Here in paradise, the sun shines on a world of lurid greens. A bunch of orange thamibilly* punctuates the middle distance. To the north, a bank of octopus ink clouds is advancing toward us, a stark and dramatic backdrop to the world outside my windows. White herons are flying to safety from their feeding grounds in the paddy fields down by the canal; the last of Hanuman’s Troupe has bounded across the roof, off to … wherever it is, they go, to shelter from a storm. In the garden, the three new flagpoles of black bamboo execute a staccato gavotte, powered by the blustery breeze that’s flying ahead of the storm.
It grows darker, and darker. Now, the monsoon-feed clouds collide in an almost continual roar. Is that the sound of distant cannon fire I hear? Am I in my aerie on the rise behind the Parliament in Sri Lanka, or with Pierre, listening to the sound of Napoleon’s Grande Armée advancing on Borodino?
What am I doing in the middle of this raging battlefield?
The battlefield is in my mind. It is a conflict begun years ago, not long after I returned to live on my paradise island. On the one hand, the Voice of Reason, covertly whispering snippets of financial reality in my ear as the strands of the global economic crisis began to enmesh me into the growing maelstrom. On the other, an expanse of emotional certainty, which steadfastly refused to be anything other than enchanted.
Not entirely unmindful of the likelihood that what was threatening to bring down countries, must also affect me, I sought to achieve a compromise. I moved. I relinquished my dream home; the garden I had created. I uprooted The Girls and brought them here to the edge of the city. Significant savings were envisioned. Then I fell down the stairs, and a third protagonist entered the conflict. “What if it had been a stroke, or a heart attack, Parkinson’s, cancer?” “You think you’re helpless now, because you have your leg in the air and can only negotiate those steps on your backside?”, this new voice jeered.
Physical incapacity is not something I’d ever experienced. The thought of it had never entered my mind. It shocked and frightened me. Equally, I knew now what my mother and father had felt, at the end of their lives, unable to do for themselves, without me.
Very soon it will be a year since I began clawing my way back to full mobility. In this year of a myriad small cuts I’ve learned a thing or two about life, and myself, the least palatable of which is that I’m overwhelmed by the decisions I have to make, and have been procrastinating about examining my options. Lotus eating here in paradise is my preferred option.
Then, last weekend, a friend had a stroke – one he will live through, and, with a mountain of hard work and help, overcome. As did my mother. But not only did Dorothy have her redoubtable determination to drive her, and me to prod, chivvy and love her. She also had access to a team of stroke specific therapists in a rehabilitation centre not far from her home. How will G climb that mountain I watched my mother summit with so much difficulty? How would I? I know the answer to that now. Without family, without the type of medical help we’ve grown accustomed to in the West, I wouldn’t be able to.
So, it’s clear. I must go back home. Experience, and my old nemesis, the Voice of Reason, tell me I must do it while I can – while I have options, and time to create a new life for myself.
But I quail at the first decision I have to make – it is the reason I have been unable to face it these last several months. I must leave my girls behind**. I must find them a new home here in paradise. Not until I have done that will I be able to think about where I might like to live, what I would like to do with the rest of my life, how I might make a little extra money, figure out the complexities of a large physical move to a place unknown, or cope with having my wings clipped.
The rumbling continues, the storm moves slowly, inexorably on. The light changes hue – no longer black-purple with lime, but the smoke flecked fire of a distant battlefield …Notes: Thambilly – Bright orange king coconut. ** Seven months quarantine, six in Singapore, one in Sydney, alone, is jus too cruel. This isn’t a sympathy seeking post – no commiseration, if you don’t mind.