Roadside Chats (14) 20/5/15
Driving through Pear Tree Flat I come across a man walking. I pull over and introduce myself. His name is Donald. He’s a local; in his mid 70s. I invite him up for a cupper next time he’s out for a walk.
A week later he strides across my balcony. I put on the jug and pull out the Anzac biscuits. Donald’s been ‘up the valley’ since 1984. He knows something of the cottage’s history.
‘It’s always been a miner’s cottage. The first people who owned it were the Moggridge’s. When he passed away Bruce Clement bought it for $8000. There was no power & only two rooms: a bedroom and a living room. There was a Shacklock wood burner for a stove. There was a dirt floor and silver paper on the walls.’
‘The next owner was Mickey Brice. Mickey had the section looking real good. After he returned to England the cottage burned down. It was rebuilt with the insurance money.’
Donald’s a retired builder. I give him a tour of Deep Song. He gives it the thumbs up. ‘It’s really well built.’
I went up there a few times to see Bruce but didn’t stay long. He was a drinker and I wasn’t. He built the old shed and used it as a still. He got water out of the creek. His sole interest in coming up on the weekends…’
‘Was making piss’ I interject.
Exactly’ says Donald. We both smile. ‘I got a note from Evonne; his wife, after he died. She thanked me for attending his funeral. Donald’s eyes twinkle; ‘I didn’t attend his funeral. I didn’t even know he was dead!’
We’re both smiling now. I decide to drop my bomb.
‘He’s still here you know.’
‘What do you mean still here?’
‘Bruce: he’s still here… in the still… still here.’ Donald’s eyes grow incredulous. ‘Pat the real estate agent told me the day after I shifted in. She said I’d find the remains of a previous owner in the bottom shed. He’s been cremated. She said his name was Clement.’ My eyes are twinkling big time. ‘I guess it’s pretty unusual to buy a cottage and get human remains thrown in as part of the bargain.’
‘I’ve never heard of it!’ says Donald. ‘I don’t think he and Evonne got on too well.’
‘Perhaps that explains it’ I reply. My grin widens.
Donald wants to see the remains. I gently shepherd him down the steep incline to the bottom shed. Before I open the shed door I take off my hat. We both smile. I hand Donald the ashes. He turns the small box over in his hands; then nods. We turn and begin our careful ascent up to the cottage.
Beside Moon Creek
I’ve come to the end of my antibiotics. It’s time to find a local Doctor. My first attempt doesn’t go well.
‘Where are you from?’ The doctor asks.
‘Christchurch’ I reply.
‘Oh you can’t help that’ he says.
I feel shocked. ‘That’s not much of a welcome’ I manage to blurt out.
Doesn’t he know about Christchurch? Doesn’t he know about my beautiful city whose heart has been torn by thousands of earthquakes? Doesn’t he know about her suffering?
‘I was down there a year ago. There’s not much to do in the central city.’
I resume my search for a doctor. A week later I find him; a caring and competent man with an interest in acupuncture and emotional and spiritual health. It’s another step on the road to a new life.
So far the journey goes well. I feel welcomed by the local community. I make connections. I learn the ropes.
A local asks; ‘Are you able to live alone? Some people who shift up the valley struggle with the isolation. They end up moving back to town. Those who stay learn to live with their own company.’
It’s a good question. So far so good. I love solitude. As I’ve grown older I’ve increasingly embraced the contemplative life. I also love nature. The cottage is situated deep in the natural world. I love it here.
I’ve also become aware of my need for healing. The Self whispers; ‘We need to take possession of a place rundown.’ Outer mirrors inner. Just as I need to take possession an empty cottage and its rundown section so I need to take possession of my own rundown body and soul. The earthquakes have taken their toll. In the midst of a bright new beginning I tire easily. If I put myself under too much pressure; overwhelm returns.
‘We need to take possession of a place rundown’
Our burgeoning life
Roadside Blessings – Kevin