It was a good summer, we had Godfrey home for the first time in four years. He was full of beans and stories from “Great Southern Reaches”, tanned and toughened as snowgrass. The two fellows and I were on holiday up at our lakeside cabin. On the drive up island, Godfrey muttered and “Fehhed” over the loss of “The Glass Castle”- a maudry old eyesore, a man’s lifelong dream, built of discarded beer bottles, long gone now for highway widening. Relaxed at the lake, I read on the dock as he swam, Godfrey practiced dipping deep, floating face up in a thunder storm, he wanted to see what the rain looked like looking up from below as it hit the surface. “I am undermined by my bouyant behind”, he reported, and declined dessert that night. Eschewing cabin hammock or tent, he made his bed by day in the forest, and sat up nights in a lawn chair neath his beloved stars. This night, though leery of bats, I sat up with Godfrey until dawn, this was his story of those years away…
Am thinking deeply of shadows- changes slow, eroding freedoms of the vagabond way. He wrote me of loss, shadows of age and worry, “I am thinking often of shadows”, wrote Godfrey. For shade is welcome shadow on the verandah where I sit and write. Shadows that even-song’s chorus will gently drape, over field and forest for privacy tonight. Even the leaves I watch in Autumn, floating free downstream, carry sun and shadow with them where ere they go. It is the shadow of man made change here about pains me so.
I have found a hermit hut for home. Settled my few belongings above the hearth, the only shelf, it is known as “Honey Cottage”, there are Donkeys in the overgrown remnants of a school yard, and cows left to fend for them self. Modern travelers in cars pass the turnoff on the highway, no one comes anymore to stay a time in this sweet valley. Left to the curious vagabond, it is a steep, hot hike in, grass grows tall around the ancient, tilting outhouse, verandah slants where the worn out plank floor boards are thin. Two decrepit couches, the verandah’s chief decor, a stack of yellowed “Reader’s Digests” molder, propping open the front door. Words alone cannot give justice to the view as I sit, of footbridge oer a stream, that chuckles while Kingfishers flit . It invites me at eve, to take my gold pan down, fossick for an nugget or perhaps find bit of jade in it.
Who has left Honey Cottage for the dirty, noisy city?, who would trade river’s sandbar neath bare feet for street and sidewalk? What need for television or motion picture screen- all drama can be seen in ever changing light and shadow, storm sweeps grass flat cross the meadow, down pour tap-dances on the sheet metal roof, tanks overflow, fills muddy track of cloven hoof. It cools the day, the spray of shaken coat from donkey Jack, I feed him apples and the last of my town ginger-snaps. Scratch the shyer Jenny’s ear, see high on a far ridge a white horse gallop, watches from the hill, he will not come near. The cattle remain aloof, as cattle tend to.
I am the Hermit of Honey Cottage- rejoicing in my freedom from all city things, it is commonly believed we never have enough time to do. What will come of Honey Cottage?- once a schoolhouse…I will sing for The Coromandel, sing a vagabond’s lament. Sing for her hills and beaches, her muddy tracks, her mystic valleys, emerald waterfalls, it chills me, the shadow over her steep and dusty back roads….shadows lurk, of “Progress”, and impending sprawl of modern day, so called “Development”.