Peter Volkofsky | Author & Life Coach

Peter Volkofsky is an author, spoken word poet and life coach. In 2017, Peter published his thriller Mia's Magic Wand. In 2015 he published Beautiful Quest as an Ark House imprint. Peter has been married to his wife Penelope for thirty-three years and together they have reared seven children.

Catalytic (cat•a•lyt•ic)

(adj.) a process that precipitates an event

The Vision

Individuals and teams reaching their goals.

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The Life-Ready Bar — Part II

Walking to the bar, the African picks up one of the schooners and drinks a mouthful.

‘Tastes like home,’ he says, smiling.

‘Smells like an abattoir to me,’ the Aussie says, eyeing the other schooner.

There’s no way he’s drinking what looks like a glass full of blood.

‘Show him around,’ the angel says.

The Aussie looks at the African. At least the angel understands.

‘You won’t drink with me, then?’ the African asks, pointing his sword at the schooner.

‘Not on your life, mate.’

‘Okay, follow me,’ the African says, walking towards a curtained wall. ‘This is the first window.’ The African pushes the curtains back with the tip of his sword and they’re looking out on snow-capped mountain peaks, which are joined by a massive anchor chain.*

‘Nice view,’ the Aussie says, breathing a sigh of relief. Being a tourist is something he gets.

‘That’s the Eurasian and Indian continental plates,’ the African says, winking at him.

‘Is that so,’ the Aussie says, looking around for a real bar or at least a kiosk.

‘Those plates,’ the African continues, ‘are grinding up against each other fifty million years ago: volcanoes, earthquakes, glaciers all welding them together. In here we call them Easy and Ivy.’

‘That’s funny,’ the Aussie says. ‘That’s my name and my wife’s name.’

‘You know what’s in the next window?’

‘Rivers?’

‘Uh huh: fertile valleys teeming with life!’

As they walk towards the next curtain, the lady who first met them, materialises and smiles.

‘Hello again,’ Easy says, smiling a little too long at her.

‘You’ve done okay so far, Easy,’ she says.

‘What do you mean? I haven’t done anything.’

‘You have actually,’ she says. ‘Take a look behind you.’

He turns and sees his partner standing there, as if she’s lost. It’s definitely her: the dimples, the soft brown hair and cheeky grey eyes. But she looks so young, just like on their first date.

‘Darling,’ she says. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘What are you doing here?’ he asks.

‘We were talking about our wedding, remember.’

‘Ah—’ he says and then stops. That wedding started years ago, and he was about over it when he came to this bar. It must be why she’s here too. Looking at her, he says, ‘Is that why you—’

‘Don’t go there, buddy,’ the African interrupts.

About to ask another question, Easy thinks better of it and follows the African, who’s mouthing a ‘no’ at him and leading him to that next wall.

‘Wait!’ Ivy yells. ‘The kids are here too!'

At that very moment, five children materialise next to her: three girls and two boys, all in school uniforms.

‘You’re a lucky man,’ the African says, smiling and tousling Easy’s hair.

‘What do you mean “lucky?”’ Easy asks.

‘You have a home—we call that an "us" in this world, and without an "us" you don’t have a chance at the next door.’

‘What do you mean “us”: a home is not an “us.” I built my home, it’s an “it.”’

‘Not at all, a home is not a building, a home is a melody.’

‘A what?’

‘A gathering of sweet musical notes.’

‘Like in a song?’

‘Yes.’

‘So, by home,’ Easy says, pausing for a moment to stroke his chin, ‘you mean us, which means sweet musical notes?’

‘You’ve nailed it. But there’s one more piece to the puzzle.’

‘Which is?’

‘Without love there can’t be any us.

‘But what if there is no love—period?’

‘Then there’s no us and no home: fortunately, you and Ivy have a whisper of love left.’

‘Jesus!’ Easy says, looking back at his partner and his children.

‘What the f**k is that?’ she says, pointing past him.

Easy turns and the African and the angel are standing either side of a heavy wooden door that has the words ‘Death-Ready Bar’ over it. The angel holds a sword and the African holds the schooner glass of red.

‘I don't like the look of this,’ Easy says.

‘What don’t you like?’ the Angel asks, looking down and running his fingers along the blade.

‘I’ve never drank blood,’ he says as Ivy and the children gather around him.

‘You’ve been eating and drinking it all your life,’ the African says with a grin. ‘Every pie you’ve ever had at the footy, every steak.’

‘What’s this all for anyway?’ Ivy asks, taking the sword from the angel.

‘You go in there, lady, you better be ready to use this sword.’

‘But first, one of you—or both—must drink this cup.’

‘What do you reckon, dad?’ the youngest girl asks. ‘I'll drink it all for you.’

There’s a long silence. Easy stares at the Angel. He can’t believe this. He’s heard those words before, a long time ago. It was late at night. He was supposed to be in bed but he’d been eavesdropping on his mum and dad having a quarrel about ‘drinking the cup’ in the kitchen. ‘I’ll drink it all for you,’ his mother had said.

‘I’ll do it,’ he says, taking the schooner, drinking most of it, then watching Ivy drink the rest.

‘Congratulations! Easy and Ivy,’ the Angel says, high-fiving the African. ‘You’ve both graduated as rookie home-makers!’

Easy reaches for the door handle.

‘Wait!’ the angel says, pointing. ‘We have visitors.’

Easy, Ivy and their children stand and watch as a rough looking man and two red-haired girls walk through a wall: the smallest girl carrying a golden goblet.

‘Before you go,’ the angel says, ‘I’d like you to meet some of my relations.’

‘Where are they from?’ Easy asks.

‘Another planet, by the look,’ Ivy says.

‘Let them speak for themselves,’ the African says.

‘We always wait here for someone to help us through,’ the man says.

‘We can’t get through that door on our own,’ the taller girl says.

‘How long have you had to wait?’

‘Never mind,’ the girl with the goblet says, looking up at her sister. ‘We’re gamblers, we always turn up uninvited; we take you “unawares.”’

‘Well, you don’t look like one of us,’ the taller boy says.

‘Of course,’ the angel says. ‘But they bring a rich harmony to your melody.’

‘But they are not one of us!’ the tallest girl says.

‘If you allow it, they will be your extended us;’ the African says, and adds, ‘everyone who comes to this door has a chance to take some of these with them.’

‘Would you like to drink from our cup?’ the little girl asks, holding up the goblet.

 

  • The image of the alps is a thought borrowed from GK Chesterton

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A Walk in Melbourne

It’s an ‘almost Charles Dickens Day’ in Preston as I walk along the concrete slabs of a footpath: a small dog barks like a starter motor on a cold morning; the bristles of a hedge scrub the sleeve of my jumper and over-hanging fat green leaves touch the top of my woollen beanie. Ahead of me, walk two of my children. But they are children no longer, they are adult spirits at large in a universe of joy—at least that is what their conversation, their laughter and their songs seem to be telling the world around them.

Even the gods of the sky are infected by their enthusiasm and quickly give up on their threat of a bleak Dickensian day of rain, fog and petty criminals. Soon, there are patches of blue, streaming sunshine, the looming hulk of a looked-for railway station and the approaching roar of a train.

In minutes we are on the train and shortly after we disembark in a suburb that does in fact have the look of the type described by the English author: small colourless buildings crammed together as if they were old match boxes and staplers left to rattle around inside an office drawer. Then a surprise, right in the centre of everything, a stunning circle of green watched over by narrow towers with banks of spotlights; and leading into the arena, a corrugated iron-roofed entrance-way, the roofing freshly painted in black and white stripes.

‘Collingwood territory,’ my daughter murmurs with an ironic smile as she leads the way from the platform to the exit ramp.

While I keep up with the brisk pace of my number three girl and number two boy, I’m remembering the most enthusiastic Collingwood fan I’ve ever known. A tall, athletic and dark-haired lad who was attempting to be a servant of God but who was at the end of himself and had been sent a long way from home to get whatever help he could from me.

When he arrives, the boy (who is actually in his twenties and not really a boy) is bursting with exuberance about everything, especially Collingwood. Excitement and laughter, disappointment and rage radiate from this son of the city as if he’s in the grip of an internal war.

After weeks of this and many tears shed by myself and the boy, the lad is on his way back home: the journey happening via a long trip through the outback in my dusty old red HQ; complete with bull-bar, extractors and mag wheels.

For some reason we are in a hurry and the driving continues through the night, during which—under the surreal influence of caffeine and sleep deprivation—stories and jokes are exchanged, some of them exaggerated and incredible. Kangaroos are out and what might have been a fast trip slows to a pace dictated by the marsupial speed police. Finally, exhausted and not sure if I can trust this lad with my car, I hand over the steering wheel to the wild boy and fall into a deep sleep.

Hours later, the night is fading, the day is dawning and I wake to the wailing harmonica of Bob Dylan singing a song I’ve never heard before but which gives me goose bumps. The boy at the wheel of the thundering HQ looks across at me—in half-asleep but astonished state—and explains that it’s The Hurricane, a song about a champion boxer who’s been caught in a mess. While the boy speaks and looks at me, the words of the song are writing themselves all over the boy’s face…

‘Yes, here comes the story of the hurricane,

The man the authorities came to blame …

‘The champion of the world …’

Meanwhile I’m staring out at the glare of morning sun, red dust and scrub—and imagining a dark-haired baby being born and a tired but ecstatic mum and dad gazing in wonder at their little champion. And here I am in a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life: Dylan singing The Hurricane and the happy boy at the wheel of the HQ.

When we arrive at the family home in Melbourne I’m treated like royalty and served up a feast of lamb by a kind-faced mother and father of this son of the Hellenes. It’s as if heaven itself has wanted to rub salt into the wound, or at least to compel me to always remember and to pray for this lad and his family.

Not much more is heard from the boy. Occasionally there are phone calls and more prayers and even a few glad tidings of hope and of grace blossoming. Then one day the news comes that the boy of the bright Mediterranean sun and of Collingwood has taken his final journey from this world. I hope and pray, and still pray today, that his journey takes him to a place where his exuberance will be able to live on forever, perhaps in a place not all that different from that circle of green near the railway station.

*Original blog: JULY 7, 2012

0 Comments7 Minutes

When The Road Darkens #

“What do you fear, lady?” Aragorn asked.

“A cage,” Éowyn said. “To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”*

Coming up-hill from the big town, I drive along a street towards our house and pray and wonder if that family will be out and about: the ones people talk about and wish were not there. They don’t seem to be and I begin to drive past. But there they are—skeletal and hard looking. The dad with his month’s growth and eyes looking under siege, and the mum’s face saying, “I don’t care what happens, I will survive. And by the way don’t f— with me!”

Stopping the car, I get out and walk over to them. I like it here. Just being here with them on their front lawn as their jokes and complaints and hopes and dreams flow freely. And I like the fact that this lean-as-a-bean man with his stream of ‘three adjectives on an endless loop’ somehow makes me think of what we have in common: a desire to fight for a home, children and happiness, even if it is muddied with pride and rage and hatred for the guy next door who has apparently bashed his wife. There’s something in his face that reminds me of the men I grew up around. The deep-set eyes, the stubble and the rake of a body—well, they would either be rakes or loaded up with great bloated bellies.

As we stand there and talk about that fact that Ford has taken out the big race, I avoid mentioning that Holden took the next five places. And here we are, his woman telling him to mind his language, and all of us feeling—however faintly—that this place where we stand is somehow sacred by the very fact that it has a home and a family, all of which came out of the heart of God.

On the way to my own home, just up the hill, I think about the kind of world their children and my children are growing up in. My mind drifts to a cracked-record voice that says, “If it can’t be measured it doesn’t exist.”** Another voice of the same kind asserts that evolution has endowed us with “Genes that make us believe in concepts like the soul ... One day such irrational tendencies might be removed by adjusting the relevant brain circuitry.” In the meantime, the author offers us this encouragement; “We will have to resign ourselves to the unpalatable fact that we are nothing more than machines.”***

I met a voice of the same kind a long time ago in high school when I was studying English. I didn’t know it at the time but I wasn’t surprised to discover later that the voice had shamelessly admitted to seeking a “special odour of corruption, which I hope floats over my stories.”****

As a sixteen-year-old boy my thought had been, “Why on earth do they want me to take this stuff seriously? Why do they want me to study this for the HSC? Do they want me to kill myself? I already know and experience all this. Hasn’t this guy got anything else to give?”

I remember again why I’ve laid aside so much else of what I could have been giving my time to. These ‘wasted conversations’ on footpaths and uncertain prayers in the middle of the night are what happens when you remember what it was like to be a year twelve student trying to make sense of a lost world—and feeling conspired against by an art world that romanticises despair.

I feel honoured to be able to go right down to the wire on this—even if the struggle fails. It has truly been said, “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”*****

 

* The Return of the King, JRR Tolkien, 1955, George Allen & Unwin
**An (overheard) one-line summary of that discredited philosophy called ‘Logical Positivism’,  a Western philosophy that looked to empirical science to confirm it’s ideas— often referred to as empiricism: the theory that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. For more on this, see Antony Flew’s collaborative book There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. Flew was a strong advocate of atheism, arguing that one should presuppose atheism until evidence of a God is found. In 2004 he changed his mind on this and asserted that he believed in the existence of a god.

***Adrian Woolfson, Quoted by Nancy Pearcey in An Intelligent Person’s Guide To Genetics

 ****James Joyce and The Revolution of the Word, Colin McCabe, 1978, McMillan

*****The Two Towers, JRR Tolkien, 1954, George Allen & Unwin

# ‘When The Road Darkens’ is an extract from Beautiful Quest. Peter Volkofsky, (Arkhouse, Monavale Australia, 2015) p.31

0 Comments3 Minutes

The Life-Ready Bar

An African and an Aussie walk into a hotel to enrol in a course. They're met in the foyer by a well-dressed lady who shows them to a room with three exit doors. The first door has a sign above it that says, School-Ready Bar, the second door says, Job-Ready Bar and the third door, Life-Ready Bar.

'Which one would you like to attempt?' the lady asks, looking at the men.

'Life-Ready,' the Aussie, says, laughing.

'Are you sure?' the African asks, looking wide-eyed at the Aussie.

'Easy-peasy,' the Aussie says, winking at the lady.

The African follows the Aussie through the Life-Ready door. When they walk in, a bloke with a huge set of wings, a deep scar across his face and an angelic look, meets them at the bar and hands each of them a schooner, brimful of a mysterious, red liquid.

'Any questions boys?' the angel asks.

There's a long silence, and then a sound of bolting and double bolting of the door they came through. Both men look around at the door; the Aussie talking nervously and the African saying that the place feels familiar. They stop talking and look at the angel who simply stares back at them.

'Is there a way out of here?' the Aussie asks, swallowing.

'Nope,' the angel says, shaking his head.

'You mean I'm stuck in here forever?'

'Didn't anyone tell you?' the African asks, putting a hand on the Aussie's shoulder.

The angel sighs and drums his fingers on the bar.

'I have two questions,' the Aussie says, trembling. '"Does it hurt?" and "Is it fair?"'

The angel just looks at him, laughs, and then turns to the African.

'Haven’t I met you before?' the African asks, sweat breaking out on his forehead.

'You have,' the angel says, smiling and passing a battered sword over the bar to him. 'We've granted you recognised prior learning.'

 

 

 

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‘Spend it!’ she says, smiling.

It's just another quiet night out here in the yard. The trees are doing their sentinel silhouette thing, as if they're waiting for something. The dog is just over there and the stars are burning. I feel the odd one out with my lean towards hurry. Hurry about what? Hurry makes noise and noise makes you deaf.

I lean back the other way, towards infinite love: towards listening. 'Prayer is standing to attention in your soul,'* we are told, and, 'the Spirit of truth will guide you into all the truth.' ** In other words, I am at some kind of dealing table with One who is not trapped in time, who pervades all things (visible and invisible) and yet loves me and all mine, deeply! To make matters worse, this One is always full of energy and eager to play—or perhaps rumble. Depending on the moment, it could be a summons to be still, to listen; to answer questions, to ask questions or to embrace change. This is hard work. Harder than any footy game that's for sure. I want to go to bed!

I don't hear an audible voice in these times, but not uncommonly something comes to mind, which is sensible and practical. At other times I find myself laughing, getting angry, feeling silly or having to go and apologise to someone.

I don't sense any questions, so I ask my favourite one: 'Is there anything you would like to draw to my attention?' Before long I'm dwelling on the unspeakable homesickness*** of our lovely old world, which—for all of her carry on—just longs to be home but won’t admit it. And here's me: busily trying to help her see that she is homesick—and failing badly.

But wait! Something really has caught my attention! This is the last year our three boys will be at home together. You can't let this just fade out. You have to do something. One of my mates once said, 'The time comes to do something special for one of your children, and it will and must be, expensive.'

Dollars come to mind, which is normally an embarrassment in our household, but right now our account has some good dollars in it: dollars intended for my wife and I to go on a big holiday. Maybe I could compromise and just take the two eldest. I head back inside to get my wife's thoughts.

'Spend it,' she says, smiling. 'And don't just take the two, take all three!'

I'm smiling at her and still smiling about what became a laughter-filled, snow-boarding, bungy-jumping holiday with the boys in New Zealand.

 

*Simone Weil

** Jesus in John 16:13

*** GK Chesterton said, 'All philosophy is homesickness.'