009. My New York premonition

I discovered another form of self-healing at the Book Barn. Perched on the edge of Lake Daylesford this delightful well-stocked used book shop was owned by another refugee from the city. Kerry had been in the retail book business in Sydney and his wife had been a television producer. Their Book Barn on the shore of this picturesque lake was a delight to visit as a destination for my regular walks.

With my self-imposed limit of $2 I purchased an old volume of O Henry short stories, its pages browning with age and originally priced, pre-decimal, at ten shillings and six pence. I'd learned another essential rule of survival, to treat myself once in a while to a $2 luxury. Life isn't worth living without an occasional small reward.

In this case my luxury purchase was a precious old copy of The Voice of the City, a marvellous collection of stories about life as lived in Manhattan early last century (the book carries no publication date). O Henry, a nom de plume, died in 1910 still looking for material for his short stories.

Every night after my evening meal I would read one story and contemplate its message. Each night I'd go to sleep mulling over his profound, often amusing, observations on human nature, irony, fate and fortune.

In the story Squaring the Circle I was moved by the idea that "[w]hen we begin to move in straight lines and turn sharp corners our natures begin to change." In The Shocks of Doom I fully identified with Vallance who "fell grandly as Lucifer to the lowest pit, joining the tattered ghosts in the little park. Sitting there, he leaned far back on the hard bench and laughed ... up to the lowest tree branches. The sudden severing of all his life's ties had brought him a free, thrilling, almost joyous elation. He felt precisely the sensation of the aeronaut when he cuts loose his parachute and lets his balloon drift away."

I could not possibly have imagined that, before long, I would be reflecting on those words from a little park in Manhattan myself.

Today Neil Smith is an author and blogger working from home in a quiet fishing village across the bay from Melbourne, Australia. He has authored 3 non-fiction books including 'The Mystery of Granny's Ghost'. Visit his book website at neilwjsmith.com and his 'Work From Home' blog at neilwjsmith.info.