Slow Mother Blog, 20 May, 2014
Completing circles - back to Ayr
Life always seems to bring you back to the beginning to complete the things left undone. When you begin a new chapter you must return to complete it – even if you get a little distracted along the way. Over these months I have felt very much aware of trying to resolve and complete parts of my life that were left somewhat incomplete…our first ever home in far north QLD is one of these.
When we left Ayr to find a place closer to me family, I was so emotionally attached to the home and garden that had nurtured, that I didn’t sell it and instead decided to rent it out –it could perhaps give another family a good life…As time went on and we got so busy creating our new lives in Woombah, building, planting, putting energy into the community – that I kind of forgot about our first Australian home.
When we returned from our travels, I decided it was really time to do something about it – just as we had passed on part of the El Milagro cloud forest project to new caretakers (Keith and Marisol are doing wonderful things in Intag!). As I enquired to the agents about the situation with the house it became clear that things were not so good…The person renting it was not very stable and the house was in urgent need of care and maintenance. So, we decided it was time to return.
It’s not a small undertaking. It’s 16 hours drive to the north and the kids would have to give up their school holiday plans to come along. I didn’t want to face the possibility that my vision of a sustainable permaculture household may not be shared by the people who had been renting it…But Pacha and Yani were so positive about going back to the house and town where they had spent important years of their childhood – they gave me the spark I needed (as usual!).
It was pretty bad. Dirty and neglected, broken and battered, fruit trees cut and poisoned…our beautiful, simple first family home was almost ruined. Apart from the fact that it gave us such joy to live in, the house was 100 years old and deserved to be looked after for another 100 years! Pacha and Yani were horrified that anyone could treat a place so badly. There had been 6 dogs in the house and downstairs it was obvious that they had locked them up and left them for days at a time - the last person who lived there hadn’t bothered to clean up the poo and dirt left there all over the floor and walls. We all took a deep breath, rolled up our sleeves and set to work.
It felt like some kind of penance, a kind of punishment for ignoring the place for so long. On my hands and knees scrubbing and scraping, I bowed in apology to the structure that had sheltered so many people over the years. Stretching high on the rickety ladders, I swept away the dust and grime and abandoned cobwebs and vowed to bring the home back to shelter others. We camped on the (now cleaned) floor, fleas still jumping around, made simple rice meals on the cooker and shared our meals in exhaustion every evening for almost 3 weeks.
A few days into our time, we saw on the internet that cyclone Ita was on it’s way and would pass over our town. The wind howled and the rain lashed its way in through the broken windows and we moved deeper into the house. We had to pause in our work and just watch and wait to see what the cyclone would do. The kids, full of excitement, wrote a song and danced outside in the dying winds and rain…
There was so much work to do, we had to extend our time there and employ a legendary handyman to help with the repairs (which included needing a new kitchen). My old friend Gino is now 84 years old, smokes like a chimney, survives on one meal a day and many cups of coffee, and can fix anything. On one of the last days he accidently cut his hand with the angle grinder – blood was gushing, but he said ‘it’s fine – just tie a handkerchief on it’. After two hankies and a towel failed to stem the torrent, I convinced him to go to the hospital where 15 stitches were needed to fix the gash. Still, the next morning, he was back again, bandaged up - finishing the jobs he had started. I think I should have kept a sample of his blood – his DNA is priceless!
The house has been rescued and is on the market to sell – we’ll see what happens. I finally understand that it is rare to find someone to live there who will love and look after a place without actually ‘owning’ it themselves. It is the ever constant lesson in my life – that other people do not see the world the same way I do! It was a great life experience to share with Pacha and Yani – unforgettable and teaching many important lessons. I’m so humbled by the way they could deal with the emotional and physical challenges.
So, we found closure in Ayr and are ready to let go. See what’s next!