What is it about the salty sea breeze, lapping waves, rusted chains? These things that set me at ease? Glistening sun across ocean bays, harbouring yachts, crustacean homes on weathered rocks. So far away the horizon speaks of unknowns, eternal dreams, far from the pat of feet across concrete walkways travelling a pondering mind forward. Always forward.
My mother is the daughter of a fisherman; My grandfather, in his later life, made nets. I remember visiting the sheds once in Gisborne where they all hung up and he was there trawling through used nets looking for holes to repair; I see his worn and sunburnt Italian hands knitting the nylon materials through knots and patterns he held in his mind. I remember his laughter and joy, the good spirits he held in his heart up to his last days. These are all the merits I see in my mother. Her love never dies.
I have been drawn to the ocean for years. Songs I've written would occasionally feature stories about ocean life throughout my years as a songwriter: 'The Pirate's Flesh', 'Diamond Betrayal', 'Dullfish Angler', "Daddy never came home...", and 'Seafarer' are some of the songs that feature heavily the force of the ocean in the lives of men, and sometimes the impact on family. The Blessing's 'Hurricane Room' from their debut album Prince of the Deep Water has been one of the 'great songs' of my life, a tale about travelling coastlines, the oceans, and the colourful characters and situations around that; not so much a 'tale', but a travelogue of experiences through imagery, and a chorus that pleads "I sing my misappropriation song for lovers land-locked far too long."
Yet, I am not an ocean dweller. Nor do I see myself becoming one. The ocean has fascinated me, occupied my mind; perhaps will remain the greatest force of nature untameable by humans. Winds scour the earth, we harness them for power; fires scorch and destroy land and houses, we use it to keep our houses warm; mass oceans of salty water filled with life, we dump our garbage into, trawl nets to feed the masses... But the ocean will have the last say. When the winds become too destructive and carry too many storms for us to inhabit ground level, will we burrow into the grounds, or will we finally seek refuge by sinking into the watery depths?
Clouds are low here in Nelson. They fascinate me too. Crawling across surrounding hilltops, resting in the crevices, the slopes and valleys; I have never seen such low cloud cover before. This morning it covers all of the Tasman bay, hanging just above us all. If we climbed one of those hills opposite the bay, as we got to the top we'd walk straight into the cloud cover. Today's forecast was for sunshine.
My river campsite calls me. The river is a pathway to the ocean. Maybe I will walk the pathway only, return to the boulders and stones, the scavenged dry wood; and be content there, be at ease there, be at peace there. Far from the maddening crowds, the traffic cues and horns, the forced conversations, the deserted conversations; the desire to only know those in an immediate circle and leave others to perish with the vultures. The city has no desire to nourish, nor those entrapped inside it; the individual must break free if they are to be true to themselves, true to their human nature; true to acceptance, trusting, supportive, and loving.
Life expectancy is low when walls of the city enclose. Helping others lives only through the dollar sign, every bit of dishonesty builds to alienate the honest, to trample sincerity, to disown trust.
Are we too soft? Is this what honesty breeds? Can't lie to save myself, can't force my will to get what I want, can't pretend to ignore the strife.
Hopelessness dreams of escape.
I have lost faith in finding any kind of happiness.
- 06/08/18, Richmond
When the river's high, when the river sighs, when the rain falls, when the branches bow, bend and break; the night quiet, the day cold, warm, but alive.
Alive, alive, alive...
Water is lava as I skip from exposed stone to boulder avoiding winter's cold, early morning fog rising, sunlight glistening dew drops into brilliant red rays glancing into my sight; Silt and mud lava as I use all my momentum movements learnt from playing Portal to conserve energy while climbing rock slips from February's Cyclone Gita, feet bouncing off edges until stability is found on flat surfaces and the next logical leaps and steps can be identified before moving upwards, closer to the origins of the stream that falls through collapsed trees, clay crevices, and underground springs. I play the "no hands" game, using my feet as much as possible without the reliance of hands and arms for balance. This requires certainty about foot placement, and certainty about moving off a position if placement is temporary or questionable - the feet and legs become cooperative workers with eyes.
My world, made up of days scavenging for dry firewood to boil water for the early morning black coffee with a twist of lemon juice, drying clothes and towels washed in the river over tree branches on the other side of the river where sunlight spends most of the day drying and warming stones on the bank side. An occasional visit from a weka, pīwakawakas, a black cat in the night... (random - I only saw the cat once. Nice surprise!)
And I write.
I write because it keeps me believing in myself, like no one else can. My new theme song races through my mind, knowing the lyricist took his own life in 2017 by hanging, knowing this year suicide was on the doorstep again and words manifested themselves through the imagery of nooses. None of them were pretty.
But it is the unknown that becomes known by doing, by conquering, that sets each in motion, legs moving, arms scooping and reaching, fingers and hands clutching a pen to get the words down. I have never felt more content, more in control.
Would you trust me if I stood on a footpath rattling a tin asking for your spare change in the hope of being able to pay for a warm shower, maybe a roof over my head for one night, hot water for a cup of coffee? Or would you assume I was just going to spend the money on alcohol, cigarettes, or gambling?
Would you put more trust in a man with a badge, a man with a clerical collar, a man who has a daughter, a teacher in charge of youth, a politician...?
What is a homeless person?
I remember my first flat in Waterview, Auckland well. I enjoyed the company of both Kim and Andrew. I remember the songs I wrote in that room of mine during 1998, the books and authors I was discovering and reading, losing my job, time spent on social welfare, loss of friends, and my eventual decline into paranoid delusions à la Philip K. Dick. (No coincidence that I was getting heavily into the work of Philip K. Dick at the time!)
But flats since then have mostly been alienating, even when I've had very wonderful and welcoming people to live with. At 41 years of age, it now seems like everyone else has their lives set in place: the job, the friends, the family, the children, the house, the home...
And here I am alone, jobless, friendless, houseless, partnerless, childrenless...
But what does any of it mean?
My second to last session with a counsellor made me realise that the only reason I was in those sessions was to have a conversation with another human being. The problem was that I had once again put myself into what I termed as a one-way relationship - there was little that the counsellor could give back about herself for professional reasons. When I related this to her in our final session, I pointed out that the most therapeutic moments I was having was when she was talking and relating ideas back to me, so then I had thoughts from someone else I could bounce my own ideas off. I love conversing and sharing ideas with people, but I've often struggled to find people of the same persuasion and desires.
So I began the retreat. For good.
December brought the final realisation that after 20 odd years of working, that I simply can't keep a job. I just don't have the temperament for being employed by other people. The last job this year I lost - all the fault of my own - felt like the final nail in the coffin of trying to be employed. And if that's the case, then living in my car is the best solution. If I need some work to top up for food, I can find temporary work and be happy without suffering the illusion of being in permanent employment and trying to become a settled citizen that single women might look to as some kind of stable a partner.
The home that for twenty years I have searched for is even less foreseeable than ever.
I make my home in a car; a campfire on the river amongst stones, boulders, washed down silt and scavenged materials to contain the flames; I scavenge for dry firewood and pine cones on a 6km walk; drive into town to keep warm when it starts raining and miserable cold is worse than the bite of morning frosts; fill water bottles to wash myself when the river is too high and disturbed to dive into.
The outdoors have welcomed my spirit, have given me gracious calm where there was none before, have demanded that I make this work if I desire to keep the happiness that has found me.
She called for her husband to come and have a cup of tea with the man she had met down by the river who lives in his car. The husband wouldn't come out from his workshop.
"Sorry, when he gets focused on his work, you can barely talk to him."
I wondered if he was aspergers.
She later confided to me as we sat in her own personal workshop, me drinking my coffee, she drinking her tea, us chatting about our teaching experiences. "He doesn't trust homeless people".
"Oh, okay." I nodded politely.
Seemed irrational. I still wondered if he was aspergers.
I wondered later:
What is a homeless person?
I have been homeless for almost 20 years of my life. Homeless? Is the home I left at 18, and returned to occasionally over the following years the same thing as having a house and calling that a "home"? I have lived in houses, I have lived with flatmates, I lived with home addresses, but 'home' was where I left my parents. Home has never been my own place.
Six weeks ago, after the last flat I lived in didn't work out, I decided to forego moving into another house that I would struggle to afford rent for, in exchange for living in my car. This way I would save on overheads, such as rent and power. I knew that if I did move into another house, the cost of living would simply force me into finding more work just to pay for those expenses and drain motivation to work on writing, and potentially compromise the work I had one day a week - it's rare to find an employer who is happy to let you go to another job one day a week!
Why, I asked myself, did I always move into houses when they rarely felt comfortable and left me feeling like I didn't belong?
Because they weren't homes.
For 20 odd years, houses were just rent factories asking for my money.
Home is where the heart is,
My heart is in my chest;
A chest is filled with treasures,
Treasures are keepsakes for the self.
Self is where I dwell.
My home is me.
Some updates to keep me updated.