IT WASN’T attending a Feng Shui workshop that made me clear out a drawer in the cabin at Rocky Hall. It was rats.
I could see a paper trail leading from the dressing table, one with three drawers that have not been explored for a long time – Since we moved from Wyndham to Pambula, 14 years ago. Then I had needed somewhere to stash things I couldn’t bear to throw away.
Clutter, Feng Shui says. The word is not ancient Chinese, as is the art. Clutter comes from the Middle English “clotter” meaning “to coagulate”, which is about as stuck as you can get.
That’s why Feng Shui doesn’t like clutter. It blocks progress. Clutter in your wealth area clogs up the cash flow, popularity wanes if it’s in your fame area, illness strikes if it piles up in the health area, rows break out if its in the family area, misunderstandings in the relationship corner and so on, through every aspect of life.
I opened up the drawer, making a mental note that it was in the family area of the cabin. Rat droppings littered what was stored there, but they hadn’t chewed their way through too much as yet. Mostly old greetings cards, it looked like.
Right. Time for a clear out here. Stuck chi might be good for rats’ nests but family and friends would benefit if I chucked the clutter away. I would feel better, too. No more clinging on to the past.
I tipped the contents of the drawer on to the floor, resolving to be hard. Out fell a magazine I had been looking for, turning the house at Candelo upside down in my attempts to find it. The magazine carries an article about my Dad, dated 1965. It details a part of his and Mum’s life when they lived at Bellbrook, out the back of Kempsey.
The article is wildly inaccurate in parts – it states that Mum was a trained nurse, which she never was – but there are the only photographs of both my parents at that time in the unlikely spot they found themselves in, and information that I had forgotten all about.
As I extracted the magazine a scatter of letters fell out of it. They too were dated 1965 and 1966. Some came from Rocky Hall where Dad was transferred to as teacher in charge. They had been written to me when I lived and worked in Sydney, but was planning on coming to Rocky Hall to be married to the Moth.
They are mostly from Dad and my younger brothers and sisters. The latter ranged from quite legible to rows of hieroglyphics and stick drawings from the younger ones, usually on the back of official forms from the Department of Education. Mum didn’t write much, being somewhat preoccupied with a large family.
A sheet of faded pencil in her neat, rounded writing came as a rare surprise. She apologises for not being able to find a pen, but points out that her letter is at least not on the back of an official request for stationery. Rusted staple marks suggest the paper had been pulled from the centre of a student’s exercise book.
She says that she is going up the road to look at the bridesmaid’s dresses a neighbour is making over from a past wedding, and that they are very sweet. She says her own dress is on lay-by at the Co-op in Bega, and that she hopes she has the money to get it out before the big day. The creator of the bridesmaids’ dresses has promised Mum her best winter bonnet to wear.
My little brothers’ outfits were also on lay-by in Bega, but Dad had a suit and shirt by grace of Mrs Joe Whitby, replacing the one bought from a jumble sale in England, a double breasted affair known every time it appeared as ‘Mr Ealey’s grandfather’s suit’.
My school age brother had a shirt but no trousers, but Mum hoped he would be suitably ‘breeched’ for the occasion.
Mrs Jack Whitby’s sister in Bombala was making us a cake and the supplier of the bridesmaids’ dresses had a sister in Bega who would ice it.
The publican in Wyndham was supplying champagne and glasses, including special glasses for the main table, and the grog was on order from the same place.
Mum went on to say that Dad and my younger brother had turned out the weekend before to search remote areas of Rocky Hall for a farmer who had gone missing.
“His place is the one on the hill directly opposite the school, but Dad said once over that hill there is nothing to indicate where you are and the ferns are well over head-high. They spent all day Sunday following the crows and flushed a dead cow, a dead sheep and a dead rabbit. The searchers were still looking for him about eight hours after he was found on the Tuesday because nobody could find them to let them know!”
I remembered the reports in the national press and the fact that the farmer had eventually been discovered down a wombat hole. There it all was, the pencil script so faint I had to squint to read it, details of what people had said, what they had worn, eaten, dramas in the lives of people long gone.
How could I throw that out? The rest of the pile proved nearly as difficult, but I did prune it a bit. I put the precious magazine and its contents in a plastic bag, removed it to Candelo for filing, and swept the drawer, leaving it empty. Tough cheddar, rats.
That should open the lines of communication in my relationship sector.
That night the phone rang. It was my brother, the un-‘breeched’ one, who never writes or phones. He was startled to find the Moth on the other end. He thought he had dialled work to say he had forgotten to switch the lights off and to ask the caretaker do it for him. Work is in Singapore, and so is my brother.
I’ll have to send him a copy of the magazine and letter.
There’s more to Feng Shui than meets the eye.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.