Gavin was one of those good people who fixes up broken highchairs, broken families, and broken dogs. Semi-retired, all round handyman, a little gruff as men that age often are but sweet inside. He was one of Maria’s Mir St. neighbours, along with his two dogs that he was tough on but adored; the perfect dog owner.
“Would you come with me to the pound, Gavin?” asked Maria one morning as she walked past his house. “I have seen a dog there that I am interested in but I need a second opinion. If you say no then I won’t get him.” As they walked into the pound, Maria added casually, “By the way, he won’t let anyone touch him.”
Gavin frowned. He had a duty of care to give appropriate advice, “What breed of dog?”
“German shepherd,” said Maria keeping up the casual style.
“An aggressive German shepherd?” said Gavin as if he wasn’t going to waste his time by going any further.
“Please, at least, look at him. They won’t keep him any longer.” They both stood outside the cage. The dog certainly knew that they were there but he would not do them the honour of looking at either of them. He was matted and dirty because he wouldn’t let the groomer touch him.
“He’s way too big for you,” said Gavin. “He will hurt you. Have a look at the other dogs. There are lots here that need a good home.” He would be a fine dog if he would stop fighting life, thought Gavin. “His spirit isn’t broken but his trust is,” said Gavin.
After Gavin left, Maria sat by the dog’s door waiting for him to show some interest in her. Gavin didn’t exactly say no, thought Maria. “Come on, boy. I’m your only chance. Take it. I’m on your side but I won’t force you. It is your choice for life or not. You will have to let me put the lead on if you are going to get out of this place alive.”
The dog listened intently but suspiciously. Maria had been sitting on the floor waiting for so long that she started daydreaming. She was surprised by a nose in her hand. He had come. Thank God. As Maria was slowly clipping the lead to his collar, he suddenly bit her arm. A German shepherd bite is no little scratch. They can kill if they want to.
One of the pound keepers approached, “Is everything alright?”
Maria quickly pulled her jumper over her arm, “All good, thanks.” This time, the dog let Maria attach his lead and they walked to the office. She knew it was a great risk to take a dog that could attack. What if he attacked someone else? Yet, she also knew he wasn’t bad, just broken.
Maria named him, Gortaithe. It means injured in Irish. Sensing the risk she took to save him, he never challenged her again. He quickly gained a reason, other than self-preservation, to live. When we love someone, we make it our business to protect them.
Stealing or Healing
“Hello, Verloren,” said Maria with surprise as she opened her front door. Maria was used to calling her Mrs. Reisenden over the years of seeing her at Waldmeer Corner Store and Cafe but she was too old to call her that now.
“I hope you don’t mind me coming unannounced,” said Verloren. “Your mother gave me your new address.”
“It’s fine. Come in,” said Maria.
Verloren eyed the peeling paint on the walls and the bare, unpolished floorboards in Maria’s lounge room. She turned her gaze to Maria and smiled, “Your mother told me about the healing work you are doing. You probably don’t know that I have a great interest in such things.” Maria was not so sure that the such things they were interested in were the same such things but she listened attentively. “I would like to purchase a healing session.”
“I see,” said Maria. “What is it that you want healing for?”
“I didn’t realise that one had to give a reason for wanting healing,” said Verloren, “but I am having a little issue with Farkas from Waldmeer. You remember him?”
“Yes, of course.”
“We had something of a falling out. I am not one to hold a grudge but I have recently seen him a few times in Waldmeer with a female companion. It has come to my attention that he is moving forward and as I have no other option, I need to set a few things right.”
Maria knew that Verloren was nowhere near ready to accept any true healing at this stage. Not only would it not work but Verloren would take whatever energy she could from Maria and then use it against her at some future point. Further, Verloren’s anger at seeing Farkas with a prospective partner would have ignited a growing vindictiveness. Hell has no fury as a woman scorned.
“I don’t do healings on people unless I have worked with them for a while,” said Maria.
Never one to accept no for an answer, Verloren said, “What is it that you would like to know?”
“Can you tell me why the falling out with Farkas is painful to you?” asked Maria.
For one brief moment, Verloren’s face opened up like a window. There was no doubt her pain was substantial. “I just wanted him to love me. Was that too much to ask?” she said. Maria took the opportunity. Although she felt sorry for Verloren, she also knew that she had great resilience in the face of pain and great perseverance in trying to get what she wanted. She needed a brutal awakening because nothing else would work.
“Yes it was,” said Maria. “It was way too much. Many women like Farkas. Tell me, why do think he should love you over other women? Are you more beautiful, talented, accomplished, loving or wise? What were you going to give him that he actually wanted?” Verloren was taken aback and was scrambling for an answer but couldn’t think quickly enough to find one. She was smart but truth is smarter. “You are being delusional,” continued Maria. “I am not saying this to hurt you but to help you. If you cannot face the obvious facts of the situation, you will never be able to move onto the deeper issues.”
Verloren had already stopped listening. She was too angry. It is very confronting to be faced with our most treasured delusions. She forced a smile and said as calmly as she could muster, “You are wrong, Maria. We were very close. He loved me. He just couldn’t tell me and now he has decided to look for someone else.”
“You weren’t close, Verloren. He didn’t love you. He used you for money.”
Verloren was furious but she pulled herself together remembering the other issue she had come to see Maria about. “You are entitled to your own opinion,” said Verloren, “but before I go, there is one other issue that I wanted to mention to you. I had a professional arrangement with Farkas about his garden and he has not fulfilled his part properly. I was willing to let it slide in the hope that he would come good but I believe that there is little hope of that now and so I will be forced to use legal channels to right the wrong that has been done to me.” She paused and then added, “I don’t normally repeat things but I will tell you, in confidence, that he has said many bad things about you.”
“Well, I’m sure he didn’t mean them,” said Maria.
Verloren stood up to leave and slid her expensive shoe along the rough floorboards, “You look like you could use a little help with restoring your house.”
“I like it like this,” said Maria walking Verloren to the door. I can lie too, Maria thought.
Inevitable but Not Necessary
That evening Maria sat at the kitchen table with a cup of tea. “I can’t stand her,” she said to Amira. “She’s so damaging.”
“Verloren is damaging because, like most people, she is damaged,” said Amira.
Unlike Maria, Amira was never angry. She forgave everyone because she loved everyone equally. No matter what anyone did, she treated them like a child who was simply misguided. They were the more to be loved and helped because of their problems.
In time, Verloren would return. Time is not necessary for healing but it is inevitable. We find many friends when we are down and out. People swarm around with proclamations of, “Oh, how dreadful. How terrible.” They may as well be saying, “Thank you so much for making me feel better about myself and my life. You have more problems than me and are more pathetic.” Yet, when we enter the path of healing, there will be few standing there to wish us well, in case we find it.
“The issue is not Verloren,” said Amira. “It is your own consciousness. Look at yourself. You are all worked up and keep rerunning the scenario in your mind, getting nowhere. Wouldn’t you like to get your peace back? Wouldn’t you like to feel happy again? Is the self-righteous anger really worth it?”
Maria opened the back door and looked into the clear, cold night. The moon was shining between the houses on its way into its rightful nightly place. She got ready for bed and as she laid her head on the pillow, she listened. The house was very still. The darkness was inviting and comforting like a warm blanket. As she closed her eyes, she said to the angels, “Take me somewhere beautiful tonight and teach me something wonderful. When I wake up in the morning, I will be happy and ready to share my happiness with anyone who would like it.” The darkness fell more deeply over her and then the Light silently moved in.
It was several weeks later. He bent over Maria and kissed her softly on the lips. He didn’t wait long and kissed her again. It felt so nice. Warm and sharing. He wasn’t taking anything from her; sucking the life out of her. He was joining with her; whole, unburdened. She slowly opened her eyes to look at his face. The early morning light was filtering under the curtain. That’s what kissing really is, thought Maria. I don’t care if it was a dream. It was a good one.
“Do you remember the Jamiesons; the retired couple who came to live in Waldmeer a few years ago?” Maria’s mother asked her on the phone that morning.
“Yes, why?” said Maria.
“I’ve sent a parcel of your things with their son, Richard. He lives not far from you. He is an actor.” There were many actors in Maria’s area, along with writers, musicians, and artists. Gabriel and Charlie knew lots of them. There were healers too, although, Maria didn’t seem to cross paths with them.
Richard knocked on the door a few days later. Maria couldn’t remember Richard at all but when she saw him, she wondered why. A good looking man, about ten years older than Maria, well dressed in an edgy, actor sort of way, polite, and quietly confident. He was slightly shy which seemed to make him all the more attractive.
“I don’t think we have ever met,” he said holding out his hand. “Every time I go into your mother’s cafe, she always mentions you. I am on my way to get coffee. Would you like to come?”
“Sure,” said Maria. “I’ll get my coat. I need a walk.”
Maria didn’t date. Men sometimes asked her but she didn’t take it up. Although she understood how the dating arrangement worked for other people, she found the idea illogical for her own circumstances. Dates, as opposed to catching up with friends, assumed that one was available and interested in some sort of a connection ranging from casual sex to marriage and including everything in between. Firstly, Maria didn’t feel single. She didn’t feel alone and so the idea of searching for some person to fill a space didn’t make sense to her. Secondly, she could read most people very quickly. The thought of dating a stranger in an awkward, draining, and undetermined situation to find out what sort of person they were, even though it was usually already obvious, made Maria cringe.
Maria and Richard walked to the local cafe which was buzzing with life. They liked each other straight away and found they had lots to talk about. After that, they kept in regular contact. As much as Maria liked Richard and enjoyed his company, there was something about him that made her hesitant to get too close. He was not pushing anything. He was too confident for that. He didn’t need to ask women for anything. They would usually make their intentions more than clear to him.
That’s the problem right there, thought Maria. I don’t want someone to kiss me, like the man in my dream, and then be thinking about kissing someone else in a year or six months or six seconds. It was a compliment to have Richard’s attention, especially as Maria was younger than him and he was much more experienced in almost everything, but a compliment is not enough. It has to feel right. Actually, it has to feel necessary.
It wasn’t long before Richard started talking about a new friend he had. Something in his voice told Maria that this relationship was important to him and was already starting to change him as real relationships do. Richard said that he would like Maria to meet his new girlfriend. He, also, said that Maria was the only person he had mentioned it to. Why won’t he discuss his new relationship with any of his friends and introduce her? thought Maria. He is obviously falling in love with her.
When they all met at the cafe, Maria understood why. She was expecting a woman like Richard; mid to late thirties, good looking, vibrant, and confident. Richard walked in with his arm protectively around a woman who was probably fifteen years older than him. She looked good for her age but Richard looked fantastic and was many years younger. This was not Richard’s normal style. Maria was intrigued. The woman was lovely but, also, strong and independent. There was no doubt she mothered him but he didn’t seem to mind. Then they would switch. Richard sat her on his lap and kissed her forehead. She laughed and didn’t try to escape. He told her that she looked beautiful today. He was probably exaggerating but no one cared. She did not need to be told that she looked beautiful but she took it anyway.
The whole thing was delightful to watch as if they had unexpectedly come upon a valuable treasure. Maria felt happy for both of them. She will give him all the love he needs and her life experience will make her overlook many of his faults, thought Maria as she walked home. But if he starts wandering or lying, she will be on it; sharp and short. She will be reminding him that he is very free to walk out that door. It’s exactly the sort of approach Richard needs.
That evening, Maria said to Amira, “Am I on the right track to think the way I do or am I missing the boat?”
“Don’t worry about that,” said Amira. “It is not for you to decide who you will love and trust. Love those who come into your life. Love them for as long as they wish to be there. And then still love them even if they are no longer there. You cannot run out of love or give too much away. You don’t have to decide or arrange anything. Your happiness is already assured.”
Maria had another Waldmeer visitor around the same time that Richard first visited. Mary’s mother, Grace, had been ill and needed to come to the city for specialist visits. Gabriel was travelling and he had offered his room to Grace and her husband, Joe, for two weeks. Mary was very worried about her mother and Charlie was worried about Mary. It was quite a worried household.
Joe was a dairyman through and through and he had not been to the city for years. As much as he would do the right thing by his wife, he couldn’t wait to get home. He was pacing the house so much that, eventually, Mary told him to go back to the cows and that she and Charlie would look after her Mum. Joe was reluctant to agree but he did. He couldn’t help singing as soon as he hit the green pastures on the way home to his four-legged loves.
As Grace wasn’t getting any better and the doctors didn’t seem to be making much difference, Charlie suggested that Grace visit Maria. “What do you have to lose?” said Charlie.
Not only did Grace visit Maria but she told Maria that her house was the only place she felt less pain and so she came every day. When Gabriel returned, it was arranged that Grace would stay in Maria’s healing room for the rest of the month and that Maria would have a break from seeing other clients. Maria asked Amira if she thought it was a good idea to let Grace stay.
“Yes, it is,” said Amira. “Grace wants to leave and so she has given herself a mysterious illness which will get her that result.”
“You mean leave life?” asked Maria.
“Why does she want to go?”
“She has been unhappy in her marriage for a long time. She wants to leave her husband but she doesn’t want to hurt anyone and she is afraid of the difficulties of such a big change. So instead of leaving Joe, she has decided to leave life thinking that that will give her some peace.”
“Is she conscious of any of this?”
“No. She has never been taught to understand her thinking and feeling processes and she finds any self-analysis frightening and disturbing.”
“Then we are starting at the beginning,” said Maria.
If Amira had a body (other than Maria’s) she would have laughed. She did say, “Good luck!”
While Grace was in Maria’s house, she felt significantly better. However, Maria knew that without Grace understanding the underlying issues, her wellness would quickly deteriorate once she left. Each day Maria suggested information to Grace about the possible thoughts that could be underlying her illness. At first, she had to be very subtle because all Grace would say about Joe was that he was a wonderful man and that she was lucky to have such a great life. However, healing has its own power and, once started, it moves ahead methodically knowing exactly what track to take for the most efficient and effective results.
One evening, all of Grace’s pain returned and more. Maria used the opening. “You were just then on the phone to Joe and he was talking about some of the things that will need attending to when you return to the farm,” said Maria. “Do you think that your pain could, in any way, be related to a feeling that you have about the farm, Joe, or your life in Waldmeer?”
Grace starting crying hysterically. Thank goodness, thought Maria. She’s getting somewhere. Maria calmly assured her that there was nothing to be afraid of and that everything would be fine. Yet, at the same time, she could not miss this window of opportunity because they can be few and far between. Or perhaps it is our willingness to approach them which is infrequent. “Imagine that your tears could talk. What would they say? Listen to them. They are trying to tell you something important.”
Grace cried even more uncontrollably. “I can’t go back,” she said. “I would rather die than go back. I feel trapped. I would so dearly love to live a little bit, live my own life, and find out things about myself before I die.”
“You can, Grace. And there is no need to die,” said Maria. “Not for a long time, anyway,” she added smiling. Grace laughed out loud. It was a free and infectious laugh; a release. Maria laughed too. She had not seen Grace smile let alone laugh.
“Perhaps, it would be possible to suggest to Joe a little break and then you can both see how things go,” said Maria. “It doesn’t have to be a big drama. There doesn’t have to be any blame. Even if he gets upset and angry, keep loving him and he will eventually see that you mean him no harm but you, also, must protect your own life path. Your first responsibility is to your own worth. Everything comes from that.”
Grace returned home but only briefly. A few weeks later, she was renting a little flat in a pretty street, near the river, in the town closest to Waldmeer. It was a bigger town than Waldmeer and Grace was very happy with all the opportunities it presented her. Joe was a complaining, bumbling mess when Grace left but to everyone’s surprise, after a few months, he pulled himself together and started to adjust to life as a single man. He even asked a local widower out on a date. She was more than thrilled to have the company of an eligible man. She thought Joe was very handsome and manly. Joe was starting to enjoy life beyond his cows.
As for Grace, she was blessed beyond anything an onlooker could perceive. Even her own daughter, Mary, did not really understand the change that was happening in her mother. Maria did. She heard it in her voice whenever Grace called. Maria knew the angels were blessing her and she was becoming very close to God. Her little bit of courage was so greatly rewarded beyond anything Grace would have expected or even dreamed. The return of her health was merely the first step.
After a while, Grace and Joe started to catch up for coffee in Grace’s new town. Joe would dress up as if he was going on one of his, by now, many dates. They would sit in the cafe and talk about the family, the farm, and Waldmeer. This day, as they parted, Grace reached over and kissed Joe on the cheek. She had much love for him, yet, she would never return to him. Something in the kiss shocked Joe.
“That is the first time you have voluntarily kissed me in ten years,” he said quietly as he wiped a tear from his eye. He shuffled his feet and then walked off saying he would pay the bill.
As they left the shop, Grace turned to him to say, “Thank you for the coffee.”
Joe stopped her, “No, Grace, it is I who must thank you.” He again started to cry and quickly turned for the car mumbling, “I’ll see you soon.” He straightened his suit jacket and tie and waved as if he had many important things to attend to.