It has been a long time since I have felt a passion to write. When you change your life your world turns somersaults and backflips until you find a mental space to call your own again. Then just when you think you are on the road there, you come to an enormous round-about and start spinning again, unsure how and where to exit to find peace. Then it is time to go somewhere familiar, somewhere you know will nourish the roots of your soul and allow new shoots to grow and lead you to the light again.
And so I have come to the shack; far from France, alone and unannounced. I am sitting at the window, watching a neighbour gently rowing a little dinghy to her favourite fishing spot.There is a cool, light breeze and the exquisitely clear water is almost silently lapping the shore.
I went to bed at 8pm, exhausted, and woke at 7am, refreshed. The sounds of the sea in my ears, the salt in the air and comfort in my heart have massaged my soul all night and released the tensions and worries. I have read an article in the (Australian) Organic Gardener magazine and suddenly and unbelievably I feel compelled to write, for the first time for a year or more.
What is it I have learned in these last 51 years? What is the meaning of life as I see it? The equation is simple: Love in your heart plus soil on your hands equals inner peace and happiness. One without the other is not enough. Substitute anything else for either and you will suffer from an addiction as sever and unrewarding as drug addiction.
Inner peace is difficult, if not impossible, to define. To have it you need to be able to recognise that you feel content, safe, satisfied, loved and loving. I also need to feel I have space and to feel free.
One day in France I reached inner peace. The story of my last 3 months in France cannot be told in a few lines. But basically it is that age old one of 2 people in love, tearing their separate lives apart to be together and their struggle to weave the tattered warp and weft into a strong, long-lasting and beautiful new fabric. I am back in Australia to let the warp catch up to the weft so that when I return we will both be following the same pattern.
It had been a hectic first 2 months for us, with the gite to look after (like a bed and breakfast/ holiday apartment in one end of our house), dozens of people for me to meet, the KGI weekend to prepare for and friends coming to stay. What a way to begin a new life together!
Where there's a will, there's a way, they say, and my willpower is fierce! I worked from sun-up to sundown, all the time missing the things that had previously given me a solid ground to stand on. While I cooked for 20 guests, while I weeded and sowed and prepared the garden, while I painted rooms, while I shopped and slept and cleaned, I had only a suitcase of belongings. Everything I needed to use belonged to someone else. On top of all this, everything was so much harder and took so much longer in another language. The spice rack in any supermarket is arranged in alphabetical order but what if you don't know the French for cloves?
We worked hard together and Ian was wonderful but we had no time for sharing and sorting our thoughts and we each had to manage as best we could until our commitments were finished. That day finally came and I awoke feeling ecstatic that I had actually made it through; not just through the busyness but also through the intense and difficult inner struggle to accept everything around me as my new life.
In the vegetable garden that morning, while Ian went off to get a wheelbarrow, I stood up from planting some seedlings and had an overwhelming sense of inner peace. There began half a day of happiness for me before my world began to fall apart. Ian's struggle had led him somewhere else, with a different set of problems to sort through and I had not been there to help him on his journey because of all the demands on us by others during those 2 months. It was devastating.
Neither of us had the strength left to deal with anything. Words would not come and thoughts would not form. There was only pain and anger and resentment. I booked a flight back to Adelaide, unsure what else to do. The day before I left, the words began to flow, the love held true and understanding followed. As Ian stood on the train station platform with tears in his eyes, I so wanted to get off the train and for us to just go home together. But I didn't. Despite all the expense, coming to the shack was the best thing to do; it always is, always.