Thursday, 8 October 2015


Paradise didn't come to Sadie, she came to it. And although, when she thought about it, the circumstances were very different, similarities could still be drawn to James Hilton's Lost Horizon: there was a journey which began as planned but ended in an unforeseen destination; there were revelations about her fellow travellers; and there were heated debates over whether to stay or rejoin the revolving world.
Division is never nice, but often necessary.
Some wanted peace, contemplation and beauty, some wanted to be freed from modernity; others wanted all the voyeurism that life had to offer and could barely withstand being without the hurried pace, the noise, the constant distractions, yet among these were a few who didn't know what their Shangri-La was until somehow it came to them or them to it. Providence, Miss Brinklow would have called it.
But then Sadie didn't have a Miss Brinklow in her party, unless she had assumed that character, but she wasn't a missionary nor was she likely to assertively proclaim this situation and her place in it was preordained, even if she did privately indulge this thought. She was the more silent of the circle, only speaking when she was spoken to or when she felt it was necessary, although the latter it has to be said was rare. Her voice was soft and she didn't like to raise it above more assured vocalists or drive inspecting eyes to fall upon her; in fact it caused her much embarrassment if she was asked to increase its volume or to kindly repeat the words she had uttered. Two rose-coloured spots would appear on her cheeks and deepen as she tried to overcome her meekness and comply. Unbeknownst to her, this feature was quite becoming, but it gave Sadie the jitters. She trembled, she tripped over words, and avoided direct eye contact as her face blushed progressively crimson.
A late bloomer was how she would have been described back home, someone who took longer to realise her own worth and beauty, although some to be cruel would say she never bloomed at all like a tight flower bud that despite careful tending fails to open, but here, wherever here was, she blossomed. She forgot about her self-consciousness and just was. Her silences to her felt more comfortable, and her voice when she did speak had a new firmness. And it appeared she wasn't the only one who had noticed this transformation, the others often looked to her for mediation, which as a single woman, who was neither very young or very old and lacked in what could be called standard experiences, she greatly appreciated.
In this restorative place, new as well as more established residents, just liked to be near her; a small band trailed in her wake from one communal room to another which at times she found rather bothersome. In spite of how she truly felt, the Master Healer said, she exuded calm in her aura. And yet she'd only just found this inner peace for herself.
It had been there all this time and she hadn't known.
If the sleeper train hadn't derailed, if she'd chosen to stay put and wait for help, if she and the others she left with hadn't met the John Lennon hippie, if he hadn't led them in single file over a viaduct and into the hills, if they hadn't been cajoled into being winched up the dizzying height of a redwood tree to an oriental tea house in its boughs...
Then where would she be right now? Still trying to make sense of her drab life?
That's how Sadie used to think; now the ifs, hows, buts and whys have receded over the course of time, along with time itself. Nothing matters here where the air is fresh, where all species of birds wheel overhead or sing the dawn chorus, where nature strips you of any false or protective identity. From this imperious height everything you once worried about falls away. Decays. A chrysalis turns into a butterfly. A snake sheds its skin. Seeds sown long ago are finally watered.
In this tucked away Shangri-La, true nature shines.

Picture Credit: Vintage Travel Japan for Kirishima in Kagoshim Prefecture, The Retreat of Spirits with Japanese Railways c1930s.