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.
is never nice, but often necessary.
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.
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
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
had been there all this time and she hadn't known.
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...
where would she be right now? Still trying to make sense of her drab
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
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.