Church was so much better today! Or was it just me? Having taken my first weekend-shower in six months I know for a fact that I was certainly better! (I should explain: without a seperate bathroom, and a seperate entrance to the house, weekend showers have been on hold. A long, long wait!) If cleanliness is next to godliness then The Coliseum is a temple, and I have been ordained. I might be exaggerating slightly, but there is no exaggerating the joy of finally washing your hands with soapy water in a hand basin; and absolutely no exaggerating the relief of leaving behind the clammy horrors of baby wipes and pump-bottle hand sanitizer.
At one end of The Coliseum stands a door, beyond the door lies a room, the end of the room holds a window, and through the window streams heaven.
Through the open window comes buoyant air from eucalypt and wattle; myriad clicks and whistles from the teeming small life of the valley stretching back; the occasional thump of a kangaroo on the move; the delicious echo of magpie and kookaburra; and sometimes my favourite sound of all: the roar of wind through the gumtrees on the ridge high above Paradise. It’s all too much, all too good!
Contentment – that Holy Grail of the material age – has become not only imminent, but seductive. When I sit beside the open window, as I am doing right now, I feel that heaven has come too soon! The breeze is perfection, the bush colours spectacular against a spring-blue sky. And my hands are clean. Washed hands: you can’t possibly imagine how exciting that is! I’m rubbing them together in glee.
The Coliseum is our all-but-complete accessible bathroom; painstakingly designed to accommodate Bugger and I. Pristine white walls, gleaming with elegant two-foot wide tiles carefully chosen by my Favourite Wife, are marred by a great slash of stainless steel grab rails; a very permanent reminder of the sobering truth behind our building programme. The loo is perched atop an odd little raised dais which makes it eminently suitable (nice adjective for a throne!) for my height, but absurdly tall for our Little One (truth be told she can’t get down without help! Its the funniest thing). The room beyond The Coliseum, ‘My Room’, is a dressing room and a sanctum of peace in which to escape the busy household now and then. It too will have its rather obvious features: a sink and bench at wheelchair height and goofy big-button light switches placed within reach, all designed to accommodate the demands of immobility.
Yet, in the midst of challenge I have found this beauty, this temple of rest, a haven of solitude and contentment.
But contentment has an underbelly. Contentment discovered within adversity has a certain nobility; but contentment as a goal is self indulgent. The dark sides of contentment are avoidance, intoxication, and hedonistic withdrawal. My Room is a dangerous place, and I am wary of my attachment to its comforts. I am reminded of Jonah, a Biblical character I have mentioned more than once*. Having escaped the belly of a whale he eventually followed the path of his calling, but failed completely to shrug of his necrotic self interest:
Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was VERY HAPPY about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
A great challenge of disability is that it takes enormous concentration on one’s own needs and solutions to get anywhere. I spend the greater part of every day thinking about little old me. How then, do I avoid the trap of self absorption in the glorious and increasingly commodious surrounds of Paradise?
While not holding the sway over life and death of the Roman Coliseum , my new rooms do have a sense of gravity about them. It sounds dramatic I know, eccentric even, but I feel the need to use them well. I must achieve productive contentment. “For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required.” I think it’s time to work again, to write a book. Perhaps it’s a calling. In fact, I shall start right now, right here beside heaven’s window.