There is a continual assault on our senses day after day, it seems endless in its relentlessness.
I am sure and well full know that spending the first 10 years of my life living alone with my parents allowed me time to myself. Now as I look back I understand my attraction to solitary pursuits. I spent time alone in the backyard making canals and villages in the soil. Tiny Town. I always had blank pages on which to draw, only ever with lead pencils. The joy of colored pencils and pens did not come for many years. My father would bring home strange bound, blank paged books for me to make drawings. So often these scribbles were of churches and of houses. An analysts delight when I look back.
Being alone was dreamy I guess. There were other boys in our street with whom I played cricket on the road, or tennis, or fiddled with chemistry sets in back yard sheds, but I was happy to go home to my room. I had my own room, it was a small two bedroom house built in the 1940’s in suburban Murrumbeena. I think my father’s parents paid the 4000 pounds for its purchase in 1946. It had the standard front and back yard that you see in Howard Ackerly’s paintings of suburban Melbourne. One of the joys was that there was an open fire in both the dining room and the lounge room. I was allowed to chop the kindling but not the heavy logs. Arranging the fire was a ritual I recall with some great fondness. And in winter my mother had the clothes drying in front of the bright flames on a primitive clothes horse. It was domestic peace in a strange kind of way. I say that because the relationship between my parents was not a peaceful one.
The concrete drive way that allowed car and bicycle to move back and forth was part of the domestic symmetry. I spent time weeding rather than planting, in a small front garden. The back garden/yard seemed vast. Never a Hills Hoist, just two lines kept aloft with wooden props. An expanse of lawn and enough space to grow sweet corn and tomatoes. There was the ubiquitous wood pile…..the axe, the block of wood on which to chop the kindling and logs…and of course the hose, such a motif of suburban life. And like most homes when summer became intolerable we were able to run under the hose to feel the cool spray of water on our youthful bodies.
But for 10 years I had the attention of everyone, my three grandparents, numerous aunts and uncles and neighbors. The word spoilt was often used. And yes, I was. On one side of our home was the aged Eva Merriman, a widow, on the other was Jean and Ron Akers and their two daughters. There was harmony and a flow between the three homes of people. I walked to school each day. There was no television until the late 60’s. I can remember spending time in bed between my parents as they listened to the wireless as it was called. One program remains with me 60 years later, it was called ‘Address Unkown’ and I suspect was a British program.
And after 10 years the solitude was to end with the birth of my brother. We shared a room for 6 years before I left home to seek another form of solitude, a junior Seminary in another state. Here I experienced solitude in a different way. There were long hours of silence even for a 16 year old youth. There were retreats when one was not able to speak for many hours, and later in the journey, for many days.
And now 60 years on, living in a loving relationship of 10 years, my dear partner Samaran, allows me the same dimension of solitude. It became so apparent today when he came home from work, and there I was, horizontal on the floor of our small flat, bolster under my knees, blanket over my ageing body, eyes covered with a perfumed patch, doing my meditation, and I heard him walking past, but he allowed my solitude, he did not invade my space, he went to the bedroom to continue his day on the computer.
We indeed have an interesting arrangement for which I am grateful.