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Monday, 27 October 2014

The DragonWagon's Mum

He left today; hitched up the DragonWagon and walked off.  “You’ll write your blog, won’t you, Mum?” he called without pausing.

Life is full of tests and surprises.  As we carelessly move from one day to another, reading books, talking to friends, living a day at a time and trying to get to the next without spilling too much or getting too creased, we never imagine the possible surprises that lurk just around the corner. In films there is a skillful musical underscore that helps the viewer along with the plot – tinkling, incidental music when everything is going well; ominous, foreboding music when something unexpected is about to happen, a foreshadowing of sorts. But in life?  There’s no music, there’s no script and there’s no rewind.  You take it as it comes: on the chin, on the head, or in the heart – and there definitely is no PAUSE button.

Christian’s decision to walk out of society as we know it today, didn’t altogether surprise me – in fact I often wondered why he hadn’t done it sooner.  He'd done it in little bursts, sometimes by not calling or texting for weeks on end; sometimes by going off and spending a weekend in the woods, camping and living in the wild, doing what he does there.  But this choice, this time it was the real thing.  If you haven’t read his blog, The DragonWagon, have a read and know that he hasn’t even read Henry David Thoreau yet. 

One by one he got rid of his worldly possessions:

I shivered a little.  There’s a time for talk and a time for action … and my feelings were all muddled up in the middle.  After some couch-surfing with friends in Orlando, he came to live with us for a few weeks before setting sail.  What bliss.  That was like a balm any parent can understand.  Long, lazy weekend lunches, peaceful evening dinners followed by card games, discussion and walks in the dark after the heat of the day had burned off.  Deep conversations, the ones you always mean to have, but never do, because life just pushes you on without them. 

Then went the:
                        His credit cards
                            His telephone

The phone was the pivotal moment for me.  When the phone was gone there was a ring of truth to the whole adventure.  He and I talked about its meaning more and more, dodging and diving, touching the raw parts, then backing off ever so slightly.  There’s a part of me that sometimes didn’t want to speak and share these amazing, intimate moments, because my frail human self kept wondering “What if? What if?”  Shame on me.  Where was my faith?  A day-by-day alignment of my feelings and especially my ego to bring my encroaching fear in check.

Fear, that evil, corroding fabric shot through me like an icicle.  If I gave in, it would stick to me like a tick on a hot day.  That was NO way to live!  I’ve rescued a four-year old Christian from the bottom of a pool, purple and asphyxiated, breathed life back into him, then put him back in the same pool 48 hours later to overcome his fear.  Cheered him on ten years later when he joined the school swim team.  Propped him up when no one understood his passionate dislike of rugby and football (soccer to my American friends;) watched him go off to high school, college then war. Fear. War. Wasn't that a team game? A mere boy of 18 off to war – skinnier than the massive gun he was carrying – but he there he stood, weapon in hand, a soldier.

My heart bursts with pride when, now, ten years later, I watch him take charge of his life, on his own terms, walking out on society in search of that “thing” that eludes so many.  Some think it’s madness, others say foolish – but I believe it’s the truest thing he’s done for himself in a long, long time.  Yes, he’s climbed rock walls, jumped out of perfectly good airplanes and risked his life in a number of hair-raising adventures and pranks.  He's worked through College and gone straight into a crippling 12-18 hour-a-day job, six and sometimes seven days a week (read his own account here.) But those adventures were all crumbs compared to this one.  

I am his greatest champion and have been from the start, whether his journey lasts two days, a week or years, Shakespeare said it best, "to thine own self be true." Despite my occasional fears and motherly foolishness, I relish his adventure. His laughter booms in my ear as I sit here in the dark, having just come in from an evening walk around the neighborhood, wondering if he also saw the fingernail moon. I sit here, ashamed that I didn't write this blog yesterday.  I tried, but I was too raw.  I tried but I wanted to curtain my emotions.  I tried but I chose to hide. Why do we hide our pain? Why do we couch the truth? Tonight I wondered if his fire was lit and if he'd had enough to eat when I realized I needed to write this.

Three minutes without air.
Three days without water.
Three weeks without food.

We both knew that drill. We rehearsed the three-by-three conversation as we walked together in the dark and in the dappled shade, neither looking into the other's eye but knowing full well what we were discussing.

“You’ll write your blog, won’t you, Mum?” he called without pausing. 
We'd spoken about the blog too, about my agony versus his joy, the hilarity of my worried blog versus his bliss-filled blog.  “Of course I will.” I responded, begging my voice not to break.
“Awesome!” I could hear his grin.  “I love you, Mum,” Christian cheered and punched the air with the long snake-stick my Dad had brought him from England so many years ago after his horrible encounter with the snake in the lake ... but that's another story altogether.
“I love you, Christian,” I called out, but was a bit of a whisper as I watched him walk out of our lives toward his adventure in that inimitable style that only he could pull off: calm and determined; but with a twinkle in his eye.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Janet. I love that he took the complete works of Shakespeare. You've really instilled something amazing in him.

  2. Cath, you write so beautifully - this is a really moving piece, esp to mums of young men! xxx

    1. Thank you Lynnie. Coming from you, that's so lovely.

  3. Such an honest account Cath and testament to your inner strength to recognise all those motherly emotions and yet keep them in check! Big love from me xxxxxxx

  4. Debbie, thank you :) . Here I was thinking I was weak ...

  5. Well, goodness. I'm vaguely friends with Christian, and I've appreciated and anticipated his journey. Your writing rounds the hell out of my understanding on how he could be so strong. He may be venturing out unsupported by the weight that society both takes and gives, but he has a hell of a foundation of strength build up by, I'm imagining, a lifetime of these amazing gifts from you. Nice.

  6. A beautiful account told with the rhythmic heartbeat of a deeply loving mother. Between the two of you, I feel like I'm reading a novel in motion. Bravo.

  7. What heartfelt comments. Thank you. I appreciate the fact that you took the time to stop by and read. <3


Unless otherwise noted, all articles are written by Cath Rathbone. (Copyright Catherine (Cath) Rathbone and Noony Brown)