Rebecca Hayter swaps city life for 10 acres in Golden Bay.
Rebecca Hayter makes peace with visitors.
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.