Saturday, October 18, 2014

Instant Therapy and a Treehouse to Dream In

Chapter Two    Instant Therapy and a Treehouse to Dream In


We were silent in the car on the way to the therapist’s office. My face was still red from crying from the daily morning’s phone conversation with mother—she wanted to come stay with us for the summer, which was fine, but she refused to accept that I needed “writing time” from eight to eleven every morning. Her unwillingness to accept any conditions around her visit made it into an either or situation—she would come, with no restrictions, or she wouldn’t come. I had to say no. Tears and pleading words ended every conversation with her every day.

What was even worse was the hollow feeling inside me when I looked over at Harry. He didn’t deserve this; well, neither did I. There was nothing truly wrong with us, except he was overstressed with working at the pottery shop and I was overstressed trying to write a book. Mothering our daughter Sarah was good with its sweet highs and tender lows, but mothering my mother, wore me down.

Harry’s face was looking thinner and I hadn’t seen the sparkle in his eyes in months. I suspected I looked worse. The writing was going so slow and I didn’t feel that deep connection to Annie that I had hoped for—I didn’t know all those little things writers need to know about their subject. How was I to find out? There was no Theosophical Society nearby—I was working alone in my room with a few books, my electric typewriter, and a shortage of new inspiration. I needed to be in California at the place where Annie had spent so much time, or in England where she was born. I had yet to feel her “collaboration” with me on this project.

“So Harry” the therapist said, “what would you most like to do now? You’re sounding like you need a break; something new…what would that be?”

“I don’t know, I just want Janet and I to be happier.”

Silence. “What about you Janet?”

“I’m restless and going out of my mind, that’s all. We’re in what astrologers call the Uranus Opposition—we’re both around forty years old, you know—and this passage calls for a big change in one’s life. Something is trying to come to the surface..and often it just erupts. I’m nervous; scared. That’s why we’re here—there are rumblings, but nowhere for us to go. I’m afraid we’re going to implode.”

“And you’re going through this too, Harry?” she asked. He nodded. She leaned over to him: “Tell me, what would you most like to do if you could do anything in the world—anything.” Harry pursed his lips, and then it looked like the proverbial light bulb went off in his head. “I’d like to do what my father never had a chance to do. I’d like to go to California. Just drop everything, and go.”

Wow! Did he just say that? I hadn’t even told him that Krotona, the esoteric section of the Theosophical Society, was in California, just inland from Santa Barbara. My eyes widened. “Let’s do it Harry—let’s just go! I mean it!”

I shocked myself.

And that’s how we came to live in Ojai, California. We dropped everything and left—it took 6 months and 3000 miles to get to our new dream. 


Luke, the realtor, was reluctant to show us the last house he had listed. This was the last day we had left to find a house before flying back to Rhode Island. Luke had showed us over-priced houses hanging precariously off cliffs in the high mountains of Santa Barbara and had shown us dark moldy homes under the oaks in Ojai. We were willing to take almost anything that didn’t smell and look like the owner had just died or looked like it was the next statistic in an earthquake report. It shouldn’t have been so hard. “This one is a bit of an embarrassment really, but I’ll show you if you want…” I couldn’t imagine any worse. It was the end of three long days of looking at houses that were all wrong.

As we drove up the steep hill we passed a long row of cypress trees, till the road turned dry and dusty. We passed what look like an abandoned sail boat hoisted on stilts on our left, and a long red barn on our right. “I hope they have the chickens out of the bathroom by now” Luke said. Harry and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. We weren’t expecting a clean house after what we’d seen today, but “chickens?”

“Yeah, and there’s probably a few people still living here. The house comes with…well let’s see…. two trailers, a teepee, the boat you just saw, and a treehouse. Oh yeah…and more.” There was stuff everywhere. But that’s not what I saw.

The realtor curved the car around past the front of the long house and stopped at the edge of an orange grove that seemed to fall away for miles. We stepped out of the car and looked around….and around and around. There was an almost 360 degree view of mountains, sky, orange groves…and a gentle breeze. Wind chimes. The sound of a horse’s whine. There in the distance I could see layers upon layers of thin clouds like a Japanese painting.

My eyes teared up. Harry looked over at me—the two of us smiling like Cheshire cats—and my tears began to fall. “This is it,” I said, grabbing Harry and squeezing him so hard he laughed. “You don’t even want to look inside?” He said, “To see the chickens in the bathroom?”

“It doesn’t matter. Look at this!” I extended my arms like Eve showing Adam paradise.

“But look at this--” he said, his arms pointing to overhead electric lines crisscrossing the land like a spider’s web.

“You could…bury them. Couldn’t you, honey? And we don’t need all these other living places…I mean just one house will do.”

The realtor walked the land with us. “It’s what’s left of a hippie commune, I believe, and there are people still here. He pointed to the tree house, teepee and boat. But I’m sure they’ll be gone soon.”

“I want to be here; Harry, what do you say?” We hadn’t even looked inside the main house.

 “It’s five acres and $250,000, as is…right?” He grinned at me from ear to ear. “We’ll take it, Luke.”

And that’s how we got to live in the long narrow house with a treehouse, a barn for the pottery, an occasional horse that wandered through the backyard, and a nest of baby rattlesnakes in the front lawn. I planted jasmine and arranged to get our furniture moved, while Harry got the guys to bury the electric and hire 4 dumpsters to take all the “extras” away. We certainly didn’t need all that chicken wire and sheet metal and not even the cannabis growing in the backyard. Instead we had a hot tub installed, so at dusk we could stare at what the locals called the “pink moment” when the mountains would light up with a luminous shade of rose. And at night we’d look up to the sky to see more stars than we’d ever seen in our lives. At long last Sarah would have a warm pool and happy parents.

And Sarah and I found a place we could dream in—we would hang out in the treehouse with a view that dropped away for miles and miles till the mountains rose up again. Sarah would bring her “pretty ponies” up there and I would bring my first book by Krishnamurti. Never had I read anything so dense, but when I stopped to look out at the view, all the rationality dropped away, and I understood what he was talking about. I guess that’s the only way to read a mystic. I felt a little guilty about taking over someone else’s treehouse, but I sensed that Annie would say we all occupy spaces for just a little while before moving on; yet another angle on reincarnation. ~  (C) Elizabeth Spring



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