It's an overcast day. It's gone all cold again after a few days that seemed as if Spring had already arrived. And I'm a little unwell, with an upper gastro-intestinal tract infection. Food tastes awful, and I'm unusually tired. It's exactly the sort of day I'd like to go to bed and snuggle up to my darling. But he ain't here. I did lie down earlier for a little snooze, but it's not the same.
Sometimes we had lazy days in bed together even when we were well, just for the heck of it. I miss that so much, but remind myself I'm glad to have had them. I constantly think of the Kahlil Gibran quote, 'in truth, you are weeping for that which has been your delight.'
I think way back to the little flat we had in Brighton, Melbourne, and the first weekend when we decided to just stay in bed and snuggle (apart from a few forays for food). Our friends Jim and Jen phoned up, and said, 'Oh how wonderful. We've forgotten what a good thing that is to do. We must have a day in bed soon, too.' That was in our very early days together.
We came up here to the subtropics around Murwillumbah, this little rural town in the Mt Warning Caldera, in search of a better life, according to our ideas of that. We found it. The things we thought we might miss in city living were art galleries and theatres — but Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Byron Bay and Lismore were not far away. We saw wonderful theatrical shows and art exhibitions over the years. And it was nothing to run up to Coolangatta for the latest movies, with lunch at a favourite cafe; and then later an even better cinema was built at Tweed Heads. We told family and friends we left behind that we'd be down to see them often enough — and for some years that was so. Also they visited us in our new home. We even travelled to Perth; we even went around the world.
Andrew was, as I have said before, a dynamic and adventurous man in those days, full of enthusiasm and initiative. He didn't mind driving all over the place. We became a one-car family before we left Melbourne, after I wrote mine off in an accident. For quite a few years he had a manual car, so he was the driver. I only had my licence for automatic. After he went to hospital in Brisbane for major heart surgery in 1995, I realised I had to learn how to drive the manual too. Several kind neighbours gave me lessons. I was never very comfortable with it, though, and one of my friends remarked that I drove it like an automatic. When we needed to replace it, we went to automatic and stayed with that.
He still liked to drive if we were together. I was usually the navigator instead. (When I eventually took over, some people were surprised; they thought I was a non-driver.) We drove down for a visit to Melbourne at least once, but then discovered the delights of cheap train travel on our Age Pensions. We loved the daytime train travel, when we could look at scenery, read, write, enjoy a meal....
We drove to Tamworth the year I was asked to be a psychic reader at the annual Country Music Festival. Some people who lived there were readers and liked to have a 'stable' to make a killing at the Festival. They came across me doing readings in our town when there was a street market, watched me a little while and invited me. When I asked later why they picked me, hoping to hear something flattering about my reading style, they said, 'You were out in the open. You weren't hidden away.'
The trip to Tamworth was an experience. I had my stall in the daytime, with others, and Andrew mostly hung around and helped. Evenings, we'd go to see all the shows. The atmosphere everywhere was of great excitement and we loved it all. There was plenty of colourful stuff happening in the daytime too, accessible from where we were placed in the centre of town. We could have gone back every year, but we decided it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, a great memory.
Because we rented, and landlords tend to want their houses back sooner or later, we got to live in different places around Murwillumbah, all of them beautiful and interesting — by craggy mountains or rolling hills, streams or the ocean, close into town or semi-isolated. We made many friends and saw them often. We participated in arts and literary events (even initiated some), in environmental movements and Reconciliation. We wrote books; he went to university; I did online Druidic and Wiccan studies. We held Reiki classes. We met Hare Krishna devotees and followers of Sai Baba. We had stalls for years at various Sunday markets. We learned Pranic Healing, Seichim, Thought Field Therapy, Theta Healing, Genome Healing, and many advanced versions of Reiki. We even learned Indian Head Massage. We did weekly Reiki treatments at a local youth centre. We acquired two kittens, who became our immediate family and are still here 15 years later.
And we wrote. Ours was the writer's life, times two. He was a fiction writer and a journalist; I was, and am, a poet and a blogger. That was what our days were always most filled with.
Very gradually our activities became more and more limited due to ageing and his deteriorating health. That period had its compensations along with it's difficulties, as we grew even closer. But for the best part of our 20 years together we had a full, rich life. Our friend Dinah, in her speech on his 80th birthday, remarked how engaged with life he was.
So we did find, and create, the good life we came in search of. It was both peaceful and adventurous. The thing I need to make myself understand is that it's still there for me. I still live in this place. I still have my friends. Because I ended up being the driver, I gained the skills and confidence to travel to surrounding places to see friends or attend events.
I do go out and about, as I couldn't when he was so ill. I do keep up with my friends, and make new ones. I am doing one Sunday market and seeing clients at home. I am training a new Reiki Master. Life goes on. I just have to learn to relish it more, as I used to. In some ways, nothing has changed; in another way everything has changed.
Meanwhile the medication is kicking in. My body starts to feel better.
Meanwhile the medication is kicking in. My body starts to feel better.
I have been writing this bit by bit, over the hours. It is evening. I sit up in bed, where I am writing by now, propped on big pillows, and look around. How much I like my room! I notice myself thinking 'my'. It is largely the same as it was when it was ours, but there have been changes. The latest is bookshelves where his wheely walker used to stand, on his side of the bed, just inside the door. It was always a nice room, a cosy nest for us. Now I like it even better, as it becomes more streamlined, less cluttered — or at any rate the clutter more neatly and aesthetically arranged. It gives me pleasure to see my many books-still-waiting-to-be-read on shelves instead of piled higgledy-piggledy on tables.
I let my mind wander over the various bedrooms we shared, as we moved about the Caldera, and also went travelling. I think of things I did to make them comfortable and beautiful. Good memories all. I come back to this one and see how well it suits me now.
Yes, it was a good life we found and created here. It still is. I just have to let it integrate with me again, or me with it.
The Australian Opera's production of Carmen was recorded and is showing tomorrow afternoon at the local cinema. I'll be there.
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