wrote Rumi and the Flat Pack, I began experiencing more of those "momentary awarenesses". The very next day, dealings with the Immigration Department soured my mood. As I stopped to contemplate my feelings, I saw a crowd of little cartoon figures, their hair standing on end, all waving their hands in the air, they were a collective of Chaos. A door to my solar plexus then opened wide and the melee of Chaos ran in, straight onto my see saw (teeter totter) of equilibrium. One end to other they ran, up and down, up and down. I laughed and watched their antics... soon they ran out of puff and dispersed.
I happened to tell a friend, who had heard my story, about my meeting with the melee of Chaos. She decided that would try to welcome her Depression but she said she would open the back door first, so Depression would not stay long. And that's when I realised, on the spiritual path we are told to accept our feeling, and we try, but our reason for accepting them is to get rid of them asap! We treat them like the unwanted, inappropriate house guest. We don't really welcome them, we certainly don't entertain them, we put up with them, throw tea and cake at them, to get them back out the door expediently. So that's when I added to the story "I threw open the back door 'here’s your hat, what’s the hurry' and shuffled Anger straight to the back door… but Anger was having none of it. Anger pushed his way into the lounge room and you’ve never seen a cluster of Sorrows scatter so swiftly. Again, I motioned to the backdoor and said 'here’s your hat, thanks for dropping by'…” I Know I have never truly welcomed Anger with the view to an extended stay.
Yes, my melee of Chaos disappeared after I entertained them (Or they entertained me), but if my intention was purely to get rid of the feeling asap then doubtless, they would still be running up and down, upsetting my see saw of equilibrium.(stubborn little buggers) For the first time I truly welcomed uncomfortable feelings and I would have been fine even if they hung around longer.
Since then, all my feelings have taken on personas. Frequent guests are, Mr Arrogance, he is an English gentleman in a suit, bowler hat, monocle with a long pointy nose. Mrs Impatience, also an upper class person who expects and demand that everything be done her way on her schedule. There Insecurity, a lonely little girl, in a ratty tee-shirt with "please Like Me" emblazoned on the front and Frustration is a tattooed biker without his bike. Miss Resentment is a beauty queen with a crown, septre and sash, while her cousin, clutching an academy award is Ms Martyr.
I am opening the door and welcoming them all. I invite then to sit in the best comfy recliner and put their feet up, I serve then tea or beer and we talk, play, wrestle and wear party hats. There is no time limit on their stay.
Do I like them all? No, but I am developing an affection, empathy and gratitude for each and everyone.
This being human is a guest house...
A heart to heart blog on life, spirituality, storytelling & stories.