A Journey across the Map of my Heart – or – My Life as Metaphor.
At dawn I broke camp on the shores of the Sea of Dreams. The beguiling siren songs 0f night birds that had echoed through my sleeping was now silent and the day promised to be warm and sunny. Kicking dirt over the ashes of my fire I shouldered my pack and left. I had been told the city of Hope lay to the north so I set off in that direction.
‘Its four day hard trek,’ said an old timer I met in the bar at Sea Haven. ‘That’s if you don’t get delayed on the way,’ he’d added with a sly grin.
Sea Haven was my home town. I loved her crooked streets and weathered houses that tumbled down the hillside to the bay but I was young and had stars in eyes. I wanted more than the murmur of the sea on the shore and sweet, known faces that whispered comforting lullabies.
The road to Hope was crowded with distractions and I dallied a while savouring exotic fare and tasting dangerous treats. Eventually the attractions paled and I continued on to the city of Hope. At first I was daunted by the size of the place. For many months I lived in the shanty town outside the city walls desperately seeking a way into the upper echelons. Then, after years of striving, I carved out a niche for myself on the thirteenth floor of a gleaming tower block.
The citizens of Hope, it transpired, were hungry for dreams. I gathered together all those I had garnered at the sea shores of my youth, added an alluring sheen with a lick of polish and sold them off. I met a man who wrote love songs that sold as quickly as he wrote them and I fell under his spell. We married, amalgamated our careers and worked together in our thirteenth floor offices selling our dreams and love. It wasn’t long before we made enough money to buy ourselves a house in the suburb of Aspiration. After a few years we had a brood of children and had purchased everything that opened and shut.
What we didn’t do was re-locate our business. After a time those thirteenth floor bad luck stories caught up with us. Too late we learned there was a price to pay for selling off our dreams and love. Our storehouses were running dry. Sometimes we woke at dawn to stare into each other’s eyes not knowing who the stranger beside us was. To salvage what few dreams we had left we sold up and left Hope for good.
‘We want to be part of the greening not the despoiling,’ we told each other. We found a fine farm in the wooded hills that lay to the east of the city. The Meandering Mountains they were called on the map but it wasn’t long before we learned the local name, The Heartbreak Hills. The name had been coined in the early days of white settlement. Clearing the steep slopes had been back breaking toil and bushfires, flooding rains and infestations of caterpillars added to the misery. People walked off farms in their droves. All that was past history by the time we arrived. The name lingered on only in folklore as a quaint memory of times past. Bush fires still raged in the upper reaches but down in the foothills the land had been cleared so much there was nothing left to burn. Our own farm was flood prone but we put in a place a permaculture system to harvest the water. The caterpillars we dealt with by using organic sprays.
At first all went well. The children flourished in the clean air. The gardens grew and my songwriter husband found new songs in the rush of wind in the tree tops. As for myself, I was content in the idyllic world of organic gardens, healthy children and a loving husband. I felt I could meander in those hills forever. Our winters were warm and cosy in the glow of love and our summers slow and joyous as we holidayed at Lake Tranquillity. Always though the Heartbreak Hills were at our back waiting. Death lurked in the twisted, narrow hill roads and claimed my husband one fine morning.
I struggled on alone for a while but The Heartbreak Hills had more to throw at me. The gardens wilted in years of drought and the money started to run out. The children began to grow twisted like the roads as isolation and hardship gnawed at their minds. I sold the farm and moved us all down to large regional centre named Reliable. The solid buildings of the town protected us and I got a mundane job working for someone else. I had no dreams left to sell. The children straightened out in the paved, grid like streets and I no longer lay awake at night worrying. Instead my feet walked the same streets every day, I shopped for the same things in the same stores every week and did the same job week in, week out. When a man with a storm on his back came riding into town on a Harley I was intrigued. He wooed me with his sweet talking words that echoed the dreams that had once sung in my head. The storm brewing behind him was dark and fierce but I turned away from it and listened as he crooned, ‘Come with me away from all of this drudgery to a place where romance and adventure will lighten your step.’
Pretty soon the children and I were swept up in the storm and carried off by the man to a little cottage nestled at the foot of Mt. Disappointment. ‘What’s in a name?’ I said to the children. ‘It’s just a title some explorer gave it when he didn’t find the gold he was looking for. It’s nothing to do with us.’ Another child was born as the man tuned the Harley’s engine until it hummed and the storm gathered force behind him. ‘I’ll be off now,’ he said as the autumn mists closed in and reduced the world to a grinding round of wet baby clothes and sullen teenagers. ‘I’ll earn us some money back in Hope and come for you all in spring.’
Winter came and the winds blew cold off the snows atop Mt. Disappointment. The baby was colicky and the teenagers sulked. Spring came but the man did not return. My mother called. ‘Come home to Sea Haven,’ she said. ‘The children need family’. We went, glad to put distance between us and the disapproving stares of the burghers of Reliable and biting cold of the mountains.
Back in Sea Haven the teenage children grew up fine and strong in the embrace of family. They scattered to the corners of the globe chasing dreams. I wiled away the years working non demanding jobs, beach combing and catching dreams as the tides swung in and out. My parents aged and withered away. My youngest child grew withdrawn and silent in our now empty house. He needed more than salt air and the lonely cry of the gulls over the headland. I was restless with mid life energy and I wanted out myself. We packed the car and headed off across the country to the far away town of Ambience, the place everyone wanted to live in. The stuff of dreams itself.
‘Maybe,’ I reasoned, ‘I can resurrect some of my old entrepreneurial skills and sell my dreams again.’ When we got to Ambience it turned out the stories about the place were old news. The place had gone up market and become an international tourist Mecca. There was no way I could afford to buy a place and the rents were astronomical. The dreams I had for sale all reeked of yesterday. They did not have the glitz the international tourists demanded. We lived in dingy flat above the shop I ran. Very little sold. The alley behind the shop was littered with used needles, ferals roamed the streets at night and I felt like howling at the moon. The climate didn’t agree with my southern reared son and the rent was overdue. We packed the car again and fled.
Life got serious after that. We settled in the industrial city of Ambition. I worked hard trying to tailor my dreams into something marketable in the gloom and doom of the post millennium world. Once again, nothing much sold. My son grew and avoided reality by taking endless tertiary courses that all seemed to feed into one another but never into the work force. The years rolled by.
The map of my heart has broadened now to include secret destinations in my mind. I drink often of the deep waters of the River of Solace, sit in silence on the Island of Resolution, and linger in the refined and cultured town of Ponder. Sometimes I drift for hours on the awful Lake Desultory as I wait for the sound of my son’s car in the driveway at night. Worst of all is the Swamp of Despair where I occasionally wallow for days.
As I write I look out through the driving rain that so often sweeps through this city to the steel grey hills beyond and wonder ‘What next? Where to now?’ The Sea of Dreams lies in my past and I am not called to return there but I can still hear the murmur of the waves and catch a suggestion of dreams yet to be explored. I lived in the city of Hope long enough to know that one day a chink of light will shine through all this rain and I’ll find a way out. I’ll strike out to new horizons and the map of my heart will expand yet again.