Sorry Business

Image from Slideshare

Image from Slideshare

“To weep is to make less the depth of grief.” ~ William Shakespeare

The next installment of my Kimberley Story

I cannot tell you how I knew that Little Aunty had passed away. I do not know how the Aboriginal stockman knew it either. But here we were, sitting in the front of his vehicle, driving back to the community Little Aunty had called home. Not a word passed between us. He did not look at me at all.

When we arrived in the dusty run-down town, the stockman pulled up out the front of a modest house. I could hear wailing. “You go inside,” he said over the rumble of the V8 engine, still not looking at me. I got out, and before I could say anything he drove off, leaving me no choice.

My heart was in my mouth. What had possessed me to come? I had little money, and no way home.

My feet seemed to walk themselves through the front gate and up onto the veranda. As I stood awkwardly at the door a young girl greeted me. “Aunty bin waitin’ for you,” she said shyly, and then she took my hand and led me into the lounge.

It was filled with women of all ages, most of them crying and some of them wailing. I didn’t belong there. All I wanted to do was turn around and run.

But then Aunty stepped forward and wrapped me in a big hug. I was overcome with emotion and burst into tears. She just held me and let me cry.

When I was done she took me into the kitchen where more women were gathered, making a mountain of food. It was noisy in there. People moved out of our way. Someone gave me a mug of sweet tea and a jam sandwich. Someone else pressed me into a chair. Aunty sat beside me.

“How you know?” Aunty finally said. She wasn’t looking at me either. Everyone was looking down, so that’s what I did too. Eye contact seemed wrong, somehow.

I felt so awkward. “There was this little bird,” I started. The room went quiet, and I stopped, embarrassed.

“Go on,” Aunty said.

“I came out of the dining room one day, a couple of weeks ago, and there it was, darting about and singing. When I walked back to my office it followed me.”

“What kind of bird?” another lady asked, the one who had given me the sandwich.

“I don’t know,” I murmured. I thought I had said something wrong.  The energy in the room had changed, and intensified, as if they were waiting for something.

“It had a stand-up kind of tail,” I offered. Still the room was quiet. “About this big.” I indicated with my hands; a tiny bird, a bird I could cup between my palms. “It hopped, and darted and it made a click-click-clicking sound. It seemed happy to see me.” And then I remembered something else. “The tail was blue, and the body of the bird was the colour of my hair. It had a patch like the colour of the red dirt outside around its eyes.”

Image from www.pbase.com

Image from www.pbase.com

“It came every day. One day it flew right into my room and sat on the end of the bed. When it didn’t come yesterday I was worried about it, and then I was very sad.”

Aunty put her hand on my arm, and I knew I should stop talking. One by one the other Aboriginal ladies in the kitchen went back to what they were doing. In the front room they kept on wailing and crying, and more people seemed to be arriving.

When I finished my food, Aunty indicated that I should stand, and we went out into the back yard alone. The air was thick with humidity, and it smelled of the ocean.

“What else?” she said.

“I heard the crying in my head, and I became sadder and sadder but I didn’t know why. And then when I went to bed, I went flying in my dreams. I could hear the thoughts of the animals and the trees, and I could see all these little lights below me. I came here, to this place I think. But I don’t remember what happened after that. When I woke up this morning I just knew.”

Aunty nodded her head, and absently dragged one toe through the dirt, making a pattern of wavy lines and circles.

“Dat her spirit, come visit you,” she said finally. “I have to tell you these things. She get in her bird form. Dat her totem. Taboo for you to talk about, okay?”

“Okay,” I echoed.

“So she come visit and check on you. That little bird visit, make sure you come back here to this place. Make you welcome here.”

I was crying again. “Little…” But I couldn’t finish because Aunty shot out a hand and pinched my arm.

“Don’t say her name. No good to say that now she’s passed. Don’t say her name no more. And don’t lift your face to the family members til this Sorry Business all finished. We gonna go soon, leave this house all of our mob, and go to this other place. You come with us. Some important things for you to see. Just us women.”

“For the funeral?” I asked.

“No. Plenty people still gotta come here yet. Lots of people coming from far, far away before we can have that funeral. But still we have work to do. You join us now.” Aunty’s voice was firm. It didn’t sound like a request.

“Are you sure?”

“Humphh!” the old lady snorted. “Sure? Girlie, you don’t understand. You dat ting. We gotta make dat happen right.”

I had no idea what she meant. “Okay,” I said with more confidence that I felt. “Thank you.”

Aunty patted my back fondly. “Good girl. I knew you was gonna be true. Gotta learn you plenty now. Better get started. Welcome you to Country. Come on. Let’s get dem others.”

She led me back into the house.

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‘Unggud Snakes,’ acrylic on canvas, 2007 by Gabriella Dolby and Gordon Barunga. Collection Trans Remote Assistance. Photo Nigel Gaunt, Red Dirt Photography.

To be continued…

25 thoughts on “Sorry Business

  1. wow awesome story Nicole, and you keep stopping! Eagerly awaiting the next installment. Pleased your eye is better today too xox

  2. ohhhhhhhhh nicole…….what thing it is to welcomed and accepted by the women….it makes me honour you more. i am stunned and feel so grateful to hear this story, that ive wanted to hear for years now. thank you so much…and i lve that it is in coming in stages, so true to Aboriginal way…when the timing is right, the story is told to those who have ears & to hear it x

  3. Dearest Nicole this is exquisite and rich, deep and lovely what wonderful women and love this story and that you share with us its just beautiful and beautifully written……and as a small aside we had a bat in the bat..hroom tonite wonder who it might have been. Tiny little fellow..reminded me of the newly married nite we last had a bat guest. Terrified of the creature and his claws and teeth I bravely doned my new husbands motor bike helmet and grabbed a brush to defend aganst the little creature and a towel to trap hm and get him out safely..Needless to say chaos ensued.the chaos involved a helmet clad new bride (young and naievly brave) trapping the bat for safe release afterwards but a new brave bride who then ran across the room with a top heavy helmet head and then proceeded to run in to and across an ironing board. It was not the least bit elegant and the afore mentioned bride managed to get clattered and mangled in a most unbecoming way.eventually the bat was rescued and released in to the shiny star lit night. The motor bike helmet was put away, skirt was smoothed, bruises inspected and never a word did the new bride utter to her new groom about the bat, the helmet or the ironing board. Much much love Nicole….xxx

  4. I am so enjoying this absorbing story about your adventures in Kimberly , It makes me interested to visit such an extraordinary area . On this Sunday morning, in a little town in England , called Halesowen, at the foot of of Clent Hills , I feel I have been whisked away to your wonderful country, I adore the intriguing artwork . More please.
    Thanks Nicole for making my Sunday .
    Cherry x

  5. Thank you Nicole. I too have been honoured to be in a sorry camp for a passing and still have the wonderful feel and respect for all involved. I have been in may ‘sorry business ‘ situations since but not since 1992. After reading this I have a feeling that maybe I would like to go back to country (desert) for a while? Not sure? I will think on it. I miss my big family so. I will see what unfolds for me. I am really living in the now!
    Enjoy this glorious Sunday.
    Love xxxxxx

  6. Hi Nicole, your story takes me away,…….I feel like sky hooks are lifting me up……..love the instalments, but I must confess would like them closer together…..:)

  7. I am in love with your Kimberly Story. I know you want to write about fairies and things (which I’m sure I’ll love) but I would love to see this Kimberley story published one day 🙂

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