The View From My Back Garden
Updated: Nov 19
In the age of my innocence
“If you see with innocent eyes, everything is divine.”— Federico Fellini
Overy Tree · Glasshouse Mountains · by Karl Angell · Angell Surf Photography · Sunshine Coast
Seen always across a bay called Deception … No one casts the stone, or could over that sunlit stone’s throw of water, to shatter them. On clear days they stand far off, move close under cover of rain. …
— excerpt from David Malouf’s 1970 poem ‘Glasshouse Mountains’
We were all so in love. Deeply smitten. With the land. Oh my God such lushness, so incredibly green. Sometimes the richness of the memories of an incredibly beautiful place interlaced with old and almost forgotten feelings of real happiness and of being very at home, are so deeply embedded within our heart that looking back is somewhat painful.
The Glasshouse Mountains: incredibly mystical, their genesis was as volcanic plugs from the remnants of volcanic activity occurring approximately 25–27 million years ago. Molten rock filled small vents or intruded as bodies beneath the surface and solidified into hard rocks — trachyte and rhyolite.
Their mostly indigenous magical names are Mount Beerburrum, Beerwah, Coochin, Coonowin, Elimbah, Ngungun, Tibberoowuccum, Tibrogargan, Tunbubudlah, White Horse Mountain and Mount Miketeebumulgrai.
Before leaving, any visiting friends always gathered at the edge of our garden overlooking the Sunshine Coast, breathtaken at the stunning view of the Glasshouse Mountains — their marching frozen still and in silence below on the distant horizon. Standing there in all their stern glory as ancient elders overlooking it all — past, present and what’s yet to be.
A moments silence if you please. For the regal majesty of the mountain beings.
The Garden of Erewhon
To reach our old wooden farmhouse, you had to travel up the winding Blackall Range in the hinterland of Southeast Queensland, passing a sparse number of isolated cattle farming properties usually set far back from the road nestled in amongst massive old fig, avocado and mango trees, past Montville Pottery and the gorgeous old Mapleton Pub, past the little township of Woodford — famous now for its fabulous folk festivals — and past the tangled old gnarly rainforest vines of Mary Cairncross Park.
Turning down our dirt driveway we’d learnt to rev fast over the serrated metal grid designed to stop cattle and wildlife from escaping — and there — set at least 100 meters back from the road, sat our house. Set in the centre of a wire-fenced garden, the large rambling wooden homestead was surrounded by a veritable Garden of Eden — a well-established purple grapevine tied to palings to hold up their weight ran the length of one side of the house outside my brother’s bedroom.
An elegant and ancient circular bamboo grove shaded my bedroom windows at the front of the house, and on my mother’s side, there were cherry trees laughing with pink blossoms, and deliciously fruiting apricot trees. At the back of the house, which would prove to be a treasure trove in itself, was the grove of avocado and mango trees, massive in size, ancient and wise.
My beautiful Blue Heeler cross Kelpie dog Banjo often chased the cat up a mango tree for sport — she had a natural bent for chasing anything that moved — mostly cats, cows and cars.
The Great Australian Icon
The only downside was the outdoor dunny. Although the outdoor dunny is an Australian icon in its own right, it was not my favourite thing. But in her inimitable fashion, my mother made this space sweet, with a little oil lamp for evening peeing nailed to the wall, incense, candles, and reading material.
My main fear though was that of one of the veritable colony of snakes that seemed to surround our house, somehow biting my backside some misty evening. Never happened, snakes avoided the place.
My mother’s knack for strategically throwing rugs or batik sarongs, and living or dried flower arrangements, and other sundry items in a rich yet minimalist fashion, done in such ways as to make a paupers home palatial, became fairly legendary. In these modern times she’d use this natural skill for interior decoration work but she had extremely low self-esteem and had no idea what beauty she’d created.
My mother worked mainly in proofreading for the local newspaper — the Nambour Chronicle for a number of years and for the Sydney Morning Herald in her later years.
It’s almost impossible now for a child to experience a childhood in such a way as I did — the freedom, the running almost naked through acres and acres of grassy paddocks, stampeding the black and white Friesian cattle with my doggy and laughing as high as a kite.
Seeing the bedraggled hippies with their long bears and even longer hair, clothed in flowing transparent Indian print shirts, blue-jeaned and barefoot, sneaking onto our property at dusk to steal the gold-top mushrooms that only grew in the middle of a pad of rich warm cow manure, hoping for the trip of a lifetime.
The homegrown and gorgeous classical and rock music, the soft rain on the grass so green, the gentle cattle and the aggressive Brahman bulls that could suddenly appear over a ridge unexpectedly from a neighbour’s herd, the cow skulls and bones littered at the foot of waterfalls where they’d slipped and fallen some dank day. The little green frogs that plastered themselves on my bedroom window peering in at me with their fingers glued to the glass, or the very tiny and cute frog that unexpectedly fell once from the bath tap.
My brother had a name for his favourite cow: “Beauty! Beauty!” he’d call and she’d come ambling over to him as he stood their laughing with exhilaration, munching the grass from his outstretched hands across the rusty old barbed wire fence.
Then there were the giant outdoor rainwater tanks Luc and I bravely swam in, fearing some mythical giant python possibly curled at the bottom of the tank, each swim fraught with nerves and delight at escaping cool, chilled and happy yet again.
Certainly there were snakes. Oh my God there were. Everywhere. This was where my dog came into her own. Every week without fail she’d deliver another deadly dead snake to our back door. Her tried and true technique was to grab the snake in her strong jaws and swinging her own head from side to side she’d break its neck. It worked every time.
She was a marvel and highly intelligent— a true heroine — that utterly fearless little dog of mine.
I’ll never forget the day my mother was on the phone to a friend and a very large brown and yellow diamond-backed python slithered from the roof above, hanging down to stare her in the eye through the window — she quickly slammed it shut, and continued the conversation, laughing in a kind of electrified fear.
My mother the snake woman — they clearly loved her and sought her out. And yet I — I seemed a protected species — running ‘round for hours in acres of waist-length high grass, bare-foot and bare-legged in little shorts and not much else — never was I bit.
The Sister Confessor
“Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun Shine on you crazy diamond Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky Shine on you crazy diamond You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom Blown on the steel breeze Come on you target for faraway laughter Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine”
—excerpt from ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, Pink Floyd
I feel such a great sadness knowing this would be impossible now for a child to experience in this country. The innocence of the land is lost and also of all children. There’s danger everywhere. Called people.
But even then there were dangers I didn’t know of. My brother asked me to be his ‘Sister Confessor’ in the last months of his life, begged me even, in a desperate desire to get everything off his chest so as to leave here freed of his memories and their terrible burdens. He wanted to confess all to my unconditional heart.
And I always listened with a warm and open heart and mind. He was dying of HIV AIDS complications, with no way out of the horror of it all, ‘though he admitted to having wanted to go into the rainforest with a gun a number of times in the past to end it. To feel in control of it all. I talked him through surrendering to his impending death experience, and to letting it finally take him, rather than him taking it.
And in the end, this was how it went. He simply let go, and left us.
In those last days, he was insistent he wanted to reveal all his sins and transgressions — and also the evil things done unto him — by adults whilst he was a little boy.
Yusuf / Cat Stevens · He Was Alone
The Macrobiotic Paedophile Farmer
The first record my Mother ever bought for us was Cat Stevens — ‘Teaser and the FireCat’, or perhaps it was ‘Tea for the Tillerman’, I can’t be sure. We rocked around the living room like two deranged rock stars to his music, and later to Joe Cocker, Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi, Janis, and other greats.
We loved it! Oh my God we did!
Then Mum sent us to stay briefly with the evil farmer Peter Ferguson. She wasn’t to know. I didn’t know until many years later what actually happened.
I have no recall of why we were staying with him, but she needed a break from us for a week or so for some reason. Probably just needed a break. Peter had somehow met us, and was another one of the seemingly innocuous hippy type folks who loved to strip off and run wild and free on the secluded sand-hills of Mudjimba Beach with the rest of the crew. He was a bit more special. He taught us how to make sand sculptures a long time before they were de-rigeur.
Actually very artistic, he showed us the right amounts of sand and water to mix together to make sand sculptures of a naked man or woman lying either face down or face up.
Pretty much the sculptures were always naked, yes.
An evil paedophile farmer — that’s what he really was. Marketing himself as a divorcee, he sought out and befriended single mothers like mine. God only knows what else he got up to in his time.
Luc finally told me the truth of those days.
In the days we stayed there, I was left on my own an awful lot. I felt a bit rejected throughout. But Luc — he showered and slept with Peter. I wasn't invited but instead left to my own devices. I knew nothing of anything. I didn't really know actually about sex ‘til I was 11, although I was well aware of how to self-pleasure and so on, I hadn’t figured a few crucial things out, nor joined all the dots as yet.
And vital information was kept from me. Yes I was sadly naive.
But anyway, who knew what a paedophile looked like in those days? It wouldn't have crossed anyone’s mind when it came to Peter. He presented as a nice alternative type guy looking for a new wife.
Meanwhile he was trying to have sex with my very young brother aged about 9, I think. Luc told me he woke in the early hours with Peter trying to anally penetrate him and failing, and Luc telling him to stop. This happened a number of times I gather, and I don’t know much more about it than this.
All I know is just that Peter is an utter creepy criminal bastard who should be dealt with. By the law. There were more after that, so Luc told me. He was just the first. To have a go.
This was Luc’s painful secret, one of many, that he shared with me as he was dying.
The Hippy Priest At The Beach
And then there was Austin and his beautiful wife Lorraine, and their two sweet children. He was known as the Hippy Priest, and he’d muster the hippies and surfies from the beach, holding religious evening services once or twice a week in the basement of his old Queenslander home.
The basement was really the ground floor, enclosed with the glass Venetian blinds of the day, a battered lino floor, and rattly old fans trying hard to keep us all cool and failing miserably.
I adored Austin and somehow got myself taken to a number of his services. This happened after I chanced on a communion he was holding on a sandy evening beach — in the gathering dusk — he allowed me to drink from the cup of sweet red wine and break a chapatti with him — his choice of the bread of Christ. He said that although I wasn’t baptised into his religion, that if I believed, he was totally fine with me participating and breaking bread. I was ecstatic. I was in.
And after the service, there was live folk music and hippy food — potato salad, more chapattis, lentil pies, and so on. And endless spiritual talk talk talk. I loved it.
My mother became very close and friendly with his family and there was occasion for him to actually rescue us one night from a frighteningly nasty domestic violence episode with her erstwhile violent Maltese lover, the very horrible Frank.
He’d grabbed my hair in a drunken rage, and offered to throw me down the very high staircase at the side of his house if I didn't tell my mother she was a whore and a bitch and so on. Of course being me I refused, and somehow phoned the priest Austin and got him to come and get us.
I was shaking, hiding in the garden, and very afraid. The very dangerous Frank had thrown his kitchen table over towards me, attacking me because I wouldn't abuse my mother at his command.
I was only ten.
It was all high drama. Drunken violence. I was just a target because I was there and her daughter. More unforgettable.
My Mother’s Companion
Accompanying Mum to the Montville Pub and sipping pink lemonade, she made me wear my big black wide-brimmed felt hat to hide just how under-age I really was, to accompany her as she had a few drinks. This was when her alcoholism kicked in very hard, I really saw it. I had no choice but to be her underage (non)drinking ‘friend’.
This was part of the ongoing trend I recognised pretty early in my life, of turning me into her companion, rather than letting me just be her little girl. My soul rebelled against this pretty young as we really weren’t on the same page about so many things.
But I could see it even then — I was becoming my Mother’s Mother.
This surreal experience was further bolstered by her accidentally calling me ‘Mum’ — so many times — weird but true. An eleven year old girl being called Mum by her own adult mother, it really irked me every time. I tried hard to shrug myself out of her unwanted and awful projections on me, but they stuck for decades.
My mother playing the piano all night when drunk — Luc and I had a love/hate relationship with this phenomena as she was keeping us awake til 4 or 5 am in the morning, and our next day was completely ruined, but her playing was sublime so who could complain?
Not only that, the acoustics of the very tiny room she had the piano in acutely enhanced the sound like an echo chamber…
The tragedy of my mother is she didn’t recognise her own brilliance — she was a breathtaking pianist and had memorised many classical pieces which she played-by-ear with fluid and powerful emotion… but she really had no idea of how exceptional she was… no idea at all…
Julie L. Bernstein.
I began conducting invisible orchestras in my living-room. Leonard Bernstein the second. Cranking up the huge old record-player loud as I could, and locking the living-room doors from prying eyes, it was on!
Blessed Beethoven did it for me, Chopin, Tchaikovsky!
I’d been reading the great Russian novels — Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn — so why not also be a conductor to a massive invisible orchestra? Made sense. I got pretty good at it, to my way of thinking, although I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
Leaping around the living room like a thing possessed, I first uplifted the wind instrument section, then brought the bass percussion in, and finally a mournfully poignant and moving piano or violin solo would flow through it all like a mystic river.
Ahh — I loved it!
Meanwhile my contemporaries in Nambour were attending Mrs Dickson’s ballet classes which my mother would not allow me to do, for some reason. This was a bone of contention between us both forever. However I got over it. In my way.
Then there was that family with the eleven kids. My mother regularly sent us to stay with them, I’m again not sure why, and it was the best of times — and the worst of times. She’d met the vociferous Pam at her theatre group and they'd become fast friends. Each of her children it was said had a different father but the current man of the moment seemed a stayer and we all loved him.
An absolute sweetheart, a farmer and very hard worker with a heart of gold for all the kids.
They lived like most of the rest of us on the range, on large farm acreage whose main crop was incredibly delicious pineapples. I remember spending the time riding tractors, up the pecan nut trees munching away on the nuts delicious flesh, playing with the gorgeous little baby boy Andrew on his tyre swing, or helping prepare the almost factory production line meals.
Breakfast was a massive bottomless pot of porridge and dinner was on plastic plates with one pork chop each, a smattering of peas, and a dollop of mashed potato. Loved it. So did my brother. We were in our element. We felt special although part of something much bigger than us all — a real family. Our chronic loneliness assuaged, we were happy as pigs in mud.
Bath-time only happened when someone chopped some firewood, cranked up the copper, lit a fire, and heated up some water. And I’m sad to say we one after another shared the same bath water, the last one getting a cold bath and very dirty water. Ah well.
The down-side was the fleas. I was very allergic to them. But they were absolutely infested with them, and I was eaten alive as I slept between two of the sisters Sherylyn and Wendy in their large lumpy uncomfortable bed, whom I also adored like sisters.
I’d come home from their place every time with large infected welts on my legs from the flea bites.
Whilst there we had to attend the local Montville Primary School and it was something else. A one room school room, I felt that I was back in medieval days. We wrote on slates with scratchy chalk, kids were placed in age groups around the room, and the one teacher somehow managed them all with an iron fist and her cane.
I was privy to seeing her rather sadistically cane my friend Sherylyn on the backs of her legs, and I too was threatened for my outspokenness, but not touched in the end, due to my privileged visitor status.
Caning was done everywhere in those days and my brother had ‘six of the best’ inflicted on him many times, bravely bearing his painful wounds with valour, the palms of his hands often wrapped in bloody bandages.
It was legal then.
But I well remember the day it was suddenly not. That was a Very. Good. Day.
Little Drummer Boy
My younger brother lived in his own little world just as I did. He was forever at me as I sat in the highest branches of a tree, swinging my legs and intently reading my book of the day. He was insistent I should be punished for this outright rejecting behaviour and playing with him be strictly enforced.
He clearly adored me, only I didn't recognise this — I simply found him extremely irritating and annoying. To say I regret this now is true, but that’s who I was then, very immersed in my own rich inner world and not to be interrupted.
To compare us — the chalk and cheese analogy is very apt.
I always ensured I had a large old wooden table to be used as a desk in my bedroom — no matter where I lived — laden with paper, coloured and black drawing pencils and pens, writing materials, books, musical instruments — all for my own personal entertainment. I was a one girl party — an accomplished geisha for myself. I never sought fame. I was an introvert in some ways, although a rather avante garde play I wrote was performed at the local theatre company by a group of actors to great reviews in the local papers.
But my brother — it was as though he was all externalised where I was all internalised. He had no interest whatsoever in his bedroom, or in ever being there except to sleep. He spent a lot of time seeking out alternate families with fathers, and was given a drum kit by a local elderly farming couple, the Kennedy’s, who lived up the road and adored him.
He was a mad drummer — truly excellent and gifted. He was known for this ‘til the day he died.
He became a bit of a thief also and just before Mum finally gave up and sent him to his father for the ill-fated attempt at reconciliation between father and son, he was on the edge of truly bad thievery. Also a compulsive liar. I’m one who cannot bear lies and feel them as sandpaper on my soul. He was one who cultivated the skill to a fine art. He had large appetites even then — for stolen money, cigarettes and whatever else turned him on back then. We had no money and were dirt poor. So he stole.
He was a lovable rascal and ultimately he was his own undoing.
Near-Death-Experience By Molasses
In the field of the aetheric Akasha, it’s said we have 5 potential exit points in our life — times where we might easily die — and it’s up to us whether or not we take those exits, or continue on. My brother, it seems, had possibly more than that, he had so many near-death experiences it wasn’t funny.
We did have some wonderful times together, we loved to get those old inflated tractor inner tubes, and either curl up inside them to roll down a hillside — a fine art if you didn't want serious injury. Or to float down the local creek at risk of snakebite or eels. All great fun.
Then there was the time we decided to wander through the sugar cane factory. It was the weekend — it was closed — but ostensibly still easily walked through — wide open to any who felt like it.
We climbed up the tall rusty ladders on the sides of some massive tanks and walked along the top of the booming metal containers.
Suddenly I felt my hackles rise and I turned around. He’d totally disappeared. I thought he might be hiding or have runaway elsewhere to inspect something of interest. But something made me walk back about twenty yards and there I saw a hole in the tank. And there he was — hanging upside down by one leg crooked into a ladder somehow, caught in a death fall, and faintly calling my name.
Into a massive molasses tank. His head hung one foot or so above a massive oozing sticky death pit of molasses.
I helped him climb out, and we never forgot this unbelievably miraculous moment. He could have so easily died, and it was clear something supernatural, Godly or angelic had intervened and saved him.
He was blessed to be with us a while longer….
Maleny & Me
In some ways I was flourishing in Maleny. But this was only while at home. After my mother and I whitewashed the old laundry, I took a shine to mowing the immense lawns, and one day I mowed further beyond the back trees than usual, somehow discovering a bit of an old concrete path.
I pushed on. And on. And on. Eventually uncovering an amazing secret garden interconnected with a lacy network of old brick paths and hidden groves of flowers and shady trees. I felt like I’d uncovered a million dollars!
But the school and I were not getting on. I was a shining star in anything and everything and this wasn't working out for me. I wasn't used to it. The other girls didn’t like it either. I was deeply unpopular.
For some reason I seemed to excel above and beyond everyone else, something I’d not experienced in my old school in Nambour. I was asked to represent the school in inter-school sports events such as swimming and basketball.
I did. And again excelled. The local kids started attacking and snubbing me.
In a panic I went to my mother and begged her to urgently get me out of there and somehow back to my High School in Nambour. She organised for me to commute down the range a few days a week but to also stay a few nights each week with my very beloved primary school teacher, creative writer and the very radical Youth Theatre founder, Beryl Muspratt and her family, on their school farm next to Petrie Creek. This was a dream come true, and a whole other story.
But on my first exam day it all fell apart. On that very day as my mother grumpily got in the car at 6 am and drove me to the bus stop in Montville, a massive Fairmont came careering ‘round the corner directly toward us taking up the entire road. In that split nanosecond Mum and I looked briefly at eachother and we knew. She had an impossible choice of either going down a steep cliff on one side, or ramming hard into the cliff-face rearing up on our other side. She chose instead to hit the car head-on — ultimately the wisest decision but extremely injurious to us both.
Our car was totalled and time slowed down to another dimension. Something I’ll never forget. I got out of the car with blood pouring out of my head and asked bystanders where to call an ambulance. People gathered and urged me back into the car to rest and await, and not feel I had to be responsible or a rescuer for a few moments.
My mother’s pelvis was broken, and my face had been rammed hard into the dashboard by the impact, breaking the teeth in one side of my mouth and pushing other teeth right through my lips. Both my eyes were very bruised and swollen to slits for weeks after, and for years I carried a slight lump on my forehead, which finally disappeared.
This was the beginning of the end for us there.
Everything seemed to start going wrong from then onwards. Soon after this, Mr Cundy the owner of the farm, decided to sell up — the incredibly rich and gorgeous land in Maleny had suddenly been seen by the millionaires of the world and he gave us a few weeks notice to find other lodgings. It was as though the life had suddenly been sucked out of my mother.
It was all too much. For one little woman. And little she was at five foot two. Even then she’d tried so hard to make a go of it on her own— for years, by then.
So this then was how Mum decided to give up the ghost and go back to her father’s home in Mosman in hopes of finding the ever elusive support and fatherly aid there.
That was her dream. She knew it wouldn't last. And didn’t really exist.
In my heart of hearts, I feel glad I wasn’t there to see the brutal subdivision of the lands that then ensued, into small lots for urban housing of a once extremely quiet and lush rural farming area. I just couldn't have borne the sight of it. To this day I don’t want to see what they’ve done.
A Return To Innocence
I think I was sexually awakened quite young. Very young. There was no artifice or adult interference at all behind this that I can recall — I myself sought out the Norman Lindsay books stashed on Gray’s bookshelves and drank in the photos of lascivious and large lusty women and men. I taught myself very young to self-pleasure to relieve the sexual tension viewing Lindsay’s works brought on.
If anyone had seen how this was for me they may have surmised I was the child victim of paedophiles but I’ve racked my memory for decades into every little nook and cranny, and there really doesn't seem to be anything untoward hidden there.
Unlike my brother, who really was attacked over and over by male predators from a very young age. Male and female in fact, he was free game, the little shining light that he was. They all wanted a piece of him.
For some reason none of these predatory attacks happened for me ‘til I was, as you now know, aged 14, but then it was all on. I more took the brunt of my mother’s extremely vicious and violent drunken attacks, and this somehow shielded my brother from her raging aggression. So it all added up in the end.
We both got hit hard in so many ways. And to this day the predators that still live attempt to threaten me with various awful outcomes if I name them.
Ahhh. Sigh… So it goes.
David Olney · “Kubla Khan” · by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“Beware! Beware! His flashing eyes, his floating hair! Weave a circle round him thrice, And close your eyes with holy dread For he on honey-dew hath fed, And drunk the milk of Paradise!”
— excerpt from ‘Kubla Khan’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
My Father In Spirit
Gray — and my mother Patricia Rose, was a love story of the forbidden kind. That played out quite openly and under the disapproving eyes of her own father Keith and many others. And why? Well she was only eighteen when they met and he was aged fifty and the married father of her best girlfriend Jan.
But his wife Eunice lay dying, in her last days of terminal cancer, and well knew of my mother as her husband’s lover. And all I know is — she didn’t seem to mind. It was that kind of family.
My young mother was working as a Dance Teacher for the famed Arthur Murray Dance studios, run by the very gay Arthur (who I briefly met in my early teens for tea and scones in his chic apartment in Sydney), and a Fitness Instructor for the Women’s League of Health, in between air-hostess work for TAA Airlines.
Young, lithe, highly intelligent and very fit, golden-red haired with very creamy white skin, she was movie-star stunning and highly desirable. And didn’t really know it.
My mother said in her later years that Gray ruined other men for her.
No other man could ever live up to him. My Austrian father was very young — and quite a few years younger than my mother in fact — and ‘though a beautiful man, just couldn’t fill those shoes. Nor my brother’s Dutch father, ‘Phonse. Divorcing them both in fairly quick succession, she spent most of her life as a single woman with a number of suitors over the years. ’Til the day she died in fact.
But the sad fact is, when she became pregnant to him, Gray asked her to abort this child — and for her this was the last straw. And the reason they parted ways. To give up his unborn child had broken her heart.
Then she was introduced to my father through the Neville family (Richard, Josie and Jill) — and then there was me.
Written some time in the ‘50’s — exact date not known
“Dear Pat, while it is fresh in my mind, a few thoughts on our recent experience, as they come, direct and honest.
If anything is likely to wreck our future it is precisely this tendency we have just experienced. Without any thought of praise or blame, we must face our obligations, which are as follows:
To preserve at all times our own integrity and well-being. Quite simply, we must learn to control our nerves and our physical welfare so that we have a reserve for the emergencies. It means living in a high level of self discipline ALL THE TIME. Sometimes I wonder if I can do it. Certainly, without you, I cannot. (No, let me put it again.)
Entirely alone, I can do it. But that is the way of rejection.
I prefer to choose the way of affirmation.. This infinitely harder. It means intimate contact with my female counterpart, who possesses my weakness as well as my strength. The flood (and here but recently God gave us a tangible warning on the rocks out there)- — the flood can sweep us away!
I want to point out the quite serious aspect of it, for I do believe that in attempting what we are attempting, we invite disaster. (As well as glorious success).
We can bathe in the translucent sparkling overflow of the eternal ocean, together, and unclothed. We can also be swept out to sea and smashed on the rocks.
I can’t help feeling the opportune-ness and aptness of that little experience. Was it heaven directed? If only in the sense of all things fitting the pattern. All we lost was a [swimming] costume. We were fortunate!!!
But in this other experiment, we have much more to lose (and gain). Therefore…… to deliberately bathe where we are unfamiliar with the tides — is asking for it. To fail to consolidate all our known resources for safeguard is weakness and folly. What are the resources?
To so live that (by the way of rejection) we are fitted for the way of affirmation. Which we choose, which sensual gratification we desire to affirm (since these are also part of the mental state).
To preserve energy by rejecting all waste, except the glorious and rich ‘waste’ of our mutual and bodily affirmation of sex.
We cannot for instance, enjoy all food and taste and smell etc. We must choose precisely those we need in order to affirm.
Must get rid of anxiety and inner tension… be impervious to criticism… must be physically in order, at whatever cost. There must be no excuse. For what we cannot do alone, we cannot do together. That is certain.
Hence our recent difficulty. Hence your own doubt about coming over. You allowed a sort of ‘degrading process’ to creep in which (understandably of course) did violence to the ‘vision’ and the ‘glory’.
If I, in this case, managed just a whisker better, it is due to repeated experience of the same failure. You know how long it has taken. But since we do not accept the excuse of ‘age’, then you must accept the criticism (not my criticism) of your own nervous stomach. That is the irrevocable criticism. That is what makes me hesitate.
If you, or I, cannot, alone and unaided (save by God) attain to a state of ‘attunement’, we cannot and do not deserve to, affirm the ‘Beatrician’ Way.
It may be too difficult.
I am not sure.
You have also said so much to me in these last 2 days, perhaps without remembering. You said “If I wish to go back to the family and Eunice and try again, I would have your blessing”. I understand the thought behind it. Think about this Pat. Let us talk about it later.
(letter from Gray to my Mother, years prior to my arrival)
Patricia Rose (my mother) and Gray (Graham Kentwell), having morning tea in front of the tool-shed — many years before she met my father Heinz.
Put A Tiger In Your Tank
Gray the commercial artist. And - Gray the gentle spiritual artist, obsessed with Tolkien and physical and spiritual perfection. I loved him dearly. When I was five my mother left my brother’s father after much fiery fighting culminating in dinner being smashed against the wall and other scary events.
I have clear recall of ‘Phonse, my dad of the moment then, running and hiding in a bedroom, locking and barricading himself in there for many hours, so she couldn't attack him physically again. He had a black eye. This was the beginning of the end, well, it was in fact, the end. He didn't put up with it for very long at all. I’ve no idea what their fights were about, just that the idyllic but extremely short-lived picture-perfect family lifestyle was over. Forever.
She ran away with her little girl, me, to Gray’s beautiful white painted house nestled within beautiful old gardens hidden down the long stone stairs in the bush-land town of Thornleigh.
He could have been my father. He was my father. And yet he wasn't. The plastic shopping bags of precious letters between them that my mother left to me, are filled with pages and pages of romanticised images of ‘She’ and other idealised male and female images, both inexorably spiritually and physically intertwined. Electrically charged poetry with lightning volts of love and desire.
Fresh hand-squeezed orange juice and home-baked bread. I’ll never forget the incredible aromas I woke to whilst ever we stayed with him, wafting through his house of light.
The sheer white curtains he had floating in the breeze against white-painted wooden window-frames and walls, looking out into Australian bush of mature and statuesque eucalypts. This was a man who loved to create and appreciate beauty and wasn’t ashamed of it, cultivating the poetry of light and shadow wherever he could. He had ethics but a little different than the norm. He didn't force his views on anyone but just lived them.
We corresponded for years during my teens ‘til his death from a car crash in his stately old Bentley. To me he was the father I never had. We thought in many ways very alike but not always so. The words in his wonderful handwritten letters to me were fashioned into whimsical shapes such as a vase or a face. He wrote wisdom to me. He wrote spiritual missives to me.
He wrote with absolute caring and fatherly love to me. Any intelligent artistic girl should have a spiritual father such as this. There’s been no-one in my life before or after in any way like him. I can’t wait to meet with him again in Spirit. I hope he feels the same way.
I became wise with him but still kept my innocence. There was never any strange or untoward behaviour toward me from him. He treated me with utter respect and never did anything out of line in any way.
Sacred Walking Sticks
When my brother also arrived at Gray’s house after Mums emotional flight away from Phonse, Gray took us both down into the bush and tasked us with seeking out a particular kind of stick. In his workshop under his house, he brought out his precious bags of carving tools, and under his strict but gentle tutelage we drew and then carved winding designs down the length of our chosen stick.
He gave us precious things to inlay — I glued some gorgeous mother-of-pearl shell and stones into mine and my brother hatched a plan to have a secret removable top section where he could hide…something… and this he did. Wonderfully well.
After we’d sanded down then varnished these, our finished works almost rivalled Gray's. Well not quite. He had an array of incredible carved sticks — my favourite being the ivory toned one with some famous lines from Samuel Coleridge’s Kublai Khan poem carved gracefully along its sides.
Gray apparently worked as a commercial artist but all I knew about this was that he’d designed the famous ‘Put A Tiger In Your Tank’ petrol logo. I was more interested in his personal artworks, his paintings of his personally landscaped gardens, of such rich and breathtaking beauty. And the inevitable swimming pool.
Always the pool. Gray insisted that where there was life (and children) there should also always be a swimming pool.
And to this end when he visited us in our Templestowe house outside Melbourne, now as a family friend, before my mother split from Phonse, he set up a pool in our gardens, digging, raking, welding and constructing. What a man. Unforgettable.
Gray and I (aged 5)— he’s digging, raking and constructing a swimming pool for my brother Luc and I. His view was that life was not worth living without a pool to swim in.
‘ Ah love, let us be true To one another! for the world which seems To lie before us like a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight Where ignorant armies clash by night’
— excerpt from ‘Dover Beach’, a poem by Matthew Arnold, handwritten in a letter between my Mother and Gray
Golden-haired — beauty and intelligence —in movie star pose — my mother Patricia Rose before I arrived…
The End Of Love
They were unable to rekindle their romance which had lasted 10 years from age 18 to 28 for her prior to their relationship breakup. When we stayed with him after Mum’s precipitous split from my brother’s father, she was an emotional wreck, depressed and weeping in fits and starts, sleeping for hours in his Queen-sized fourposter bed.
Gray always retired to the single bed in his sparse and small spare room down the hall, a little like a monk, bearing a lit candle, a glass of water and a book to read himself to sleep by. My heart broke, for I wanted him as my father more than anything in the world, but it wasn't to be.
He just wasn't there anymore, and neither was she.
They were at least able to be amicably honest about it, and the friendship survived. ‘Though in later years they had many arguments and their relationship deteriorated and ultimately broke down.
Jekyll & Hyde
My mother’s drinking set in hard by the time I was aged 10 — at least that was when I could clearly see it — and none of her relationships could really weather the seriously toxic changes this brought to her personality. Jekyll and Hyde had nothing on her.
She was a broken woman prone to what they called back then ‘nervous breakdowns’ and medicated herself daily with prescription drugs such as Mandrax and Valium.
Mixed with a dry bottle of Scotch a night, you can imagine the fireworks. The combos were dynamite. My life became a living hell from then on.
She was completely unable to see what I and any others who loved her could see — a talented, warmhearted, intelligent, brilliant artistic woman. All she wanted was love which she would then destroy with an artillery of choice weapons whenever it tried to come anywhere near her. Her ability to tear you down was legendary. Razor sharp were her claws and they’d get right into your cracks and deep into any old wounds, opening them further ‘til you bled dry.
This is the illness of the thwarted woman — of brilliant mind and temperament — unable to see any way to self-actualise. Losing the will to live. Unable to find the love she so deeply desired and constantly craved. With no real spiritual compass to guide her she was lost in the raging sea of her pain.
And she was going to take me down with her on her rapidly sinking ship, was the plan, or so it seemed.
The psychological and childhood reasons behind her choices of self-destructive (and destructive to others) behaviours, and her gradual deterioration, are another story.
Still she remains in my heart as one who really did see and understand me on some levels, and yet held strange grudges against me for not choosing to be the companion mother-friend she wanted me to be for her, instead of the needy small daughter I really was.
She was the tragic beautiful golden child grown into the self-destructive woman on a downward spiralling trajectory.
I had to escape it all or die, in the end.
NORMAN LINDSAY (1879–1969), The Pool 1924
OUR MODERN MALADY
“It is sad indeed to have to admit defeat. Evidently the time is not yet ready for a true consummation of the human love-experience: the realisation that it does not exist within the present parameters of the status-quo: that even in the most sincere attempt outside of the common marital permissiveness, it must fail.
‘Dropped from the breast of great mother,
The feather falls, flutters and fails
in a rented room…’
That may not be an accurate memory of Mervyn Peake’s poem but it will suffice. It is the failure of vision that now results in the acts of desperation in the human sexual scene.
But we still accept the chains of enslavement to the dictates of the establishment: in the refusal of that strange love that answers only to the spontaneous and the irresistible which is our only guarantee of protection from the crude and the vulgar.
Therefore, in that refusal, which most of us have suffered from (by omission or by commission) which now manifests itself in this modern, ignorant, defamation of the dark mystery of life: making the secret and the hidden conscious and visible and in that reversal, destroying that finely balanced intention of the mind-less power of union.
There comes a time when it is necessary to say ‘no’ it cannot and it must not be brought down to the area we call common-sense. It is mystery and miracle, or it is nothing…
It is not friendship or brotherhood in the common sense of our social relationships. It is MORE than all of these; it is the rare and infinitely precious intimation of the transcendental which shrinks away from common-sense and rationality — because there is a law that makes it so.
The law is underwritten by nature, and there is nothing we can do to alter it. We hear the call, if we are lucky: we answer it without thought, and we receive the rewards; or we refuse, and lose the power to feel.
It is taken away from us — because of that refusal — we reap a lifelong sense of irretrievable loss.
THIS IS OUR MODERN MALADY.”
— excerpt from a letter from my mother, Patricia Rose Cairnes, to a friend, in her early 20's.
Photo taken by Gray of me aged 11, in the waterfall in the rainforest below the old farmhouse in Maleny, as my Mother and brother Luc also readied themselves nearby for similar shots
The End Of The Dream
And so, we sold up most of our household goods, packed our things and left. My mother’s dream of seeing me through high school from the farmhouse — shattered. My brother — fast becoming a very young delinquent, left for his remarried father’s home in Pennant Hills, a suburb of Sydney.
But a few months before we left, Gray made the long and arduous trek to see us — from Sydney to our home in Maleny. I have no idea what happened between them but I feel that yet again things didn't gel for them, and it was sadly painful to see these once fiery lovers, unable to reach eachother anymore, aching to, but not able to.
However, Gray as always the resourceful father and friend, built Mum a makeshift garage — digging holes deep enough to ram in some old telephone pole remnants and nailing on a corrugated iron roof, for her little Prefect car which had been stuck out in all the stormy weather Queensland threw at us.
The photo in this article of me posing artfully under a waterfall are part of a large series of photos he took of my brother and I. On his final day with us we all walked the winding cow path down to the ancient rainforest, within which were hidden the secret gorgeousness of waterfalls cascading down onto huge black boulders tumbled all ‘round them from some prehistoric volcanic event.
My family had no body shame nor ego - neither positive or negative - about ourselves, and in those days — those last days of innocence — we had no concerns about stripping off all our clothes and running ‘round stark naked. This ended as soon as we left Maleny for the cooler and more conservative climes down south.
Leaving southeast Queensland and going back down south was a big thing for my mother, I now realise. She’d left severely toxic family, and ex-lover, and ex-husbands behind to go there and start a new life in a brave new world. But as one of only 2 female divorcees in the Nambour area, she met with severe scorn, derision and virtual ostracism.
Only in the local theatre company N.A.T.S., and in her job as proofreader and some-time reporter at the Nambour Chronicle did she find some kind of acceptance. And amongst the coterie of young hippy friends who revolved around her starry orbit.
Although there were some outstanding and notably progressive thinkers there, my mother suffered terribly of loneliness and feeling like an utter outcast in her divorcee status of the 70’s, which was so frowned on, and looked down upon.
She wiped away her tears, packed our gear and down we went to Sydney once more. To the next incredible unfolding of our life stories. Of Shane, of further awakenings, of life and death, suffering and sadness, and the gradual downward spiral of my Mother’s own life.
Lightning over the Glasshouse Mountains · Ocean Art Photography · Sunshine Coast, Qld, Australia
REFERENCES + RESOURCES
Me in Maleny aged 11
Copyright 2020 © Julie Von Nonveiller Cairnes. All rights reserved.