Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Even Monkeys fall from Trees - Catastrophe in Sydney

'Even Monkeys fall from Trees' is a Japanese expression, used when experts mess up.

For many months now  I've lived a housesitting life.
Beautiful harborside homes in Sydney's movie-star suburbs, all to myself, all expenses paid.

"How do you do it?' People ask.
"I'm Tarzan" I would grin 
'I just swing from house to house, they just appear a few days before I need them' 
People seem impressed, and I secretly have been marvelling.

The other night, in a storm, I lost my focus, and catastrophe struck.

It was a Dark and Stormy Night

Dark and Stormy night by Matt Duncan

It was the night I moved from a harborside house-sit to another.  

It had been a tough day, full of lone acts of unacknowledged heroism, - working, cooking, listening to the woes of friends, rooftop garden entertaining, all requiring me to perform at my best, mining into my reserves of focus and persistence.
I had packed so many times this last year, I thought it was easy. This time I just heaved the suitcases in, without thinking of retrieval order, just trying my best to dodge the big raindrops, as the thunder rumbled.

I was feeling sorry for myself. 
A dangerous frame of mind.

The storm grew dramatic, the rain turned the roads into rivers. 
I steered my Toyota-ship carefully across the harbour bridge, all by myself. 
Arriving close to midnight at my friend's house, I was so eager for my own safe harbour that I didn't even  reach to the back for an umbrella, let alone attempt to unpack my treasures and expose them to the storm.

I grabbed sleeping essentials: My handbag,  cosmetic bag, and gold-edged china cup for my tea in the morning. 
In I dashed, to the safe hug of my friend Trish.

Not to emerge again until morning.

The calm-after-the-storm morning.

With my cup and saucer in one hand and key in the other,  I strolled out, blinking in the sun, with the sweeping green sea of parkland before me. Which I should do first:  drink tea in the park, or unpack the car?

Then I saw it. 

The window was shattered.
In the back where the suitcases were stacked was an empty space. 

All my treasures were gone.

There was a curious instant of hesitation between seeing what had happened, and when I started screaming. 
My LIFE had gone. 
My past and my future. 

I had left my laptop in the car, for the very first time. 

I had left my backup external drive with all my data,  and the backup of my backup, all my data with the laptop.

All three together for the first and last time. 

All my Permaculture presentations were gone.  
My folders of drawings, scans of these drawings, gone forever.  
Life-changing photos that told stories, from years of  travels and pioneering projects, gone forever. 
Gone before I ever published them, shared them, showed the world their cleverness and inspiration.

Photos and documents that someone was right now deleting, to get a few bucks for the empty electronics. 

I don't know why I screamed, just screamed and screamed like an animal. 

It it turned out to be exactly the right thing to do. 

Yell for help - thats the way we are designed

Without time elapsing, the motherly lady I had seen on other side of the park was here, and hugging me.  Neighbors were coming out to help.

Moomin by Tove Jensen

One moment I felt my life had been sucked out a Jagged hole, and then just moments later somebody warm and boosomy was rocking me and calming me. 
And it worked. I went quiet.

First Cecilia, the creative and glamourous traveling permaculture Cecilia was gone, and I just had to accept it.

Now Second Cecilia could happen.
I would go and marry anybody and have a lovely child and live in the old stationmaster's house in a country town, and lay low till life was done.  
Maybe this robbery will turn out to be the best thing that has ever happened to me.
For the rest of the world this robbery is another burning of the library of Alexandria.  
All that unrepeatable Cecilia-gathered wisdom lost, and I've used up all the years that I could  go and get it again.
Its the world's loss, not mine.

I really did think all that, within the first 4 minutes of being robbed. 
Man,  I'm so naturally positive.
Completely heartbroken, but positive.

Things started coming back, wave upon wave

"There's a case of art materials in my front garden' said one lady

"I saw a pile of documents and clothes, back there' gestured another. 

Couldn't be sadder, but still able to organise a photo op - I'm so interested in my life. 

It was true. 
One by one, treasures started coming back. 
My drawings. My clothes. The spare key to my car. The last four years of diaries.  

The thieves even bothered taking the parking coins from the drink holder, coins that were sitting under where my iPhone had been. A measly bunch of coins! 

After a few hours of believing I had lost my friends and contacts to, something black and square appeared on the floor of the car. 
My iPhone!
Maybe because it includes satellite tracking, its un-stealable. 

The police were kind, but gave me no false hope that my electronics would come back - they almost never do.  
They asked what colour my suitcases were.
"Blue? Oh, it must be the one we saw on roadside, earlier this morning" 
But by the time they went back to look for it, it was gone.

 My pink pyjamas, Irish passport, Japanese eyeliner,
pretty tea towel, Permacutlure pamphlets

The motherly lady had woken up her son, and he wandered out to help me, putting the muddy remains of my life into a box he brought over. 

"I've, um, seen you before" he told me quietly, as he carried my muddy treasures to the empty house.

"Really? Where? "
"At a Permaculture event. You were giving a lecture"
He had seen my final presentation, ever.

There would be no more beautiful Cecilia lectures.   
Most had not ever be delivered in English, and never would be. 

Yet in a world of many, many people,  this randomly-met man had seen one. 

It feels like poetry, when life lines up and starts rhyming like this.

The young man made sure I ate and drank, and did all the other first aid angels are expected to do, when you are picking up bits of your life from the mud. 

How and why did I let this happen?
A very interesting question.
How shall I live from now?
Even more interesting.

I will let you know.

The most important piece of information I did not realise for almost six hours.
In my brothers house is an old, aqua laptop, with bits of plastic falling off it.

I was going to put it in the bin after getting my lovely Apple Mac 18 months ago, and backing everything up, twice.
But I just couldn't get rid of a pile of junk that had once been so precious.

It turns out I had not lost my life's work, just 18 months worth.  And there ARE photos of this lost period on Facebook and my blog.

CS Lewis said that in our heavenly bookselves, we will only find the books we loved enough to share with others.
I wish I had shared more.
And I suspect that from now, I will.
I will make e-books, and find an audience.
I will give my lovely presentations to whoever wants to hear them, and let them get better and better each time.

And I will be calling for help, loudly and awkwardly, but on purpose this time.

Trying to do things by myself is why I got into this strife.

Clever and beautiful: Rainbow Valley Farm photos, lost then found,
are now going straight to my  first e-book.
What title shall I give it? 

They aren't my stories, they are just in my care.
I want them out of my care and into the world, doing the work they are meant to do.


Kirsten said...

wow. big hug. and some pithy statement about losing and finding things. but mostly just a big hug and a virtual cup of tea x

happyjupitergirl said...

A big hug from me too! Even tho' I pushed all the buttons for your RSS feeds to come to my email quite a while ago, today is the first time it happened, so I got this story. How wonderful that you created your blog/website and that so many beautiful musings, photos and drawings are there! And from what I've seen, there is much evidence to show/suggest that all our creations and intentions are there in the 'soup' and having a big effect, whether or not they seem to exist in the tangible world. So it's all still there, just maybe in a form that was unexpected before now. You have affected me in a lovely way, as I'm sure many others have felt, and I am very grateful for all that you are and 'do'! With much love, Susan :)

Cecilia Macaulay said...

Thank-you Susan, thank-you Jupiter girl.
Well, a few months on, the overall affect of the robbery is to make me feel very much alive.

I've stopped WANTING to put things off till tomorrow. Im Zooming, in fact.

Lets see what happens next xx

M said...

Oh Cecilia, such a disaster but time is a healer and in the mean time a hug. I guess they, these adverse steps, they help us all appreciate all the countless things that make up our life. I hope that somehow you have pulled a miracle out of your hat again!


Darren (Green Change) said...

Wow, so sorry to hear about your loss. I hope you can piece enough back together to get the creative juices flowing again! Looking forward to seeing what comes next.