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( 363 visitor comments )




Carol Joan Page

23 September 2005

Published in the Byron Shire Echo
It was 1972. Her permanent glare was offset by the most enchanting diamond nose-ring.
Against all odds (I was terrified of her, for starters) we became friends.
She remained a queer mix. A scary exterior, but a soft touch and bleeding heart when you got to know her. Brash and self-doubting. Talked like a threshing machine but - when the mood took her - a master of monosyllable. ("Yep." "Nup.")
She did good silence too, when the mood took her even further. Indeed when you asked her a question she could ignore you so entirely you began to wonder if you’d spoken at all.
One had to be careful not to look at her too hard: she was staggeringly fertile. And when Carol was pregnant, she was almost militantly pregnant: she gloried in it. Raising kids was her fulfilment, something she was born to do.
But she was a queen of light and dark. There was also something about her which attracted brushes with mortality. She was the most accident-prone person in Australia. It was almost mystical.
I first encountered it in a house we shared in Sydney in 1975, where she nearly did herself in via the toaster. (There was a devastating shriek from the kitchen one morning.) Then followed decades of equestrian accidents, car smashes, cancers, heart disease, falls, twisted knees, buggered necks and wrecked backs. Even her pets tended to meet terrible ends.
In the early 1990s I was mad enough to go whitewater rafting with her on the Nymboida. As half a dozen rafts drifted safely downriver, Carol and I were hurled out of ours, sucked under the Grade 4 rapids, catapulted along the bottom for 100 metres, sieved through boulders, and nearly drowned. I didn’t go adventuring with her again.
One day several years later, a neighbour told me a freak storm had hit a fair at Durrumbul. There had been a single casualty: one of the several hundred attendees had apparently been brained by a marquee pole, and rushed to hospital.
"Carol," I said.
And so it was. I hadn’t even known she was at the fair.
Carol was classless, a quintessential Australian: as free from cant and bullshit - to say nothing of tact - as anyone who ever drew breath.
But her personality was so large that you can forget what she did. In 1972 she helped start Divine Light Mission (later Elan Vital), the organisation of her teacher, Maharaji, to whom she remained faithful till she died. She was a pioneer home birth mother, and raised one, two, three and finally four kids under very exacting circumstances. And in the late 1980s, she helped found this newspaper.
Carol’s local network was unparalleled. Her ability to take the pulse of the community, and to pointedly capture events and personalities, made her in my opinion The Echo’s best journalist.
Of course she got closer to her proprietor than most journalists do - that proprietor being Echo co-founder Nick Shand.
One doubts that Carol is now walking in Elysium with Nick, as she fervently would have wished. But it’s nice to imagine it’s the case, given how devastated she was not only by his death in 1996, but by being shut out of the official mourning. (This may or may not have been a diplomatic necessity, but it certainly hurt her.)
I promised her I’d write the story of their love one day, when I got around to it - for the whole of Byron Shire to read. Not that it was any secret (is there anyone who didn’t know?) but because in publishing something we accept it as a community truth, and a first-class truth: a truth by which we’re not embarrassed.
Second-class truths are fit for conversations among those in the know, but they’re not inscribed in newspapers or spoken of at public gatherings. Though equally true, they cause problems and so are a little less desirable. Nine years have passed now, and it’s time to rescue Nick and Carol from that particular underworld.
Carol loved Nick - and Nick loved Carol. Of course they loved other people too. And they sometimes fought like cat and dog. (Well, Carol raged at Nick, and Nick usually laughed it off.) And they may have contributed to each other’s early deaths, via the serious drinking they encouraged in each other. But the love was there – deep and abiding; visible from Yelgun to Suffolk Park; experienced (and consummated) from ocean shores to mountain peaks - and anyone who says it wasn’t real or deeply meaningful to both of them didn’t know either of them very well.
The evening Nick died, Carol - who’d been drifting off to sleep - sat bolt upright in bed, threw on her clothes, jumped in her car and raced down the road toward his home - with no idea of what she was doing. She found him lying in Coopers Lane next to an ambulance.
Carol might have died "young" but, like Nick, she burned pretty bright. Few people have crammed so much love, friendship, travel, passion and drama into a half-century or so. But in the end it wasn’t so much the events as the sheer magnitude of her heart which defined Carol. Few people felt so much.
Happily, she closed out her perennial birth-death two-step on the bright side of the dance floor: as a doting, happy grandmother, surrounded by new life.
Carol Joan Page, 56, horsewoman, Earth Mother, fiercely loyal friend. Great in a red bikini, once upon a time.

Visitor's : Add Comment

Sarah buchanan   5 June 2013

Beautiful John. She certainly was a wondrous force to be reckoned with!

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