Email to One Million People

I go to a writing group first Monday of every month. We’re given arbitrary words, subjects or ideas to spark a spurt of writing. This month, we were asked to imagine we can submit into a kind of lottery, an email that will be randomly selected to be sent to one million people.

In the final phase of preparing my first book for publishing, I took this writing exercise very seriously. This is what I wrote.

Email to One Million People from Annie Zalezsak

The book, We Are One Blood is now available on Amazon. Annette Erickson, the writing group’s facilitator, has written the first review.

© August 17, 2013 | Annie Zalezsak

Why Merthyr Vale?

I’ve lived in Merthyr Vale since 2002 (save for a year in Penarth, and 7 months in Cardiff). People I meet here frequently ask, “Why did you come to Merthyr Vale?” There is no short answer, so here is the long one.

In November 2001, my then partner, Darren, and I decided to get away on one of our “magical mystery tours”. Just point the car in a direction, and go wherever it takes us. We aimed west, and as we got to the Severn Bridge, the sign for Tintern caught our attention. We veered left and followed the winding road to this beautiful place. Exploring Tintern Abbey, I had this very deep sense that this was my ‘home’, a place I longed to return. It was intense, committed, beyond my control. (The previous post, Closing the Door on Tintern Abbey, further describes that whole story separately.) We spent 1 night at The Wye Valley Hotel. I remember visiting the castle at Chepstow, and staying in a hotel in Barry for 1 night.

I was completely obsessed with the idea of moving to Wales after that. I just could not settle. Finally, in August, Darren agreed to go on another weekend away there. In my mind, it was to get clear whether Wales was where I wanted to be, or not. We went to Tintern again, stayed at the same hotel. Then drove on to Caerphilly. I loved Caerphilly. To me, it was the perfect place to live: a modern town, with an ancient castle in the centre, and beautiful countryside surrounding. Even Darren seemed to warm to the idea of this town as a new place to live. We ended up in Malvern for 1 night before driving back to Essex.

The Decision to Move to Wales

During the drive home, I remember playing a John Denver CD. When the song Country Roads came on, the words: “Country roads take me home to the place I belong…” triggered such emotion, tears streamed down my face and I knew I had to go back to Wales. As soon as we got back, Darren, who had previously vowed he’d never leave Essex, made the necessary phone calls to his employer and arranged a job transfer to the Cardiff branch within 4 hours. We had 5 weeks to move!

It worked out well, as our house lease was just coming to an end. I tried to work with letting agents by phone and email to arrange a place, ANY place, in Caerphilly to live. No help. We decided to widen the search to Cardiff. We even took another trip and viewed a few places. We settled on a flat, an agreement was approved, and then shortly thereafter, the owner decided not to let. Getting desperate, Darren said to find a place anywhere, just not Merthyr Tydfil. I meditated, and every time I did, all that ever came up was “Merthyr”, “Merthyr”. It whispered, it haunted.

I had an acquaintance in Wales, so I called on him for advice. John said, “You should try the valleys”. Turned out, he’d been living in Bedlinog for about a year, just over the mountain from Merthyr Vale. I can’t quite remember how it happened, but I recall seeing a tiny advert for a house to rent in Merthyr Vale. I asked John to preview it for me. He did, it was fine. I got on a coach to Cardiff, and the landlord picked me up from Cardiff bus station to drive me all the way up to Merthyr Vale to view the house. (When I think about it now, that was quite a thing to do, pick up and drop off someone, 45 minute drive each way, to view a house.)

The house was a Victorian mid-terrace on the side of the valley, with a high wall in front. It had a massive living room, high ceilings, and very old fashioned carpet, golden brown bathroom fixtures. The house on the left was derelict and boarded up. The house on the right was owned by a kind widower named Glynn and his terrier. (Coincidentally, the house we left in Essex, next door was a kind widower named Joe with the same breed of terrier!) The rent was £300 a month (less than half the £650 we paid for a smaller place in Essex). A bit nervous, I signed the lease on 47 Brynteg Terrace. We moved the day before Darren was due to start his first shift in Cardiff.

I was pleased that at least I knew 1 person in Wales. The day we moved in, John phoned me to say he was moving to Cornwall… the very next day! It felt as though, on some level, his job in Wales was done. I was now there, to ‘take over’.

Melancholy

We loved the house, despite its melancholy feel. Through the huge living room window, we looked across the valley to a cemetary. It took me 2 weeks to understand that the cemetary we faced was where the children of the 1966 Aberfan disaster were buried. I soon began a job as a casual library assistant and attempted to ask people about the incident. I quickly learned that there was still so much intense emotion about it, that people were unwilling to discuss it.

Those who know me well, know that I sense the energy of places and 47 Brynteg Terrace had quite a history of family life. Although I could not verify it, I sensed in more recent times there was a woman guardian of a young man who had mental health issues resulting from a feeling of guilt around the deaths of his young relatives in that disaster. The woman had issues of her own. She had never visited the cemetary to grieve.

When John returned to the area on a visit, he insisted we walk up to Aberfan cemetary. A spiritual person (we had mused in the past that we had known each other in a previous life as monks of the same order), John was certain that I had come to Merthyr to perform energy healing of the area. That is why we were in a house that had residue of guilt over Aberfan; that is why we now had to visit the cemetary. I was reluctant, but I knew that if John didn’t drag me there, I might procrastinate forever.

I don’t mind cemetaries at all. I find them rather calm and peaceful. I’ve never hesitated to walk into any. I’ve never felt anything bad in one. The second I saw the first child’s grave, such an intense grieving emotion flooded through me, like I have never experienced in my life! The strange thing was that it was completely impersonal. They were not my feelings. I was like a conduit for previously unexpressed, suppressed emotions. I felt like I was a vehicle through which the entire village was crying for their lost loved ones. I had no connection to any of these people, and yet I was processing their loss through my uncontrollable weeping.

I took photos of every grave. I thought I could commemorate these lives somehow; ensure they were remembered, immortalized. But I later decided it was not my place or duty, in fact very much not for me to do. John was really good about this. He just stepped aside and let me do my thing, somehow knowing that this was part of my purpose for being in Merthyr. He later affirmed that this was a tremendous release for the area. That now, it could ‘move on’ in a more positive light.

Interesting how coinciding with this, housing prices began to climb, doubling in one year, and now around 5 times the price they were. A derelict house now is rare. Building has been rampant. More people have moved to the area as it has become more desirable.

A part of the renewal schemes involved a row of houses, including 47 Brynteg Terrace, being torn down. This is how we were then moved to 42 Mount View in June 2002.

Not Quite Done

When I left my partner early 2008 and moved to Penarth and then Cardiff, I thought I was done with Merthyr Vale. Not so. It felt right to return in January 2010, though I could not entirely pinpoint why.

The Spitfire

If you read my previous post, Closing the Door on Wales, you will come to a part where it mentions seeing a spitfire flying very low, straight towards me. It seemed to come out of nowhere. I took a quick photo as it came towards me, and one when it was directly above. It was so loud, so close, that it filled the entire photo frame. It then disappeared behind me. I thought nothing more of it, until a few days later. I was driving through Mount Pleasant, and just as I drove past the space between some houses, it suddenly hit me: “Oh my God! Oh my God! The spitfire photos are missing!” The 2 shots of the spitfire did not appear among my photos. The gap between houses is where 2 Canadian piloted spitfires crashed in 1941, and underneath the wall on the other side is where the memorial mural is.

Mount Pleasant, Merthyr Vale memorial mural for Canadian Spitfire pilots who crashed here in 1941

When I returned to the house, I looked in the sequence of my photos where the spitfire photos should be. There was only 1 shot, and it was white. Pure white. Empty. Nothing. No data whatsoever. I have never, in the 10 years or so that I have owned this camera, have this happen.

I was told that some modern planes can interfere with cameras. But as a spitfire is very old, this is unlikely. Also, there are only 18 flight-worthy spitfires in all of UK, and the nearest I could find listed on the internet were in south of England. About a week later, I did see a news clip that there had been a 75th anniversary of the spitfire flight from Folkestone, Kent (200 miles away, on the east coast of England) on the 5th of March (the following day). I suppose the spitfire I saw may have been from a private collection, or on its way to Kent? I could find no reports of it. It remains a mystery how it could fly so low in a valley over the abbey.

In any case, it raised my attention to this mural and its history. I remember some years ago when my next door neighbour, Jeff, told me about this commission and its unveiling, urging me to attend. I meant to go, but, well, I didn’t feel comfortable, for some reason. In the back of my mind, I did think I should look into the story, what with it being about Canadians and all.

Well, this is when I learned about that gap in the houses. Funny enough, from my front door, you can see that gap.

To read more about the incident, see http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/spitfirecrash.htm. To hear a first hand account on video, watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuuWilKFQU8.

Significance

So what does all this mean? I still don’t know! I’m still here, so I there is possibly still some purpose in my being here. I am making efforts to leave. Sometimes, we don’t fully know what the reason is for being in a certain place. At different times, I’ve been drawn to Australia, Arizona, and Iceland. I remember when I moved to Penarth, I thought I could seriously live there for the rest of my life. When I returned from my first holiday in Portugal, I remember looking out my Penarth window, smiling to myself, thinking: “I’ll be living in yet another country someday.” Three years hence, after another holiday in Portugal, I’ve thought of a temporary stint in London or Essex, then going to Europe. Can’t say why. It’s that gut feeling, all over again.

Closing the Door on Tintern Abbey

After a phenomenal spiritual experience in Portugal, I drove from Essex back ‘home’ to Wales.

I re-discovered how much I love driving long distances, alone. A driving journey is to me a metaphor of a life journey; it’s a time of introspection. My travel companion Jacqui’s husband prepared me a CD of some random favourite songs to entertain along the way. Funny how just the right song is heard at the right moment: words that were once neutral, suddenly shout inspiration.

It was just like this for me.  In my mind, I had made the absolute final decision: it was time for me to leave Wales for good. In the following minutes, as I approached the Mouth of the Severn just before the Severn bridge, Anastacia sang:

How many rivers must we cross before we learn
That the flood is rising high
And the bridges all have burned

I saw the sign for Tintern, and knew I had to go there.

The First Return to Tintern

This impulse happened once before. The very first time I went to Wales was a weekend away in November 2001. My then partner Darren and I occasionally do the “Magical Mystery Tours”. We just point the car in a direction, and go, trusting we’ll find something worthwhile. Deep in the Wye Valley, we encountered hidden Tintern Abbey.

I had a non-stop smile throughout the exploration of this place. It was Home. I knew it. Despite the dilapidation, I saw every inch of its original shape and use, and stated out loud what each area was used for, nearly a thousand years before. Darren, an utter skeptic, would confirm the truth of my statements by reading the historical information (which I avoided, feeling I knew better and in greater detail than did the historians). I saw where I had once lived, ate, shared with fellow monks. I sensed monks who still roamed and guarded this peaceful place. By the end of the visit, Darren’s face was rather white with shaken beliefs. I giggled in delight. As someone who senses the energy and history of places, this time, I had a personal connection. I still do not profess a belief in past lives, yet I knew I had lived here as a monk nearly a thousand years before. I had proof.

Returning to where we lived in Essex at that time, I frequently ‘joked’ with Darren that I had brought back 5 monks with me. It was to deliberately tease, test, make him wonder. Said in jest, secretly, I did in fact sense 5 monks with me. The evidence of their presence manifested shortly after our return. Darren had poured himself a pint glass of cola. It ‘disappeared’. We hunted high and low in every room, even searching inside cupboards! A night and a day passed. Returning from work the second day, I asked Darren if he’d found the pint glass of cola yet. No. He’d looked that morning, too. In the kitchen, making one final round of checking, I challenged his skepticism. “If you find the glass now, will you become a believer?” Exasperated, he said, “Yes!”, but quickly, nervously laughed, unable to make that shift. He changed his answer to “no”.

I walked into the the living room. There, plain and obvious as daylight, smack on eye level, was the intact pint glass full of cola. What can I say, but that this incident was the key to unlock the door to his closed mind.

I Forgot the Monks, But They Didn’t Forget Me

Wales nagged at me. I insisted we return for another weekend in August 2002. This confirmed to my gut where I needed to be. Darren, profusely resistent to ever living anywhere other than Essex, easily submitted. Four hours and a phone call after our return, destiny was set. Darren arranged a job transfer and I had 5 weeks to find a new residence in Wales.

We had our mind set on Caerphilly. It had the best of all worlds. Easy access to work in Cardiff. Small town with all amenities, a castle and countryside. An idyllic setting. But no one would rent us a place to live.

My then friend, John, lived further up the valleys in Bedlinog. Our connection was very spiritual and we had had talks and visions of at one time living as monks in a same lifetime. John advised me to search for a place nearer to his area. Darren had been adamant, “anywhere but Merthyr”. Meanwhile, all my meditations shouted: “Merthyr!” John supportively previewed a house in Ynysowen (Merthyr Vale) and destiny made 47 Brynteg Terrace our home. (See more in Why Merthyr Vale?)

The Final Return to Tintern: Closure

All these years not realizing the energy of the 5 monks were still with me, I returned them to Tintern. On an intellectual level, I understand how bizarre this may sound. Even to me, believing things I believe, open to all possibilities, it seems astounding. Yet, every moment of this experience was as real as anything I know to be ‘real’.

Outside the Abbey, I started to take pictures. The batteries I had freshly inserted the day prior, failed. I returned to the car to get 6 more, just in case. Upon entering the Abbey, I knew, again, this was a return to a place I once called home. Near to the entrance, as I snapped photo after photo, my inner self kept excitedly repeating: “my home, my home, my home!”

I recall taking numerous shots, including one of a shadow casting of myself on these grounds. All of a sudden, I heard the thundering noise of a spitfire coming at me. I took 1 photo of it as it approached, and another as it was directly overhead. (More about this relevance in Why Merthyr Vale?).

On my approach to the main part of the Abbey itself, strange things began happening with my camera. It made clicking noises, and beeped in a way I’d never heard it do. It would spontaneously shut off without warning, even though the battery indicator showed 2 out of 3 bars.

Once inside the Abbey, the new set of batteries died. The camera continued to misbehave with the remaining 4. In fact, in some places, the camera simply would not register the shutter trigger. Pressing the button repeatedly, it refused to photograph, and very quickly, all 6 batteries were dead. Maybe it was a bad batch of batteries. But I interpreted this as the message that I was here, not to take pictures, but to perform closure on my ties to this place.

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of human life karma. Not sure what I believe surrounding this, even still. But here, it was my truth. I sensed connection with the 5 monks, my brothers whom with I returned to this place. Me, in this body, them, in ethereal body. They sat as I explained that they have committed their ‘lives’ to protecting this place; but I, the 6th monk, have chosen to ‘move on’. I have ‘reincarnated’. I have a new mission. They were reluctant to let me go, but finally accepted my decision. They bid me a fond farewell, waving as I turned to leave. I looked back briefly at them, but immediately turned away again, to avoid the temptation of staying in a place where I had been so happy, in a life that had fulfilled me.

I progressed to the open area where I ‘knew’ bodies were buried (though history appeared not to document) and acknowledged the unmarked graves of the 5 monks whose remains lay side by side. I, the sixth monk, had been exhumed. In my mind, the words repeated over and over: “I was exhumed, I was exhumed, I was exhumed…” as if I was trying to convince them of this fact. The exhumation was indication that my purpose at some point was no longer the same as the other 5.

Even if this entire experience is simply a metaphor for my life, it is profound. Whatever attached me to Wales, I was now cutting ties with. I was acknowledging my emancipation.

Novices

Moving to the next area, a place where the monks used to leisurely gather, I spotted a sign that drew out of me a frightened gasp: Novices. I sensed an anxious, frantic young male spirit, begging me to take him with me, to teach him what I know. I ignored his pleas and swiftly exited the ‘room’; but I ‘knew’ he was following. I tried to lose him, darting this way and that through ‘rooms’, to no avail. I realized that to ensure I was going to leave Tintern this time without any other spirit attachment, I’d have to return him to the Novices area. I re-entered where I had exited; he followed. I swiftly exited the other door of this room, guarded by the wisdom monks, leaving the novice in their capable hands. I slammed the ethereal door shut tight. I quickly cased my escape route, aware that the novice was still calling after me, shouting, reaching for me through windows. I ignored, and continued to dart toward the exit of the grounds in a random, untraceable way, energetically slamming and locking each doorway behind me.

“This Door Must Be Kept Locked At All Times”

Exiting the grounds of Tintern Abbey, I knew that I could never go back here, not in this life, not ever. My job is done. Using the washroom beyond the final gate, I saw 2 exit doors. The one through which I entered the washroom and was about to exit, and another right next to it at a perpendicular angle. On that second door was a long, blatant, warning sign saying: “This Door Must Be Kept Locked At All Times”.

Understood.

Thus, I have closed the door on Tintern Abbey.

I’m Here Because My Stuff is Here

A moment of revelation: in all this swaying back and forth about where I should live, Canada or the UK, wondering why the decision between staying and going is so difficult, it dawns on me. I’m here, because my stuff is here. I am so attached to my stuff that it keeps me stuck. The attachment bonds me. The weight of it makes it too heavy to shift, too complicated move, too emotional to release. So, I stay put, hemmed in by materialism that has no meaning or depth other than the thoughts I have assigned to them.

I am a nomad at heart: desiring to move, travel and experience places, people, situations, and possibilities. As a nomad, I’d carry very little. With all that I’ve accumulated, no wonder travel is so difficult.

In meditation, I confronted the feeling to ‘stay’. Spirit humoured me, and said: “Should we help you by burning it down?” (to make the load lighter, easier for me to leave). This made me smile. Sure, I could cremate pieces in a kind of ritual of significance, a symbol of transformation. Or, I could leave it all for someone else to pick through and trash. (I’ve resisted this idea, thinking I couldn’t bear the disrespect that entails, as if it would be personal. Yet, at the same time, I’m aware of industries that rape the earth for resources, the epitamy of disrespect, and I sit by, watching, doing nothing. How can my art, my books, compare to that kind of blatant murder?)

Does it really matter what happens to my stuff or how it ‘goes’? “You can’t take it with you” in the ultimate ‘leaving’ (the planet), so why worry about taking it with you now from A to B? Why allow it to stop you from doing anything? It doesn’t really stop you at all!

I’m here because my stuff is here, and now that I’m aware of that, I can change that. I have to detach from the stuff in order to really be free, in order to move on. This means eliminating my responsibility for it, however that may occur. Emotionally letting go of my stuff will allow me to be truly free to be me, unhindered, and able to go anywhere, anytime. Truly.

Changing Direction

I woke up this morning thinking same-old, same-old. What I really need is a change in direction. A big change. Something to commit to. Something that will make me bounce out of bed each morning with enthusiasm and vigour! Something exciting! Something meaningful.

For a long, long time now, I’ve just been doing the same thing. Get up, go to the computer, stay on it well into the wee hours, then go to bed. While I love what I do, there is something huge missing. I am still an observer of life, reporting on it, rather than an active participant.

Reporting on my thoughts and my life is a great outlet! But I want more to report on! Something Real going on in my life that makes a difference to the wider world. The only way I’m going to get a different result from my life is if I change direction. Today.