Western Victoria, 2009
She reversed out of the driveway, and upon reaching the street, swung right and was gone. We’d called this house our home for five years. I held The Wonderdog by my side as we watched her go. She wanted the puppy a year before, but left him there with me. (Thank god for that.)
One hour earlier, the First Wife and I had been walking in the nearby hills. The whole day had been cold, cold, cold. She hadn’t left bed before midday. By that evening, I knew why – but I never found the moment to ask through the afternoon. Things had been cool for six months, but she was a cold character herself. I didn’t realise that the Ice Age was knocking at my door.
Three days later I received The Letter that told me what had been going on behind my back for the previous six months. I still don’t know who sent it to me. Someone who cared enough who felt that I should know what had been going on, but didn’t need me to ever know who they were. I guess that didn’t matter that much. I wanted the truth, and I got it.
You marry someone and you know that time will bring change. In the natural order of things, through our lives every one of us should grow in some way. Change will always be in the landscape. I remember saying to a friend at the time that “you know that they change, but you expect them to mature, she went backwards”. Time had, and has, proven that to be pure understatement.
I never cried for her, but I cried for the fact that my marriage was gone. I put in effort, time, did the work – all the things you’re supposed to, but it was futile. When you invest that much of yourself, it hurts you deeply. You cared for it and put your best into it. You gave her your best efforts, mistakes and all, and the best years of your life. And there she was, driving off and leaving it all behind, with essentially no explanation. At least, not at that point.
About 12 months later, I was tired of my home and of the solitude. Things just weren’t moving forward for me. I took off on a two-week driving holiday through western Victoria. My friend took on the Wonderdog for the fortnight. The iPod came along with me, and I envisaged many days driving through the gumtree dappled landscape with the volume up.
Music has always been an essential element in my life. It’s always been there with me. It’s been the blanket I’ve wrapped myself in when I’ve needed something to remind me what warm love can be. I remember playing a lot of Augie March on that holiday, a lot of Mick Thomas, a lot of David Bridie, a lot of Splurge (for geographical reasons especially, with two of their albums recorded in Halls Gap).
But the album I kept coming back to was the Fleet Foxes debut. And not just because of the songs, but The Song throughout the album. The songs invited me to sing again. And I realised through that two-week journey, that that was what had gone missing. I’d had 12 – well, 18, really – months where joy had disappeared from life. I would have still sung to myself at home through that time, but there was no joy in it. Fleet Foxes gave me my song back. It’s not unusual to say an album has soaring melodies, or a good vibe to it. But Fleet Foxes lifts you up from where your life may be dwelling. The songs delight in wrapping a positivity around you just in the glory of the tunes and the singing that goes with it. You sing along with the Fleet Foxes album and you feel good. And I needed something – desperately – to make me feel good again, even if I was still stuck on my own.
I remember driving from Dunkeld to Port Fairy in pouring rain with the plan to spend the afternoon watching the AFL Grand Final in a seaside pub. Approaching Penshurst, on comes Ragged Wood with its joyful ‘Whoa’ introduction. If the holiday was 12 days, then a minimum of 12 times I found myself joining the Seattle boys in that simple, basic but purely joyful song introduction. Come down from the mountains, you have been gone too long. The heart was still a mess, the holiday wasn’t really what I’d hoped it might be, but that was more because I refused to admit to myself that I was stuck with myself as a travelling partner and that that wasn’t about to change. But, if nothing else, I’d rediscovered my Song. I’d found again what I’d lost and made my house so quiet for the previous 12 months.
With my Song back, my world slowly began to change. I took tentative steps to being more social again. I even found myself playing in a band and, for one afternoon, live on stage in front of an audience. I took singing lessons, and started to be kinder to myself.
And then, a handful of months later again, on a cold Saturday night on Hindley Street at a function that I almost didn’t bother attending, I met the Real Wife. I actually spent the night dancing, which is not my natural suit. She seemed to like it. Less than three years later, we were married. More than 10 years later, we’re likely the happiest married couple you’ll ever meet.
She still comes to me at home and says, “I love listening to you sing”. And still today, they’re most likely Fleet Foxes songs I’m singing. Those soaring, majestic melodies that found their way to me in 2009 have never left and kept my spirits alive.
It helps to have a Real Wife by your side in life. But thank god Fleet Foxes were there to kick it all off, too. If I didn’t have my Song back, I doubt that I would have come back.
Stereo Story # 570
See also the Maria Majsa story based on He Doesn’t Know Why by Fleet Foxes.