These are the turning points in your life - the events, experiences, or insights that shaped your life and its directions. They may have been big events such as marriage or divorce, war, moving to a new country, the death of a loved one, retirement etc. Or they may have been small events that had big outcomes; like simply reading a book or going for a walk.
Think of your life as a branching tree. New branches form, others may drop off for lack of sun or nourishment. Some flourish and bear fruit and others don't.
Or think of your life as a river winding its way to the sea. Where did it begin, widen and narrow, twist and turn, and add branches as it flowed? Did storms, floods or droughts affect the course of the river? Were there wild torrents and quiet pools?
MY FRIEND RUTH PEARCE WROTE THIS PIECE ABOUT A BRANCHING POINT IN HER LIFE
(real names have been changed to respect privacy)
It wasn’t something I told everyone – just a few trusted friends. There was some embarrassment, shame even, about this secret habit of mine, possibly addiction.
I had an excuse of course – Louella, who lived in my house, was involved in it, and it seemed only polite for me to participate. Every evening we would turn on the TV, eager for the start of our favourite show, a hospital soapie. Laughing at the improbably storyline, shrieking with excitement every time Louella made an appearance, bewitched by the handsome doctors, especially our favourite, Dr Mason! With his perfect plum accent and his unflappable demeanour.
Fast forward 3-4 years. I am about to embark on a change of life direction with my decision to study horticulture. Living in inner city Sydney with no car, no money and absolutely no idea about horticulture, I somehow had to find my way to the somewhat rural, miles away suburb of Ryde each day to study.
I had spotted him when I sat the initial entrance exam, far away on the other side of the room. I was almost hysterical with delight and mirth when I rang Louella that evening and exclaimed, “It’s Dr Mason – he’s going to study horticulture with me!” We were weak with laughter at the prospect.
The day of our orientation to the course loomed close and I still had no conceivable way of finding transport to get me there. Therefore, it was imperative that I find a buddy, a driver, on this day. The morning dawned bright and clear, but alas I was sick. I sent my then boyfriend instead, with the clear instruction – find me a driver!!! Anyone – except Dr Mason!
So off he went in my absence. And I know you can guess the outcome – the only person who lived anywhere near the inner city, with a car, was our beloved Dr Mason. And so began my deep and life changing friendship with Danny Bolton.
We spent hundreds of hours together in his little green car, laughing, crying, talking, speeding. He introduced me to Krishna Murti, to the Spiritual Path, to the wonder of plants, to joy and the ridiculous, to the hilarity of farts, the depths of sadness. He loved me in a way that I had never been loved – with total unconditional acceptance. He adored me and wanted me to soar, to live the unexpected life, to be fully myself in all of my paradoxes and imperfections. He absolutely revelled in my complete ignorance of all worldly facts and my inability to succeed in any worldly sense. He was a Seeker of Absolute Truth. He was a complex, tortured and joyous soul. He was my friend, my protector, my teacher and mentor, my number 1 fan.
Danny took his own life when he was not much older than 50. He used to ask me if I was scared of pain. I was not even 30, so I had no idea of the answers to such questions, no such knowledge of myself. Now at 60 I know the answer intimately and it is yes, I am scared of pain.
Danny held so much love and joy in his beautiful, maverick heart, but also so much pain. In the end that pain took him away from me. I miss him to this day, sitting on his pink velvet lounge drinking tea, exploring the meaning of life, wandering thru his gorgeous garden, marvelling at life. He was full of life, full of love.
His Spirit’s final communication to me was “none of it matters, all the stuff we worry about – none of it matters. Only love, only love matters.” Thank you Danny.
A STORY OF A BRANCHING POINT IN MY LIFE
When I was three and a half we moved from Alice Springs to Darwin which was a big wrench for me but also signified the beginning of difficult times, struggles and changes to our family. Alice Springs was a place of safety and security and those early years were a happy time for our family. It is a town that sits low in the red dirt and silver grasses of the desert and is home to the Arrentre people who know it as Mparntwe. To the East and West the MacDonnell ranges stretch like fiery caterpillars protecting the town and its inhabitants.
In 1965, the year I was born, it only had a population of around 6,000 people. My parents had moved from the genteel town of Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to the wild frontier of the outback. Dad was a young ambitious lawyer embarking on his career, taking on both the trivia and violence of this outback town. Mum was looking forward to a bright future with her handsome husband and creating the happy family she’d never had. They already had two small boys and would go onto have four girls in this desert town.
Our house was on a corner, a small fibro and stone cottage with a large garden that fronted onto the dry bed of the Todd River. Several aboriginal families camped along the banks which were lined with huge River Red Gums. Across to the side of our house were the Mission Homes where children whose parents worked on remote cattle stations, stayed to go to school. My older siblings went on adventures and I spent a lot of time at the perimeter of our garden, trailing after one or other of them. I’d watch as my sister skipped across the road and disappeared into the stands of gums on her way to visit one of the families on the river. or look longingly at my brother’s diminishing figure as he headed across to the Mission Homes where he’d eat a meal with the kids there before returning home to eat again. The boys would also scale the back fence to visit the camels tethered in the yard behind us.
I waited patiently at the line where the safety of our garden stopped and the wild unknown began. I always had my beloved Koala toy, with its stiff sawdust body, beady black eyes and hard plastic claws. I loved to rub my cheek along its furry coat or clutch it close as I stomped up and down on the dusty piles of gum leaves, watching the particles spin in the air and the smells of smokey mint and honey waft up to my nostrils. Paddy melons were good to stomp on too, giving a satisfying pop, their noxious seeds spreading to take root and sprawl in the expanding carpet of vines.
My sister was at kindergarten and at the Bangtail Muster Parade she rode on the Kindergarten truck throwing streamers at the crowd. That became my greatest ambition too, to go to Kindy and be in the parade throwing streamers. Before that could happen, we upped and moved to Darwin for my Father’s career opportunities.
Although not even four years old I remember the leaving clearly as it was tainted with disappointment. I sulked the whole way, a sixteen hour drive. We children were all crammed into the back of the Green Holden station wagon, hot and sweaty, our thighs and bums sticking to the vinyl. Mum held the baby in the front seat.
In Darwin we moved into a house on stilts with a flight of stairs up the front. I hated all the space under the house and found the staircase terrifying. I would crawl up slowly clinging to the bottom of the rail. I missed our sturdy little house so firmly planted in the ground, the red dust and grey spinifex of home. I missed the gigantic gums and the dry river bed.
This was a green and verdant place of dense foliage, swamps and crocodiles, tidal beaches with black slimy slugs and sea wasps, pythons, green ants and green frogs. A place of hot torrential rain and wild cyclones. A place of devastation and destruction, of alcoholism and affairs, madness, apocalyptic Gods and violence. A place of lost adults and lost children.
As I grew older I stopped missing Alice Springs and forgot about all the things I had loved there but the years of safety and security I had known as a small child stayed with me and I never stopped missing the family that we were.