Before the ritual burning 4

There is no organic reason for starting a new post now: merely that the app seems to be a bit tired and sluggish as the word count grows

July 19: I saw Clare and Joe talking intimately on my part of the hillside. I had been too busy for reflection for a while. Another list: self-delusion; my adventuring; sexuality; parenting; finances; spirituality. I set up overnighting companionably with Alan. I walked along the breakwater smooching, the moon a semi-circle lying on its back and moving within clouds in a vivid starry sky. The next night I walked solitary along Potato Point beach and the moon shone more brightly. The sand was firm and hard. I had a strong sense of Joe in the moonlight on a surfboard, that stranger Joe who was so distant that I could not conceive of ever having enjoyed intimacy with him.

July 23: I overnighted with Alan and he invited me again next week. I walked to the pink rocks through thick frost and brought him back a frozen fern, a thing of beauty in the cool morning sun. I was drunk on conversation.

Next was a state of mild panic: reality impinged in the form of car rego, along with analysis, this time of friendship with Alan. He patronised; he didn’t respect differences of opinion; he attached too much weight to BADipEd. But he did push me to be more daring. And we shared sunshine.

Warmth
Has been the centre of my search
As I’ve cruised through friends
And places,
Taking time to relax and explore
Many landscapes
In fact, fantasy and metaphor.

The weather’s cold
Thick-ice-on-the-windscreen cold,
Ear-tingling cold,
Cold-through-to-the-marrow cold
Fingers-purple-and-without-sensation cold.
And so I look for warmth.

I soak it up
In a noisy smoke-filled Bermagui bar.
The warmth is partly friends
And partly music made by friends
On violin and didgeridoo.
And partly dancing hard
To rhythms that insist you dance.
And partly, if I’m honest,
Rum and coke.

The other warmth
Is warmth that says
“You’re welcome”
When I want to crash without a formal invitation;
The warmth of sitting, idly talking,
In front of a sluggish fire;
The warmth of hugs and lips
That say
“We care. We like you.”

I soak warmth up
In magic corners
Overlooking a peaceful valley,
As chimes record the wind.

This time, I’m with a new friend,
Warmed also by my setting this in motion.
He challenges timidities
By being male.
He challenges my honesty, motives, feelings.
Talk is so intense
That I feel drunk,
At least as drunk as drunk
On champagne, rum and coke or ginger wine.

I walk alone in moonlight,
And feel delight, not lack.
I slide on frost
In early morning cold,
And breakfast as frost
Drips from the eaves.

Still warm.

July 26: I wanted Joe OUT. When Clare didn’t like a shirt he discards it. They were living two minutes away from me. I ate, and felt full and tight. I longed for rest from constant vigilance and virtue. Joe still maintained I drove him out, and took possession of house and car.

July 31: I returned to Cadgee. I wrote while Alan gardened, a jar of daffodils, cream and yellow and green, beside me.

The white mask for my imaginings

Here I stand,
A woman newly free,
Looking at life
Through eyes reclaimed
From 40 years of other owners.

And there before me
Is a plain white mask
Featureless and without decoration,
Blankly staring back at me,
Saying, through motionless lips,
“What am I?
What are you going to make of me?
Will you add
Sequins? Feathers? Rocks? Clouds?
Sand and sea-shells?
Rain, mist and moonlight?
Colours? Warm or cool?

What about the words
That issue from the mouth that you create?”

A collaboration was born. He decided I was a wordsmith and he had a story. He auditioned me: “Here’s the scenario. Rough something out while I make coffee.” I did this, and made a list of other writing schemes.

Put your pen away

Sue’s challenge

I won’t put my pen down now.

August 2: I talked to Hugo. He knew the name of Simpson’s donkey and a lot about the Battle of Britain. I very stupidly told him I wasn’t sleeping with Alan. He was 10, for goodness sake.

Alone

I

I dare a gift
Of words
Because I’m strong

II

Skies
Take my mind beyond
Trivial rage

III

I repeat my music
To absorb the rhythms
And drown out thought

IV

I walk the beach alone
In sweet communication
With the moon

V

Seagull feather, black-tipped
Reminds me of a beach walk
Not alone.

VI

I am strong
And long for someone
To revere my weakness.

VII

My double bed
Contains my tense body
And books to fill the space.

VIII

An old friend smiles.
My heart no longer
Depends on his warmth.

IX

I collect trophies
From many friends
To prove that I exist.

X

I use words
To twist reality
So I can manage it.

August 5: I hitchhiked to Narooma.

August 11: I was in Sydney. I agonised over reconciliation, my poor mother my sounding board. I thought I could make a better fist of marriage. I was, again, totally confused. I figured out it was Sydney that did it.

I am adequately loved

Joe: August 13

August 17: I returned to the territory of grief and pain. I listed my losses over the years.

I recognised a cycle: we talked well; I engineered a standoff [or he did]. During the standoff I romanticised him. We re-embarked on reality-not-then-but-now. Maybe it was connected with my menstrual cycle.

August 26: [Too much about Alan until he left town: “pink shirt, braided waistcoat, yell of pure joy.” It doesn’t need to be preserved.]

August 30: In my dream, I embraced my old age in the person of an aged woman. It was a nice image.

September 9: Two weeks of peace. I ferried Joe around in Clare’s absence. Deanne visited. The dog ate half the picnic.

How was I doing culturally? I defined that as anything that expanded my vision of the world: Pirates, Forbidden Planet, Merchant, craft show, art galleries, film society, calligraphy, the work of friends, music. For myself, haiku, free verse, writing, planning radio shows. This week. A voice workshop, recorder practice. Black comedy. A choice between Les Murray [?] and Bodalla Ladies Fair.

September 15: I went to the voice workshop. I have a voice that is powerful and can probably keep a tune with a bit of practice. My ear is not, contrary to what I’ve always told myself, not too abysmal. I even sang in Croatian.

September 17: Joe arrived as I was leaving. I kissed him and he said, looking at my makeup, “I wouldn’t like to destroy a work of art.” I drove off with a snarl of tyres. Later that day I met my timid inarticulate Lit Soc self at a Women and the Law workshop, where I alone had no status label attached.

In bed? How obscene.

September 20

The beach is much more delightful, under a three-quarter moon at low tide, among the rocks, half clothed, on hard sand that felt neither cold nor gritty.

How am I doing sexually? I was, on this occasion, responsive, present and contributing: not, as I had been seeing myself, getting far more pleasure retrospectively. I decided I needed to think about morality, wisdom, desperation, passivity,, pleasure, importance, long term plans, exploration, what it means to be a woman with a man, what it means to be a woman without a man, flirting, honesty, and the meaning of dreams.

The dog smashed my trophy vase and chewed up my seagull feather. I cried helplessly with loss and laughed at irony. My marriage and my games on the side were destroyed by a large black gollolopy dog.

September 24: I visited Maret, which always challenged me. She was sporting $8000 worth of Alfa Romeo, a new lover, and plans for selling the house and moving within reach of a city. Her lover was leaving a marriage of 18 years: working through them one by one from the honeymoon on with a husband who was willing because he thought it might save the marriage.

I was going through a phase of being rough with Joe because I was lonely, bereft, remembering the good times, missing him – and premenstrual. I felt the separation was untidy and incomplete. I wanted to return myself to a tangy life, and to warmth rather than abrasive flippancy. He ditched a computer course in Canberra that had given me respite.

My pool balls last night teetered on the edge of the pockets time after time

One evil idyll ended about now with “Take care of yourself” and “I’ll see you around.” I was not without attachment. I was not emotionally stable. I was not so strong I could not feel rejection. I was still needy and insufficient in myself. I ate. I flobbed. I slobbed.

October 4: Bloody bloody bloody dog! He drove me insane. He was a tie when I was cutting ties. He was destructive when I was beginning to take pride in stuff. He was untrained when I was in training not to feel rage. And Joe was beginning to be uncooperative: every time I saw him he was sour and cursing and swearing.

I thought I could see his point of view. I’m thought I could empathise. I thought my philosophy could demand the permanence of affection or resent its departure. He did it well in many ways. I felt as if we’d stopped doing it well.

October 9: I borrowed DIY Divorce. That brought things closer. My prevailing thought?

I’ve never been a divorcee before

Alan returns

The day you
Came back into my valley,
My angel card said
“Play”
And I had a hole shot in my ear
To accommodate a butterfly.

October 14: I returned home from a visit to The Palace at 10, and Joe was still there, and still hostile. Over coffee he told me I talked bullshit, that I exuded anger, that he didn’t want to be at Waincourt when I was there. He wanted to feel comfortable when he was here at my behest, which I saw as quite reasonable. I asked him about moving his stuff and he said “But I have no space.” he left in anger and I was sad again at failure, and convinced that I wasn’t altogether in the wrong. Why shouldn’t I be acting as if the house and it’s environs are mine? I hated being in a state of warfare with him. I asked him to work with me to resolve things that needed to be resolved, but he didn’t want to talk – about anything.

October 17: Dinner at my place, Alan and Franki and Franki’s friends. Teenage talk till 11. Then adult talk. Alan talked platonic as the strength of our writing relationship. Franki said “I anyone talked platonic to me I’d run a mile.” She also said “Wouldn’t you do the book anyway? Even if you didn’t like the teller the stories are great.” Franki was impressed by his effect on Nadina, and though Ross needed a dose too. Stephen was fascinated when he talked about a movie that suggested no one ever landed on the moon.

I was delighted that my house was a venue for Franki’s friends. She wanted a repeat for a farewell dinner.

October 22: I felt rage indeed. Helpless, floundering rage. How could he still do this to me? I needed rescue remedy. I cried. He made me weak from strong so exceedingly easily. Franki came in and firm-handed my shoulders and relieved my sense of flying apart. This was all because Joe said “Can you turn off that hideous din?”

“Can I ask you to give me the same friendliness you give an echidna?

October 24: I pulled faces while I talked to Alan on the phone. I didn’t want to waste my birthday on him. My inconsistency worried me.

October 27: I was lonely, restless, close to tears, irritable, defensive, unsure of my capacity for intimacy. Playing games was no longer triumphant and fun. And yet, yesterday …

Yesterday

I walked up Pigeonhouse
And reached the rocky outcrop at the top,
Although the ladders stopped me
Arms and legs
Trembled insecurely.

And yet I reached,
Quite slowly,
And with many pauses
To admire views
And soak up sunshine
And survey the distance travelled
That rocky outcrop,
Companioned by my pounding heart
That thumped inside my head
Like feet of people close behind
And bent on overtaking.

I played
“Down in the valley”
Music already old when Cook
Sailed up the coast
And named it Pigeonhouse.

I soaked in sweat
And felt the squeamishness of over-effort.
But yet I made it to the ladders
And almost to the sky.
Regret strode with me
As I paced back down,
Rock to rock and step by step.

The bush was rich with flowers,
Purple, yellow, pink, not yet in full bloom.
The path was thick with gulleys
And fallen logs
And little paths around the fallen logs.

The track went fiercely uphill.
It was not an easy stroll.
There were rounded rocks to lean against
To still a pounding heart,
And glimpses of blue ocean
To demand a frequent pause.
There were butterflies,
And valleys stretched out far below,
Beneath cloud shadows.

And then relief.
A chance to stride it out
Along a level narrow sandy track
Between tall grasses and low scrub,
While cicadas throb and shrill.

I grin a grin of pure satisfaction.
The rocky outcrop
Not so far away.

I no longer pace it out.
It’s really climbing now.
Hands and arms haul me up.
I pass friendly time of day
With many people and feel
Within my opening heart
The camaraderie of the climb.

I gasp
At the world spread far below me:
The sea bright blue,
The valleys dense and sombre green.

My legs
My heart
My will
Have given me
This eagle’ view.
This counter to the sadness
That’s always close beside me.
I’m striding out beyond
A puny sense of loss.

At last the top.
I look up towards a leaning tree
And sky
Beyond defeating ladders.
Tiny yellow flowers
March across the towering rock.

My bunch of kids
Climb on
And later disbelieve
Their conquest of that peak.

Of many people I remember one:
“Are there many people at the top?
I’m greedy, I suppose.
I’d like the solitude
To look without a crowd.”

The next day
I am not even sore,
And still behind my eyes
Is vastness,
Satisfaction,
And the warmth of
Moving up towards the sky.

October 28: I felt empty and weak and yet last Tuesday morning I wrote to mum and claimed contentment. I was stunned when she told me this. I was a bigger wreck that I’d been since early in the year. Four glasses of Chianti probably didn’t help. I sat there, drunk and bawling my eyes out. I felt lonely and completely foolish. I even pulled out the wedding album. My love was inadequate.

November 5: I was excited by what I’d written of The road answers back. I felt like turning cartwheels. I was high. I was flying apart and fired up.

I spent a calm few hours in Clare’s presence, yarned amiably for five minutes, and helped her move chairs.

November 8: I spent the weekend alone. It was hard to decide how to savour it. I washed up, washed, made muesli. I ate a raindrop plate of cheese, tomato, sprouts and kiwi fruit. I arranged flowers, wrote, read. I felt strong, delighted, self-confirmed, independent, excited, exciting and free. I walked the beach at 6am, visited Seph, practised recorder, got a heap more stuff for the book, rough-housed with Alan. I decided not to remember that last time I felt like this I collapsed within 24 hours.

November 10: Time for a stocktake as this fat book ends.

I’ve felt delight and a sense of achievement. Long intimate conversations with Joe have ceased ; I’ve felt anger at him; I am no longer quite so ambivalent about reconciliation; I’ve become less hostile to Clare; I have slept with him three times. I’ve bought a washing machine and painted the hall. I’ve sought help from Beth Hall, a psychologist, and two social workers. I’ve owned my skill as a writer. I have 14 hours a week tutoring, got an interview for a job in Canberra, applied for work in NSW and the NT. I’m on the management committee of the refuge and family support. I’ve cultivated a friendship with Alan. I’ve been daring in many directions. I’ve become close to Sharon. I walked up Pigeonhouse, rode my bike to Cadgee. I can read music. I’ve been to a singing workshop and a bricklaying course. I’ve had stretches relaxed undistressed time, interspersed with at least equivalent stretches of the opposite.


Motherhood

They’re home again, and I am now displaced
My life is not my own to pick and choose,
I’m overseen and raided and abused,
And smells of bacon fill my sacred space.

They’re tall and lithe and story-filled, with atste
Of far off places, people, lurks and news
That leaves my life the pits with no excuse
But age, and fear and duty, all home based.

I contradict the things that I have said.
I’m not inert, or bored, or dull or tame.
I’m full of schemes and life and far from dead
W persona and a name.
y life begins at 46, while theirs
Is bounding on without the help of clares.
When I consider all the things I do
And all the things just waiting to be doen
My heart is overwhelmed and somewhat glum
Where is the energy and time? The clue
Lies in a rigid structure to my days,
A honeycomb design where all my schemes
Are laid down neatly, closely, and my dreams
Of doing all I want fall into place.

I rise at 6, I walk the bush or beach.
I come back home with vigour and intent.
I read with purpose, sew, or write and then
Go off to picnic, shop, a meeting or to teach.

I seize my life and cram it to the brim.
I swear off lists, and have excess of time.
Excess of time I fill with great delight.
I paint the walls and organise our books,
I picnic with my friends in scenic nooks,
I write, create, do minutes late at night.
I play recorder, wrap up parcels, talk,
And sing in African “Ngair meh tandazo”.

I go to Nerrigundah Monday nights and so
I hear the click of balls and dip my cue in chalk.
Maria grabs my pen to say “A day of jazz”,
And Brian tells me tales in quiet drawl,
Lyn astounds my fear, and says “Explore!
Adventure! Risk! Attempt” with rare pizzazz.

My life is rich and varied, colourful and tart.
I hold no single person in my heart.