I’d closed down my life in Vancouver, Canada to embark on a new life in Byron Bay, Australia. True Love requires us to be brave and take chances. Only problem – it wasn’t true love. Don’t you hate when that happens?
I needed to retreat – freak out in private – and figure out what on earth to do next. I couldn’t run back home. I’d sold nearly everything I owned. Luckily, my friend Penny offered me her cabin for a few weeks while she was away. It was nestled in the rainforest near Broken Head Nature Reserve. It was a sign. I’d hide in Broken Head with my Broken Heart.
The cabin was right out of a Grimm’s fairy tale. I was greeted by a note on the rough-hewn kitchen table. After reading about where to find sheets and towels and the compost bin, Penny had written, Oh, and don’t worry about the bush rats, your houseguest will take care of them when he’s not hibernating on the rafters above the fridge. The little hairs on the back of my neck stood up on full alert. I had my back to those rafters. I turned around in the slowest of motion and looked up. A forked tongue was flicking in my direction and unflinching eyes were boring into me accusingly like I was the intruder. I moonwalked right out the door, and raced up the hill to the main house, hoping for a little advice. Like, how to find a snake removalist in the Yellow Pages.
The environmentally correct activists living in the house – the kind of people who risk their lives jumping on whaling ships with protest banners – looked at me like I was The Great Canadian Wimp. They proceeded to explain Python 101 to me like I was a herpetologically challenged child.
“It’s just a carpet python. It’s not an African Rock Python. It can’t hurt you.”
Well, that explained the National Geographic show I’d seen of a snake in Africa devouring a pig the size of … me!
“This rainforest is their home.”
They made me feel as if I was the Serpent in this Garden of Eden. Maybe I was. “It’s winter. They’re just chillin’.”
The lecture was finished off with a contemptuous What is your problem, City Princess? eco-warrior sneer. Geez, Greenies can be Meanies.
Chastened, I trudged down the steep forest path to the cabin. When I got to the threshold, I stopped and made a decision. With shoulders thrust back, I walked in with authority. I looked directly into that python’s eyes, cleared my throat, and gave my first, person-to-python speech. “Monty,”(it just came out). “You and I can live here, together, in peace. Just stick to the rafters. Thanks, mate.”
I was finally learning about the importance of setting boundaries.
For someone who grew up in suburbia with neighbors on all sides, it was daunting to go to sleep all alone that first night in a dark forest. Well, almost alone. Monty stuck to his end of the bargain, and stayed in a stupor on his rafter. Still, I tucked the mosquito netting in the mattress extra tight.
I’d grown up in a boisterous family home, and always lived in shared housing with lots of chatter. This foreign silence was unnerving. But, by the end of the week, I found the symphony of silence extremely soothing. The cicadas, frogs, lizards and crickets were hibernating as well, resting their voices for the upcoming Summer Opera.
Monty and I coexisted peacefully in our rainforest hermitage in companionable silence. Nothing beats a roommate without vocal chords, especially at six a.m. Monty never used the last of the milk, or played loud music late at night, or ate all my cookies.
When I felt lonely, the trees gathered around the moss-covered cabin, and consoled me with their unwavering strength and gentleness. We will prevail, they whispered. And so will you.
One night, sipping tea and reading in front of the potbelly stove crackling with warmth, my peace-loving companion snoozing on the rafters, I smiled. The trees had become my neighbors, the swoosh of the fruit bats’ wings the only traffic, and the distant waves, rumbling and tumbling at King’s Beach, beckoned me to come and play whenever I was ready to come out of hiding.
The day before I left, Monty slithered into the forest, and I got a bit teary. I was used to hugging my roommates when it came time to move on.
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