The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 9 (December 1, 1938)
I Had been browsing in the sun in a deck-chair on the lawn. My straw hat was tipped over my eyes and I was dreaming, as we all do sometimes, where I should like to be just at that moment. I don't know how it happened, but a most disturbed feeling came over me. It was as if my spiritual being was separating from my physical self and as I pushed back my hat from over my eyes, I saw from my grandstand seat on the lawn, my spiritual being floating in the air above me, slowly moving away from my gaze, until it became a tiny speck in the blue sky, then it finally disappeared altogether.
To say I was amazed is to put it mildly. I was astounded that such a thing could have happened—that I was left without my spiritual being—the main part of me. What was I to do about it? I could not shout, “Hey! Come back! You've left me behind!” For clearly my spiritual being was going exploring and I wanted to be in on this exploration business! The next think I remember was that I rose from my deck-chair, and I felt myself leave the ground and waft gently in the air up to the blue sky in the direction which my spiritual being had taken.
I caught up with her very swiftly, and we played a game of “follow my leader” in the sky. Now and again, she would turn and wave a white hand at me, a tantalising smile on her face. How long we floated about in the sky I cannot tell, but I began to feel exhausted, perhaps my spiritual being could see this, for she commenced to float slowly to earth, and as if drawn by some irresistible force, I did the same and touched ground a minute or two later.
A feeling of joy surged through me as I stood on a hill and saw the wonderful country stretched out before me. A vast forest of giant pine trees softened the jagged contour of the rugged slopes of the hills, and swift mountain streams sang joyously on their way to the sea. Lakes, like jewels reflecting the sun, were almost hidden at the end of dim forest trails. A single track wound down the hill on which I stood, the only outlet, as far as I could see to the world outside.
It was my spiritual being who first brought my notice to it—a log cabin nestling peacefully in the protection of the tall pines that all but encircled it. “Come,” she said, as she led me over to it and pushed the door open. “Enter,” she commanded.
I entered, not a little timidly at first. I felt an usurper. I had no right to walk into this cabin. It did not belong to me, but my spiritual being quickly dispelled any fears I had on that score. “It is yours,” she said. Strange to say, now that she had said it, I did not query that statement, rather did I accept it as right that the cabin should be mine. There was no other human being for many miles around, and what was a cabin for but to live in?
I surveyed the interior, which seemed cosy enough, with two bunks, a bearskin for a floor rug, bright pictures on the walls, a tiny kitchen with a cook-stove and a cupboard, which when I opened it I saw was stocked with provisions.
My spiritual being began to speak again. For the first time, she looked me straight in the eyes, “You will live here,” she said, “in this peaceful kingdom, a million miles away from the rushing race of men. Away from the world where men make wars and where-there are rumours of wars, where-statesmen argue and politicians disagree, where the weak and the strong, the good and the bad walk along the road of life. You will be far away from, all that, dreaming your dreams, thinking your own thoughts in this your own domain. I will leave you in contentment and peace. Good-bye.”
“But—you are not going so soon,” I began.
My words fell on empty air, my spiritual being had vanished! As the awful realisation of what had happened came over me, a cold, gripping, frightening feeling worked its way up from the tips of my toes, until it reached my brain. Here was I in my dream place—the place where I had wished to-be all my life—alone in the great outdoors, but—without my spiritual being! My physical self, I felt, would come to some harm without her to guide me. But what could I, poor mortal that I am, do about it? There is nothing to be done, when one's spiritual being plays truant! I would just have to do the best I could, until she decided to return to me, if she ever did return!
I shook myself and a little of the cold, gripping feeling left me as I realised that I was here in a log cabin all alone with only the whispering pines for company, and the bands of elk, the deer and the scores of other creatures who made their home here.
I would make the most of this opportunity of enjoying myself to the full alone among the fastness of these hills. I stood on the step of the cabin and gazed out on to the beautiful country which was spread like a carpet below me. This—this was my own domain, a page 59 little piece of the world, which no person could take from me.
I turned my thoughts to food and, searching among the groceries, I opened a tin of corned beef, and a tin of peaches, and made a good meal. It was necessary to obtain fresh water, so I took down a bucket hanging on a nail on the wall, and I wended my way down the track to a little stream which flowed over smooth boulders. I filled my bucket to the brim and walked slowly back to the cabin. I breathed the cool mountain air into my lungs. I felt exhiliratingly happy at that moment. A dozen ideas were drumming in my brain, ideas for a novel which would have to be written here in this ideal spot for quiet, clear thinking. It was while I was waiting for the pot of water for tea to boil on the cookstove, that I commenced to explore the cabin, and in a corner I came across a trunk in which was a bundle of foolscap writing sheets. Surely the gods were good to me!
I sat on the step of the cabin, sipping my tea as the last rays of the setting sun dyed the horizon crimson.
I commenced to write the first chapter of my novel, the story of which was set high in the hills, where a hero and a heroine met quite by chance—
When I turned into my bunk that night, the cares of the workaday world seemed far away. I wondered where my spiritual being was—I slept soundly to the music of the whispering pines and the occasional cry of the mountain coyote. I was up with the dawn, had breakfast, and once more continued with my novel until lunch time. After lunch, I decided that a walk down the track to the stream and perhaps further afield would not be amiss. But it was so peaceful by the stream, that I could not tear myself away, and I sat lazily on the green grass. I had been sitting there for quite a while, when I saw two men on ponies climbing the track to the cabin!
I quickly concealed myself, behind a tree where I could obtain a good view of them as they came up the track towards me. They were dressed in true rancher style, and they were singing a little song, a song they sing round camp fires—a song of horses and men and cattle. One man was a handsome fellow, he was quite young with a rugged, healthy complexion. I noticed as he passed that he had dark eyes. They tethered their ponies to a ring in the wall of the cabin. I saw them look in amazement at the open door, and I watched them disappear inside. They both appeared again and gazed about them as if searching for someone, this usurper, who had used their cabin in their absence, for I had no doubt, that they, or at least one of them was the owner. I was in a sorry plight, many thousands of miles from home, in what country I did not know, and without my spiritual being. And then, I thought, could I—dare I—throw myself on their mercy? I debated the point for many minutes, wishing that my spiritual being was there to help me. I finally made up my mind, and squaring my shoulders and taking a deep breath, I walked up the track. The men had disappeared inside the cabin again, and the door was closed. They had apparently thought the former occupier was many miles away by this time.
I knocked on the door. It immediately opened. The handsome man stood there and he towered over my small form, as I stood trembling on the step.
“Well! I'm jiggered!” he exclaimed. “Hey! Alex! Look who's here!”
Alex came from the kitchen, looked hard and then blinked his eyes, as if they had deceived him. “How did she get here, George?” he asked.
“She must be the one who took charge of our cabin in our absence. Are you?” asked George.
“Yes,” I almost whispered.
“Come in,” he invited.
I went in and perched on the end of a bunk. George sat on a low stool, while Alex leaned against the wall, smoking a cigarette, his hands in his pockets.
“Now,” said George, “the truth young lady, and nothing but the truth. How did you get here and where did you come from?”
“Well—eh—” I began,” I have always wanted a place like this and so—”
“You took it.” Alex finished the sentence for me.
I nodded unhappily.
“And,” said George, “Is this your work?” He held up the manuscript sheets of my novel. I bowed my head. “Not bad,” he said, “from what I have read—the first line I mean—for that's all I have had time to read, but, of course, I don't suppose it could be as good as mine,” he said modestly.
“Do you write?” I asked eagerly.
“Ho! Ho!” laughed Alex. “Does he write! George D. Lawson, the great outdoor writer, the greatest writer of the wide open spaces that's ever set pen to paper.'
“And—do you write here?” I asked.
“Write here?” laughed George, “Jingo, no! It's too quiet. I write where I can hear the bustling noise of a great city, feel the pulsation of human life around me, then I can get my ideas on to paper in proper perspective. I come here for my holidays —to recuperate, as it were, from my tiresome toil. To fish, to shoot deer, to fill my lungs with mountain air. If, I wrote here at the seat of my operation, as it were, my ideas would grow stagnant.”
“But don't you gain inspiration from all this?” I asked.
“My dear young lady,” he answered, “I was born and bred in a city. Inspiration can be gained only by contact with people or places. I suppose I do gain a certain amount of inspiration here in the holidays, but I have to go back to the city to put my ideas on to paper, otherwise my characters would be lifeless. Once you have made your contacts, you see from afar in true perspective, the setting and the characters for your story. But you haven't answered my first questions and no evading them. How did you come here and where did you come from?”
“I flew here,” I answered, “and I came from New Zealand.”
“Flew here!” stammered George, “From New Zealand!”page 60 page 61
He looked at me as if I had taken leave of my senses. “Where's the ‘plane?”
“'Plane!” I echoed. “Oh, I haven't one.”
“Haven't a ‘plane,” George said in a hopeless sort of a voice, “yet you flew here. Come now, that won't go down with me? Out with the truth.”
I saw that he was losing patience and I decided that if I really told him the truth of my arrival, he would laugh at me and say I was mad, as he would have every right to say. Clearly, I could not do any good by staying any longer. “I think I'll go now,” I said. “Go, where?” asked Alex. “Home,” I answered. I walked to the door. George opened it. “You're a mystery to me,” he said, “but if you want to go, you may. If you can't make it, though, New Zealand's a jolly long way from New Mexico, we shall be pleased to put you up. You shall have the cabin and we shall sleep in the open.”
“Thank you,” I said, “you are very kind, but I think I will try and get home. Goodbye, and thank you for the use of your cabin.”
“Don't mention it,” replied George. “Goodbye,” A humorous smile gathered at the corners of his mouth and his eyes twinkled. “Nice to have met you. Call again sometime. By the way, don't you want your manuscript?”
“No,” I answered listlessly. They watched me as I started down the track. I was a little dazed. Night was coming on. I could see myself meeting an ignominious death in the open—in the wide open spaces—in my dream place—I walked on and on, I felt as if I was walking to the ends of the earth. My legs became automatic and as they moved I followed. How long I kept going, I do not know, but I was feeling exhausted and seriously thinking of laying down on the grass to die, when there appeared in front of me on the track my spiritual being. And she gave a mocking laugh. I was so overjoyed at her welcome appearance, that I could not think of all the angry things I intended to say to her, instead I asked, “Where—where have you been?”
“Around the world three times. You and your wide open spaces—ha—ha—your beautiful dream place. If I had been with you, you would have stayed at that cabin and the handsome man would have married you, just as I had planned. You spoil all my plans for your well-being,” she said disgustedly. “How did I know!” I exclaimed. “You shouldn't have left me.”
“If you must know what I think of you,” she went on haughtily, “without me you have no backbone, you are a lifeless, irresponsible mortal, that's all.” “Thanks,” I said, “and now, that you have brought me here, you can take me home again.”
“I didn't bring you here,” she answered, “you came of your own free will, and you'd better not do it again, because, next time,” she said darkly, “I might not rescue you. Come on.”
She rose into the air and that irresistible force caused me to do likewise. We flew over the cabin. The two men were standing on the step gazing down into the darkness below.
I heard George say distinctly, “She won't come back, old man. She was a vision, that's all, a vision …”
I suddenly found myself sitting once again in the deck-chair on the lawn. My hat had fallen over my face, until I felt almost suffocated. I removed it and gazed at the blue sky. There above me floated my spiritual being. “Move over,” she said crossly. I moved slightly to one side on the chair and she squeezed herself into the small space and melted into my body. I was whole once more!
This extraordinary experience took place over a year ago, and has been my only journey into my dream place. George, the author, and Alex, the beautiful country of New Mexico and the cosy log cabin are rapidly becoming but dim memories.
You may be interested to know that I have just finished reading George D. Lawson's new book, and it's all about a girl who appears in the mountains quite suddenly and as suddenly disappears again and of the young man who searches the world over for her. He eventually finds her and they live happily ever after. “The Mountain Vision,” the book is called. Rather strange, don't you think? As for my novel, I can't remember a word I wrote and somehow, now, all inspiration for it has gone.
I am still hoping that my spiritual being may play truant again. I really don't think she would not come to my aid when required. I would like to make another journey into my dream place—to the great outdoors, far away from civilisation, where only peace reigns.