A letter arrives from Australia – Below the Salt

Eileen Cramer modeling an original costume she made and wore in the dance drama “Pilgrimage of Truth”
Eileen Cramer modeling an original costume she made and wore in the dance drama “Pilgrimage of Truth”

I have been sitting on a seat, halfway down Windsor Street, on a tiny patch of grass, which separates lower Windsor from upper Windsor. It’s a little bit like the term, “below the salt,” from – I think – the Middle Ages when the servants sat at the same table as the masters, only at the far end – below the salt. The houses are of the same terrace design as above the salt but they don’t look so well and they are smaller, with only one window instead of two and opening to a tiny verandah – usually tiled and wide enough for one chair.
The garden part in both above the salt and below is always the same; about two and a half meters or yards wide and long. On these tiny spaces, street after street, are an amazing variety of jars, tiles, pots, ferns, trees, plants, bushes – Jasmine with lovely perfume at the moment – roses, daisies, exotic statuettes and a few weedy looking stuff, while out on the pavement itself, trees with fine white-greenery and peeling bark dripping down like fringed shawls, and some with great thick roots like boa constrictors disfiguring the pavement.
Anyway, at the dividing line of upper and lower Windsor on a very small patch of grass, which could be called a park, I sat this morning on the only seat, with the warmth of the sun and enjoyed the dreaminess I’ve often felt in Australia. An occasional woman with child-in-pram went past and seemed part of that dreaming… no wonder the Aboriginal legends – most of them – are from “the dreaming” or “dream-time.” The workman who seemed to have something to do there, walked past and told me I was the first person to sit on that seat! He had only just installed it. Some funny black and white birds with longish beaks stood and looked at me for a while and flew like mad up into the white-grey trees trunks with feathery leaves. On one corner a man was using a trowel to tidy up an arched doorway of a building that is going to look nice when it’s all fixed up. On another corner is an art gallery store, where, last time I was here I saw a painting of myself reclining on a couch, nude, but with a long blond wig on my head and a white dove sitting with outstretched wings on my wrist. The painter was Norman Lindsay, one of a famous artist family. While he was painting the picture, he looked up and said, “Oh, it’s wonderful to see a woman with long hair again.” Because then, most women had short hair.
Since being here I have met – in the street, delivering catalogues to mail boxes – a big, beautiful woman from the Kingdom of Tonga, an island off the coast of New Zealand, where I saw in their only airport, the best children’s paintings I have ever seen; and in a taxi I met a driver who came from Timor, somewhere north of Austraila. (He only charged me five dollars instead of seven!) And in another taxi, a Turk who was also nice to me. In the local general store, a Chinese lady (also nice); somewhere else, a man from Peru; and at the pharmacy, a Japanese; and in the eye clinic, a European doctor. On the bus, a nicely dressed – actually the same kind of clothes as I wear – woman who looked Viennese. I told her she looked lovely and she looked sad, Viennese style of sad, and rueful, and said, “I’m an old lady.” So I said, “Guess how old I am.” And she made a “mou,” which is a rounding of the lips to express wonder! And so on…
Today I went to a music afternoon given by “Eric” in the local Senior Center. He gave a concert of recorded “Comic Opera” of Viennese composers and great singers of the same period as Madame B. and I shed one and a half tears and felt sad – and then inspired and imagined myself dancing for the Seniors, a dance from the waist up, like the one I did called “Touching the Air,” with Eric supplying the beautiful music of Vienna. I expect to be doing something like that at the Senior Center. Meanwhile, the Center’s bus takes people shopping and on cultural outings and sends out quite good meals-on-wheels.
Tomorrow, luncheon with Noline and Coralie (yum yum), and tomorrow evening, dinner with Gail and looking out at all the big ships and fine works on the harbor, and wondering which ship Prince Harry will be on; he’s visiting Sydney at the moment.
Must go and heat up a meal-on-wheels. Love, Eileen
PS – Have written three children’s stories for a little book Noline is producing. It’s to be given to children in hospital in their stockings for Christmas Day. 1. “Percival and the Flying Elevator” (elevator escapes the elevator shaft); 2. “Allison’s Doll’s Dress” (a five-year-old makes her doll’s dress); 3. “Tania and the Tadpoles” (T. watches tadpoles change into frogs). All true stories except the Elevator, which is really about freedom.

more recommended stories