WITH ROGER ON THE GOOD ROAD- From Worzel

Here is a story, came in the post. I love these random letters, from people influenced by others influenced by those who met up with Godfrey.

“I was there, she wrote, that two weeks in Arthur’s Pass Youth Hostel when heavy rain washed out rail and road. I am the girl from Texas who found beer in a cupboard the 5th day of rain. Godfrey had been left in charge, an odd young man who kept the wood fire burning, and wrote these words in the hostel comment book. “daw haul Ar Fryn”- “Comes The sun To the Hill”, translated from the Welsh, it means- “It will get better”. 

I asked Godfrey, who spoke only in rhyme, and barely above a whisper for a Welsh swear word, he had honest eyes, behind the somewhat owlish glasses  worn since age five, and replied- “Cer i grafu, (Go and scratch).

My companion, Roger and Godfrey sat up late each night playing scrabble, from the vagabond, Roger learned there was nothing in life that could not be sung. Godfrey’s tuneless muttering as he went about hostel chores was his poetry. I remember, and always will, the pounding rain on sheet metal roof, the wind and fog swirling across the tussock grass. That time in Arthur’s Pass is now legend, as is Godfrey, but I was there, it is I made the awful pot of chili,  9th day of rain. 

Oh I am a poor rover from Valley Cleddau, I disliked beets then and do not like them now, but give me a kind horse, and reins of soft leather, then the wide Owen River at rains end, we shall cross together….such is what Godfrey sang as he cleaned the toilets. 

With Roger on The good Road- 

Was the good road with Roger, made it all worthwhile. From the hard, cold trek to Yahk. The long walk down Portage to a hitch-hiking spot, with shade enough to lean a heavy back pack.

Was the good road with Roger. To camp by the Owen River, blankets dew damp mornings, hands held to warm over the fire. Was the good road with Roger. In letters and laughter, in my memory forever. He collected words “RipRap””Rata””Ethelbert” and “Woollamaloo”. He wove them into stories and poetry as Godfrey inspired him to.

Time back then, truly did seem to wait, for this girl from Texas, and Roger, language scholar, son of an eastern city.

I will find that old and faded backpack, worn soft from sun and weather, take to that good road when I dream….Roger and I cross that wide Owen River together.

PRETTY LITTLE HOUSE-end of a dirt road- From Hawken

Worzel here, this odd winter, surly of storm and cold, I sleep away the dark days. Afternoon check of lottery numbers, lunch and a nap, some rubbish T.V. , and a session looking out the window, bustling today after week of fowl weather…I am ever grateful for the toilet that Godfrey repaired long ago, it gurgles and spews warm water, a pleasant spot these chilly days…

Time to tackle my morass of letters, stories from people who crossed paths with Godfrey, Alice’s dreaded packet, poetry and art related to beets, we still find offerings of beets at our shop door most Tuesdays. Our old building, “Tara” was renovated over the past two years, and re named “Le Chateau”, with fancy new lettering. It is when we last saw Hawken, young vagabond, a lad I called the son I forgot to have. Hawken stood in the gutter, battered hat shading his eyes, asking, “Why did they name it “The Cat’s Water”?….And in my heap of mail was this letter from him. 

Dearest of The Odds- Suppose you step on something rusty and die?, worried my dad. Old homesteads have wells with nettles and snakes, came this wisdom from Grandpa#3, third husband Verne my old gran has had. Mother was annoyed I left my suit and good shoes, down a low tract street for someone else to use. When last you saw me, I was bound for Albert’s Leap, and job in a small cheese factory.

Rather drew the place to me, as I understand oft did Godfrey. I turned cheese, wiped them with a towel, and turned them. 500 cheeses a day wipe and turn, in a dimly lit room of cheese and shelf, think of the money you can save I told myself, and whistled as I turned and wiped the cheese. And in my tent contented slept, and for once did not question why Albert leaped, for he must have turned cheese in his dreams.

Pretty Little House End of A Dirt road- Saw the sign and photo in the window of an office in town. I wiped and turned and with all I had put a payment down. This road so rough it has not been named, it’s a long hike out, I have that Appaloosa mare we talked about. Think I’ll let her just be, young, barely tamed….

Autumn- good time to kick about this old homestead, seeking clues in the old barns and soggy grass, of those who built it. Hand forged horse shoe I nailed above my door, mousey stack of”Family Herald”, from 1954, to the burn barrel up in flames, scratched on the hot water tank, must be a growth chart, Jack, Rose, George, Cynthia, faded names..

And I as over roof repairs paused to contemplate, came Pigface Roulade in his old truck to my gate. My pretty little house, end of a dirt road- observes my friend- “Will never be mistaken for gay Paree’. Pigface, with whom I wiped cheese reminded me.

But beauty is everywhere, in the old dry sheaf of prize  oats I found, tied with a blue ribbon  won by Jack, at Coombs Fall Fair the year I was born, in the buttery wodge of  dollar bills, hidden in a dented copper pan for popping corn.

Long un- mowed  the hay meadows chest deep on my pony, we follow the clear winding stream to far end of the property. Come summer I will tear out fallen fences, create for cows and horse open range, in the rusty barbed wire, I see something strange. They were threads of plaid wool…recall you once told me, threads of plaid wool is oft found, in the pathways of Godfrey.

Pretty little house end of a dirt road. Sheltered by the mountain I am told is called “Provider”. A humble cabin as befits a wayward cheese turner. Bobcat  tracks this morning in fresh snow, where she paused to drink at the stream. Wanted you all be first to know, all is well out here, at “Le Chateau”.

SPRAWL ON THE GRASS- a WISDOM

Worzel here,  He was an odd young man who disliked beets, a friend for 28 years, drifting in and out of my life, but never from my heart before choosing that overgrown fruit orchard back home in Wales, to continue on his way…

I wonder, this January morning, so long hence, what would Godfrey think of the “Whirled” as he called it, now?. Two thousand marched for peace and justice, marched bravely down Wharf street this day, we watched from our window, a decadent experience, redolent of our 70’s youths.

There passed rainbow flags, medi-chairs, all banners and flags, pets in strollers, (Feh, Godfrey would have wheezed). My kind husband, Garnet, reckoned with a squeeze of my shoulder, down there amid the stalwart, in spirit marches Godfrey…

In the park below our window, a hefty brown mutt, perhaps the great, great grand daughter of the dog Godfrey wrote of, pauses in her play, sprawled in the frozen grass, she watches as the marchers pass.

The deep cold now blessedly over, rare ice on the waterway has melted yet small stubborn patches still stick on stone, crusted shadow snow. I, dry and warm, sit and watch from my window. A thread of plaid wool remains of the sock, belonging to Godfrey we hung years ago, to remind folks below, doorbell broken, that we were in. I am feeling my age of late, yet remain assured the promise of spring.

“Souls adrift have always been drawn to harbors”..wrote Godfrey. Quiet the campers tenting in the park these winter nights. This morning the street dwellers played with their dogs, romped in defiance of order and by-law. I was reminded of a half wrote wisdom Godfrey left for to share, I found it on a bit of scrap paper, down deep in side my turquoise chair.

He wrote- “It was cusp of evening, brash ice had gone from the inlet verges, and low was the tide. Days work over, tedious the bus that I ride. And stopped were in traffic on Knockfollie’s Bridge, as habit I wiped off my window, looked out the side. A person, or more perhaps of minuscule mind, I don’t know, had thrown a shopping trolley, off of the bridge and down to the mud flats below.

Water and sky in what I call “Winterset” shades of platinum, orange and gray, and in its wild glory, a Great Blue Heron, had perched on the derelict shopping cart, looking south down the bay.

When troubling images I cannot avoid, and distant bells warn change or danger may near, I recall the beauty no one can take from me, the welcoming places Ive’ been, and know my words will never be silenced, nor will I cow down in fear.

To the Bampot Louts, who threw the cart out, on the mud flats to the park dwellers surviving in  snow, to you wearing fine shoes in the dim halls of power, may you understand what it means to be present …as the brown mutt who romps in sheer joy of living, and the Blue Heron, patient at Winterset, trusts  in the oceans giving.

Dry socks and coffee handed out from a van, round in circles the brown mutt ran, pursuing a stick her person had thrown away. She bowls over the lesser black lab who has joined her in play. I chuckle at the scene, wisdom only a street dog can know- “sprawl in the grass, fear not the bigot, the greedy, the arrogant, exalt in your freedom, remember the brown mutt, when you are weary -“Sprawl in the grass and pant”.

 

WHEN I WAS VERY YOUNG- FROM Godfrey AND Worzel

Worzel here, When I was very young recall an empty, old tobacco tin filched from an uncle. It made a drum, and rattle for snake chasing, made tiered manure- mud cakes for baking pleasure, frog spawn in spring, wonderful tin for penny pirate treasure. If today, I walk a quiet country road,  a reminder of when very young, I still kick a stray tin along at my leisure…

Godfrey did not speak often of his very early years, most of the stories I have gleaned from Beatrice, or his sister Alice’s “Alice” versions. This is a rare work of Godfrey, set from age 4ish, to age 8 when his dad ran off.

When I was very young- It snowed heavily up our valley, in this vivid memory, we walked down to my grandparent’s cottage. They had gas for heat, and blankets piled deep for Alice, Ma and me. All about was dark and silent, but the crack of branches breaking off the trees as we made our way slow, snow above my churning knees. Snow was fun, when I was very young.

When I was very young- I got cow manure on the church pew from the long hem of my baggy kilt, dragged through puddles.Created a mess on the dress of Mrs Trimyn, who suggested to my sister Alice, I be paddled, and Alice complied before the end of the next hymn.

When I was very young- I found an ancient bicycle, buried in a field of hay, dad dragged it out, run over by the farmer it was bent, but dad hammered and tinkered, and fixed it up for me, then down the pub he traded for a painting, then again for a fat, gray pony. Out to the paddock every morning I’d run, when I was very young.

When I was very young- I was horrified of beets and terrified of The Pope, leery of the black dust mop, though I don’t know why, and most of the stories Alice told at bedtime made me cry. One day I found a chicken loose, lured the hen with crumbs inside, “We can have eggs, and feathers, I told Ma with pride, and build a coop”. Next day no pet, but all week a great pot of chicken soup…

When I was very young- Riding a city bus was was the biggest adventure, to visit aunts and uncles who had toilets down the hall. Indoor loos that flushed with a roar at pull of chain. “Alice said, “A Bog Troll is on the end of that chain, to catch nasty little boys and yank them down the drain”. In dread, I weed in the pansies of my aunties front garden, earning me a slap on the head”.

When I was very young- I trod to school with wet sweater cuffs, and old wool coat that tickled my chin, and never once passed teacher’s cleanliness inspection. By the coal stove she made me sit, with Abner Mulgrew. Now I realize Miss was being kind, as Abner was always wet and cold to.

When I was very young- Summer lasted longer, Father Christmas smelled familiar of cigarette and swore when she tripped on the dog’s paw. Hills were for rolling down the other side, I cheeked the odd looking old men, who wore Tams, and the bicycles they’d ride.

When I was very young- My sister threw a beet at me, it missed and Ma’s Barometer was knocked from the wall, the shards clipped an oil portrait of an ancient piper, shattering the front window pane. The beet hit nasty Uncle Lou, coming up the walk, it left a stain.

When I was very young- “Beets and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you”..Ma would oft repeat when I came home bruised, picking beet pulp out of my hair. Too young to fully grasp her meaning, I sought solace in the company of words time and again. Sought the company of words and rhyme, when I was very young..

“THE RAFTERS”-On The Road To Rotorua- From Godfrey

Yes, Godfrey could be,  gormless. It was a simpler time, the years Godfrey roamed the whirled. All was not beautiful, this he understood, not all faces friendly and welcoming, but a kindness prevailed, and the vagabond found it in some odd places. 

On the winding road to Rotorua, town of volcanic wonders, boiling pools of water and mud, the air was sulph0urous and eggy, many years ago, set out to see it, on a pink bicycle road the vagabond, Godfrey.

He wrote, “twas summer on the gentle road rolling, I sang as I pedaled  sheep looked up from their grazing, and may I add, though not complaining my word how hard it was raining.

“Now being on a bicycle rugged and damp, I usually sought a flat, dry spot to camp, this day however, coming on dark, I stopped at what looked like a grand old hotel on the edge of a forested park.”The Rafters, A Place Of Peace”- said the sign set a slant in the ground, there was nobody around.

At reception sat a gloomy woman in black, she regarded me oddly when I asked for a room, (not unusual for me at all), for a very small fee, she gave me a key, and gestured to a room down a cool, silent hall.

Mist and steam swirled through the evening air, my room was clean, quiet and bare, of fancy trappings, but had a soft bed, and a large thermal bathtub, I wallowed delighted in there. A different gloomy woman early eve, tapped with dinner and tea on a tray, clad only in a dry towel, I again gave thanks for the fine place to stay.

Morning came, it had not ceased to rain, at reception sat a dour fellow in black, “farewell said I, off to Rotorua, he of few words,said he hoped one day I’d be back. The first gloomy woman, with a large clump of feathers was silent, dusting an urn, again she regarded me oddly, when I promised one day, indeed to return.

Down the long drive from “The Rafters” I rode, down a  grand hill to that thermal town, Rotorua, famous in postcards, geysers and smell, I learned that “The Rafters, A Place of Peace, was not a hotel but a Funeral Home-” how folks laughed at me, when I told them,” in his journal wrote Godfrey.

It’s no wonder the morticians looked at me odd, showing up soaking wet but alive, had I ventured out behind in the dark, would have blundered into an old cemetery, and yard for the hearses to park. The stay I paid so little for, and spread wet gear to dry cross the clean floor, soaked in the tub until wrinkled like prune, was part of their home, not a hotel room.

“They are a polite lot”- town folk informed me, mid guffaw. Now years later, I to look back in laughter, and if to Rotorua you roam, perhaps you will also find it, “The Rafters, Place of Eternal Peace”- a Funeral Home…

HE WROTE A SEA SHANTY- For Sandy

She was a Coleopterist..indeed, I pondered, how Godfrey would enjoy this mornings obituaries, which in his passing I adopted his hobby of reading. “Where ere I wander, said long ago Godfrey, I can find a paper with an obituary.”The life stories, the pathos, the love, and adventure, to the obits to learn I turn”

Yet oddly, he sat quiet, over the paper this summer morning, had not touched his “Sandwish”of four types of toast, rye on top, layered with marmalade, was idly stirring his tea, which Godfrey never did, considering it bad luck. “I knew this chap in the obits, he nodded to me, briefly, long ago, he was a scholar and a hippie..

Since Godfrey could remember, he listened for the singing from dockside pubs, and songs of fishers calling cross the harbor. A boyhood dreaming of long journeys by sea, thus gleaning the wisdom he could weave one day, into a shanty.

So he waited, waited patiently, for the words to come to him with the tide. Godfrey did make that long, sea journey, and met the young Sandy while hitching a ride. “Was a Volkswagen Van stopped, space was made for me, all long haired chaps named Pete, Pat, Jack and Sandy, there was more than one Sandy and each one was a hippie”.

On a gulf island road, passing hay fields  hot and dusty, in the Volkswagen Van was crammed the vagabond Godfrey, there were apple trees laden, for it was late summer, cedar split rail fences silver with age. “We stopped for chips, so good and greasy, in the islands only small village”.

Every passing person who waved was a hippie, perhaps on this island I would find my sea shanty. Godfrey notes…”On my right hind leg, just above the tattoo, is a ragged scar I once showed you. Nicked it deep on the door of the van, piling out end of the ride, only the tattoo artist asked the scars story, I told her the old tale of a great group of hippies, three of which were named Sandy”

Twas the week an old chap name of “Nixon” resigned,  allover the news were words “Liar” and “Crook”, free from such rubbish we camped on a wide bay, potatoes and porridge to cook. “I recall the damp morning, the chipped cup of instant coffee, bitter and smoky from a can, sitting on a log, talking with this kindly lad- Sandy, who drove the old Volkswagen Van.

“From a foothills town I learned came he, drifted out west, a scholar and a hippie. He encouraged me that I could write that sea shanty.

Feel the warm, oily deck neath bare feet, convey in words the fear of swells higher that our mast”. Dodge the squalls, wonder how long the run of fair seas will last”. Sing of picking weevils from the flour, eating old, cold cod tongues and rancid “Burgoo”. Smell the Tea-Tree as we fetch exotic lands, no home to long for return to…

Much as I glean from your obituary, yours was a good life, and peace be the rest of the journey old friend Sandy.

Up a narrow island road, shadows pass in summer sun, on the  split glass dash of a Volkswagen Van, dented and old, it will not get past sixty, but none of that matters, it chugs along, driven by a hippie they are not all past and gone.

In the obit photo is no trace of the youth you used to be, clean shaven, dressed rather tidy…posed neath an oak tree, “I knew him briefly, we talked of scars, and August shooting stars and Nixon…was the summer I set out to write a shanty.”.

LITTLE OTTER IN THE BAY-Bye Worzel

Godfrey…yes, he was an odd young man who disliked beets, even in middle age he disliked beets and was odd, but he could make friends in an empty room, or old lurching bus…never had my feet been so cold, never had I so longed for home.A broken water main had extended our twenty minute bus ride to a two hour nasty. I stood wedged near the door, prodded by a bundle of hockey sticks, blasted by arctic wind when some lucky soul was disgorged, and far too close to Mr Goldmoss Stonecrop, a very large man in a very wet fur coat, his name indelible in my mind as he bellowed it regularly to the poor driver, about the state of the bus, and fact he was bringing the wine.

I lost Godfrey in the morass, a bag of oranges had been dropped, and gentleman that he was, took up the task of rounding them up. The aroma of citrus penetrated the B.O. fug of cold #50 bus. Godfrey was under the dubious rear seats, rolling oranges out, some that may have been down there a long time. Finally, we were popped out at our stop. Godfrey had a cinnamon bun for me,(no nuts, raisins, or icing), a sun smooth stick from a beach in Panama, two holy cards, and tickets to a cat show.

“There was a lot of wet eck”, he reported, I nearly lost my kilt snagged on a rusty bolt, and feel somewhat decorticated”. “Let us go home Worzel, he took my arm, cake and pot of tea are long awaited”.

What I learned of living simply I learned long ago from Godfrey, though the wisdoms came slowly…as did this morning’s ferry, over bitter harbor water, and sky an oatmeal foam gray. All I need is good hot coffee, pen in hand, winter storms, Blue Heron, and my little Otter in the bay.

Oh, that I may return a wild creature, blade of grass, or the rollicking sea otter, she has found a tarped rowboat to use as a slide, down the snowy canvas otter plays over the side. Born to cold water, my little otter.

I learned stillness indeed not from otter, but from Heron, feathers blue, tall and stately he stands, perched on neighbors balcony, middle of the city. I’ve a new ache in my knee that was not there yesterday, hot coffee, pen in hand, winter storm, blue heron, and my little otter in the bay.

Errands over quickly, snow in harsh driven pellets, reminder of walking arm in arm with Godfrey. “He said, “one at a time, each step we take,brings us closer to warm home, turquoise chair and cake”.

There is a higher wisdom in the patient, wading heron, we can learn to take it slow by winters storm, Reckon it’s what Godfrey, if he was here looking out the window would say. It is turning of the year, I have pen in hand, good hot coffee, blue heron, and my little otter in the bay.