When I was a kid I used to wheedle, beg and plead every night so I could watch MASH. What a fantastic show that was. Problem was, it was on at 8 o’clock at night which was my bedtime. My Mum, after being subjected to the kind of negotiations usually only seen in hostage situations; who had a crush on Alan Alda herself; realised I was a true fan and let me stay up to watch it. I kept my end of the bargain by not complaining I was tired in the morning and asking for five more minutes in bed.
One of the things I enjoyed about MASH was the concept of R & R. It seemed so glamorous to go away and be pampered, laze about and generally just do whatever you wanted. For the longest time I refused to call family holidays anything but R & R. I was so persistent that the term was eventually adopted into the family lexicon. Yet I didn’t really understand what that meant until last weekend.
I have been stressed lately; the soundtrack to my life has been the songs of my demons taunting me. Demons which needed to be faced but which were largely ignored. For weeks I have been walking through a forest, wrestling with branches that constantly fall in my way, unable to see the sky, unable to envision the end of the road stretching out before me.
Although thick with life the forest has been quiet. I felt like I was encased in a soundproof casket as I moved through it. Then, at long last there was a sound. It was like new rain falling.
There are sounds peculiar to the advent of an Australian summer. The magpies soar below the treetops with the speed of an eagle. They do their sunshine dance, forming circles and patterns so symmetrical it seems rehearsed. Often a single black and white feather falls, perfect as a quill, still warm to the touch. They cry out, the peal of a bell both joyful and plaintive, and their brothers answer.
The sky is big, blue and clear. It is hard to believe it is not handpainted. The colours it casts on the ground splatter like a crescendo so that everything is daubed with brightness. The air has a scent no chemist could capture – freshly sprung wattle, sweet frangipani, the bite of eucalyptus.
In the mornings and at night as the heat rises the cicadas tune their instruments. The buzz follows wherever you go like soldiers marching to a crusade. They are one, they are many. Singing as if under enchantment.
I spoke to a psychologist on Friday who put things into perspective. I realised it can be easier to live in agony than in victory. The monotonous, jangling onestep of old sorrows, old horrors must be faced, thrown out of rhythm so that music and light can prevail.
I told the psychologist that over the past few weeks friends have hailed me in the street and I have looked straight through them, that I have neglected to pay bills, forgotten to open my mail. She told me the words I have always wanted to hear. “You need some R & R!”
So like Hawkeye and Trapper before me, I spent the weekend lazing about. I watched two entire seasons of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer on DVD. I have every episode. I listened to music, ate spaghetti and meatballs and slept in until 10AM. I had coffee with friends, did some gardening, and walked in the park. And you know what? My childhood image of R & R was everything it was cracked up to be!