Re­becca Hayter swaps city life for 10 acres in Golden Bay.

Re­becca Hayter makes peace with visi­tors.

North & South - - In This Issue -

I’d been warned about visi­tors who come to stay – like pos­sums in a fruit tree, they can strip your pantry bare, I was told. They’ll block the toi­let sys­tem with those ridicu­lous wipes city folk use these days. They’ll drain the tanks with 10-minute show­ers. They’ll rock up with no food then tell you at 6pm they’re gluten-free, sug­ar­free and ve­gan. They’ll ex­pect you to be their ad­ven­ture guide by day and cul­ture queen by night.

But no one has warned my visi­tors about me.

They think they’re here for a hol­i­day, but my prop­erty has 4WD ac­cess only, so they can’t shirk their work. This is part of their ther­apy. Ther­apy? Oh, yes. It be­gins the first evening as they pre­pare to shake off their travel dust. As the first chardon­nay swirls into their glass, my vis­i­tor’s gaze drifts over the shim­mer­ing sea. They re­lease a sigh. Bloody hell, here it comes: the great un­load.

Their boss is a bas­tard, their lover/ spouse/ex is self­ish, their di­vorce is crip­pling, their heart is bro­ken, the Auck­land traf­fic is driv­ing them crazy, the bloody kids spend all their time on elec­tronic games, their neigh­bour is... They un­load their angst as fan­tails flit and the sea slurps onto the beach. I used to sit there with a mask of good manners and ab­sorb it all. It was my host­ess duty, I told my­self, to be a bridge over trou­bled wa­ter.

The cri­sis came af­ter a sev­en­week stream of visi­tors. My friend Mighty Mouse had just ar­rived and poured her first pinot when I un­loaded a del­uge of vis­i­tor fa­tigue onto her. Oh, this was all wrong.

So I set up Beckie’s Boot Camp for the Soul.

Just like med­i­ta­tion, re­birthing and vi­su­al­i­sa­tion on a health re­treat, there are dif­fer­ent kinds of ther­apy at Beckie’s Boot Camp. Weed­ing, for ex­am­ple, is prac­tice for dis­card­ing un­wanted bag­gage. Chop­ping fire­wood: an en­er­getic way to re­lease anger over a di­vorce. Fenc­ing: an ex­er­cise in set­ting bound­aries. Cre­at­ing or re­pair­ing some­thing: plan­ning for the fu­ture. Plant­ing seedlings: a sym­bol of car­ing for those who will one day care for you.

I gen­er­ously pro­vided these free ther­apy ses­sions as the chook house un­der­went a makeover, the fences fi­nally be­came sheep-proof and weeds dis­ap­peared from my herb gar­den. I peeled and chopped with Mighty Mouse as we bot­tled pears – she had been fine on ar­rival, but af­ter my down­load over vis­i­tor stress, she needed ther­apy, too.

Bruce and Shirley Ann also ar­rived in good shape. How­ever, for pre­ven­ta­tive ther­apy, I al­lowed Bruce to work on my sail­ing dinghy and Shirley Ann to bake scones.

One of the more evolved ther­apy ses­sions is muck­ing out the chook house. As I tell my visi­tors, this is the path­way to true en­light­en­ment: the abil­ity to con­vert the shit in our lives into fer­tiliser for new growth.

I still have to lis­ten to my visi­tors’ great un­load on the first evening, but it no longer both­ers me. I just look for­ward to all that ther­apy they’re go­ing to do.

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