You can, if you want to, prod a great big rainbow-coloured inflatable beach ball through the Royal Botanical Gardens onto the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House and give it one last push so that it plops into one of the finest natural harbours in the world to join with all the fluttering boats, imperious ferries and floatplanes scooting about the sprawling bays.
But I have no beach ball to push. Only the toxic detritus of a 20-year marriage still smouldering in my mind like the ruins of a ghost train at Luna Park.
I climb the grassy slopes and sit under a fig tree in a hidden-away corner of the gardens. Its branches and trunk twist together in a sublime symmetry to resemble Ganesha, the Hindu deity.
Closing my eyes, I sink into self-pitying oblivion.
“Who are you?” a gold-adorned elephant rumbles.
“I am a father without children, husband without wife, a loser, a failure,” I reply wearily.
“These are mere labels. Who are you?” the elephant trumpets, flapping its ears about irritably.
“I don’t know,” I say hopelessly.
“You need to go on a journey.”
I spend close to a year travelling solo around Australia in my 15-year-old 4WD camper. I surf, snorkel, walk, read books, subscribe to podcasts, and keep a journal. I discover Tolle, Rumi, and the others—and write my own poetry.
Dropping all labels from myself like man or woman, leftwing or rightwing, I find myself.
As I am nearing the end of my circumnavigation, my ex calls. Our 20-year-old son has been in a car accident. He is in an unresponsive coma and not expected to live the night. After a heart-stopping race to Adelaide airport, I catch the last flight out. Upon arriving at the Sydney hospital that night, despite the worry etched on the faces of my family, I suddenly feel preternaturally calm.
The doctors declare our son brain-dead. But he wakes on the 10th day, and he proudly tells us he knows all that he used to know. The doctors are stupefied. A friend of mine thinks their family prayers brought him back. I think all our daily love and devotion manifested this miracle from the infinite foam of quantum possibility. Which is probably saying the same thing as my friend.
I visit the gardens and fall into slumber again, beneath the same fig tree.
“What did you discover on your journey?” asks the gold-clad Elephant.
“I discovered that we can create reality from a place of integrity and love, as demonstrated by the miracle of my son’s recovery.”
“Who are you?”
“I am nothing yet everything. I am man but also woman. I am White and Black. Sexual and sexless. Introverted and extroverted. Spiritual and non-spiritual. I am nowhere, yet everywhere. I love all. I am loved by all.”
“What do you believe?”
“I believe in nothing, yet everything. All ideas inhabit my mind in total harmony without any collision or conflict, like clouds of birds pitching and diving with perfect synchronicity against the blue sky.”
“What do you feel?”
“I feel joy, which I can never lose—for my joy is not derived of any earthly goods.”
“Good. It is now time to find a new place from which you can create.”
I buy a little house near the sea where there are friendly neighbours, cafés, and creative writers. I return to my spiritual source, the Ganesha-shaped fig tree, and succumb to the drowsy warmth of the day.
“Have you established a base for your new creative life?”
“What do you desire?”
“I desire Love.”
“Love will come from an unexpected source. Be sure to follow your intuition. Goodbye.”
I follow my intuition through a number of tenuous threads that eventually lead me to an alcohol-and-drug-free festival nestled amongst the surrounding rainforest. There are colourful tents dressed in fairy lights, creative workshops, ecstatic dance parties, and drumming circles. There is a steam tent and communal hot tub into which I gingerly lower myself one night and discover a ravishing half-naked goddess named Celeste. We retire to my camper and talk into the early hours of the morning. I read my poems. We drench ourselves in lovemaking of an intensity and duration that I had never before imagined, let alone experienced.
A month later, we visit my special corner of the Sydney Botanical Gardens.
“There aren’t any trees in this part of the gardens. Never have been.” The park ranger says this with finality in response to my incredulous questioning.
I stand dumbfounded.
Celeste gives my hand a sympathetic squeeze, and we walk down to where children are playing with a great big inflatable beach ball on the grassy slopes above the Opera House forecourt.