24 July 2011


It was 1971. I was eleven years old when I spent a week in that tiny, old cottage at Mylor with my older sister. Suzie had gone to Singapore and had asked my sister to house-sit.

Who was I then?

Why is is the memory of that cottage so alive in me after all other memories have faded into a distant haze?

The feeling of the cottage has haunted me to this day, as if it holds an important secret.

The cottage was surrounded by thick bushland and the back yard edge fell away to a creek; windchimes tinkled on the front porch, and inside it was pure hippyland: unpolished floorboards, indian rugs and cushions on the floor, books, lots of wooden things, exotic incense smells... it was dark but it felt rich in texture. I remember my sister saying that Suzie did yoga - it may have been the first time I'd heard the word.

That was exactly 40 years ago.

I can't remember the last time I saw Suzie - it was probably twenty years ago and it was probably by accident.

Today I drove up into the hills and, found myself passing the cottage. I recognised the wooden sign hanging out the front which has the word Orana burnt into it (the aboriginal word for welcome).

I turned the car around, stopped out front and, knowing Suzie still lived there with her female partner, summoned all my courage to knock on their door.

The cottage is lighter now - they've extended and renovated the tiny bedroom, and the kitchen/living area is much bigger now too. The walls are a happy lemon yellow, and there are more windows, but it still has the same bush hippy feeling that I remember as an impressionable adolescent.

Suzie is over 60 now, but she hasn't changed, she is impish and cheeky, just as I remember her.

She made tea and we talked, surpisingly not about the past, but about now: her trip to Singapore, her neighours, walking trails around Mylor.

Back in the car I am filled with a heady mixture of felt memories - they brew like a magic potion...into the mix goes some deja vu, some time travel, disorientation, loss of self...it begins to heat up, to bubble and simmer...I slip back through time, I am eleven again....am I really that shy dreamy young girl sitting on the indian cushion in 1971? Was that the same me?

Who am I today?

And why do these places and people and things left behind cause me such a sweet, sweet sorrow?

Driving up to Mylor through the mist and the rain this morning, I had no intention of visiting Suzie's cottage on River Road...

I was driving to Mylor to visit Mark's cottage on Silver Lake Road. It was the first time I've been back there since retuning from the retreat with the news of his death.

Driving there, feelings of both joy and sadness washed through me, for all the things and people that are have passed through my life but live on in my heart forever.

Funny that the greater our capacity for joy, the greater our capacity for sorrow. Once the heart is broken open it feels the divine heights and the heartbreaking depths of the human condition.

Mark's delapidated little cottage was sold from his estate about a month or so ago.

I wanted to visit it once more, to walk along the country road where we once walked together, to wander over to the creek where he took me on that first summer's day together when he checked his yabbie net hidden in the gently flowing stream, and where he took my photograph in the tall grass - he saved that photo onto his laptop and called it 'Sally my love'.

Mylor is especially wild and beautiful on misty, rainy Sunday mornings.

Buffy and I walked a little way down Silver Lake Road. Approaching Mark's cottage, Buffy recognised the territory and wanted to go in the gate.

The yard had been tidied, the bushes had been pruned.

There was a car in the drive.

I wondered if the new occupants knew that the former owner had died there, had drunk himself to death because he'd been separated so abruptly from the love of his life. I wonder if they knew his body had been found badly decomposed after four days in a hot bed, the electric blanket left on high.

How can they sleep in a room where someone has desperately drowned in sorrow?

Buffy and I walked quickly past the cottage, the rain was beginning to drop faster.

I deliberately drank the memory potion and crossed through the mist of time - I walked, sensing the impressions of Mark's footsteps along the road, his spirit and his being coming alive in the present. The imprint of his life is etched into this landscape that he loved, its in the creek, in the trees, along the paths, and in the memories and lives of his neighbours and friends.

Why do these places and people and things left behind cause such a sweet, sweet sorrow?

People enter our lives and hearts then move on; each precious day comes and goes, every single moment arises and passes away, then it's lost forever - it will never return.

Suzie's cottage on River Road...Mark's cottage on Silver Lake Road...I revisit and remember, and feel not only deep sorrow for what has passed, but also immaculate joy for being immersed in the ephemeral dance of life.

How precious and how unique is every fleeting moment of our lives.

Take great care to live continually with this awareness...

Mark's cottage at Mylor

1 comment:

Gx said...

Memories are strange things. Some we cherish the most fade with time and others we'd rather forget stick with us. They are what connect us to the person we used to be. I try to cherish that, good and bad memories alike.