Talking to Dragons

“Always speak politely to an enraged dragon.”
~ Steven Brust, Jhereg

 

It’s after 3am. An odd time to be posting a blog. Still. I’m wide awake.

I might as well stay up now so that I can do my morning meditate soon, as is my daily practice.

It’s been one of those nights. The kind of night I’ve not had for a while. I guess Lyme wanted to remind me…

So I’ve lain awake all night, staring at the ceiling, roaming the house, trying whatever remedies I have to tame this pain beast. My body aches. Electricity arches down my limbs, and stabs behind my eyes. It feels as if someone has lodged an ice-pick in my skull and is twisting it violently. Random pain assails me. But it’s okay. I am becoming quite skilled as a Lyme Dragon Whisperer.

I’ve not quite got the dosage right on my latest drugs and herbs yet. Which include, of course, the dreaded Drug Number Four. Once again it’s giving me grief, and yet I know that the pain is bacteria dying, so I’m celebrating even as I want to scream. (I won’t though – too dramatic and it will wake Ben and the dogs!)

I’m hoping to slip back to bed after my meditation. I’m hoping that the meditation will take enough of an edge off, and combined with my massive exhaustion I’ll just fall right asleep.

Fingers crossed, hey?

Meanwhile I’m going to fly the night sky, and send you all some healing. I might as well be useful for something. Anyway, when I’m in that meditation place I am free of my body and its limitations. The pain is gone. It gives delicious respite.

Okay. I’m ready now.

I’ll see you in your dreams. Know that you are loved. xoxo

Image by Mike Rae

Image by Mike Rae

The Rock, the River and the Mountain

Prayer Flags at Thorang La Pass, Nepal. Image from Budget Your Trip

Prayer Flags at Thorang La Pass, Nepal. Image from Budget Your Trip

“…your memory is a warm stone hidden in my hand I’m always turning over…”
~ John Geddes, A Familiar Rain

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”
~ T.S. Eliot

 

My friend Sally travelled to Nepal last year. Before she left, she asked if she could bring me anything back.

“Just bring me back a stone off the ground,” I asked.

And she did.

It’s not just any old rock. It bears the impression of an ammonite, with perhaps a piece of this once beautiful animal still clinging to the silky blackness of this stone which feels so soft and comfortable in my palm.

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The metaphysical properties of the ammonite are all about healing and spiritual growth, helping you travel down or expand out upon that spiral path of soul growth to understand the essence of who you are. It is considered an important ancestor stone for linking you to past lives, and those souls who have gone before you in your family lineage.

As a healing stone ammonites help you to recover from major trauma or illness, systematically reducing problems and strengthening stamina, energy, vitality and flow. They are also said to increase prosperity and abundance.

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But none of that is important. What mattered was how this stone made me feel.

As soon as I held it, it was as if I had been wrapped in a blanket of comfort.

I set it aside while Sally and I drank tea and ate fruit cake on the veranda. But when she left I picked it up again. Immediately I felt a weariness. My head nodded, my eyes would barely stay open. Although it was late afternoon and not yet dark, I decided to lie down on my bed before dinner and listen to the sound of soft rain falling on the roof and the leaves outside my window.

It took little time for me to fall into the deepest sleep, and I did not wake until fourteen hours later, finding myself still clutching the stone.

As I slept a wonderful journey unfolded in front of me. I was asleep in a painted wooden barge, nestled on a pile of silken pillows and elaborately patterned rugs. My hair lay in waves upon the pillows, and my hands were crossed over my chest. I looked so peaceful. I felt so peaceful. The boat was being slowly carried by a current down a wide, muddy river. Snow capped mountains surrounded us, and strange towns I have never visited, there were prayer flags fluttering in the breeze, funeral pyres alight along the shore. I know this because I was above myself looking down.

The Lady of Shallot by John Atkinson Grimshaw

The Lady of Shallot by John Atkinson Grimshaw

“Dis not your river,” said a voice beside me. I turned my head slightly. Auntie!

“No worries. Stone show you its river. Only one it knows. But all dese rivers go same place. Same-same journey. Feel nice, hey?”

I was overjoyed to see her, and to have her soft, warm hand in mine. I began to cry and my tears dripped down from my cheeks and nose into the river below, leaving little iridescent sparks in the water.

“Dat you, dead one time,” she continued. “Just memory now, but still you. You dat lady inna boat. Rock show you. Your old-time grandmothers, dey remember too. All dem sleeping in same place.” Auntie began to giggle. “Nice warm feet,” she said, nudging my arm. “Not me. I got no good shoes for dat place.”

I looked down at myself in the barge again. From under the ends of my cloak peeped two fur-lined boots.

“Am I going to die?” I asked her. I wasn’t concerned. Just curious.

We were flying away now, and the river became smaller and smaller as we left it behind.

“Nah, your life already hard!”

That made both of us laugh.

“Just dat part of you not needed now. Dat die and go away. You be sad, dreams all dyin’, friends all goin’, but after that okay again. No more friend like dat. Dey no good. But you got plenny true sistas. True fellas. You not be too lonely.”

I knew it was right. And it did make me sad. All those cherished dreams letting go. All those parts of my old life.

Auntie made a clicking sound with her tongue. “Not dis life for dem tings to happen. You can’t be dis ting in your head you thought you could be, and be dat ting too. Only be dat ting now. Also, time for other Grandmothers come together with you. Big job ahead. Tell dat story now, girl. Good times coming.”

We kept flying North. The earth curved beneath us. The air grew chill.

“Make dat husband take you shopping. Need a big warm coat. Need proper shoes. He not enough keep you warm.” She gave me a cheeky grin.

I felt a tug, and looked back. Way back behind us, in Australia, I saw a light. It glowed red, but dim. There was hardly any spark. I was engulfed by sadness.

“Dat your soul-sista,” Auntie said. “Sista-cousin to you an’ your true sista. Dat girl hanging in there. She get through somehow. Her job not done yet neither.”

I nodded. That was good news for our friend, who is desperately ill with, I am sure, a similar condition to me.

Ahead green fields and a fairy mound came into view.

“Am I dreaming this?” I asked.

Auntie howled with laughter. “I spirit woman,” she said. “How else I gonna see you? Ain’t no car take me. No walk to your house. No, sista. We got dis place here in da night sky. Dat our meeting place now.”

Waterholes by Alison Munti Riley

Waterholes by Alison Munti Riley

Auntie and the Fairy Mound

clootie tree rainbow

Image by Maeve at Lost and Found

“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” 
~ W.B. Yeats, The Collected Poems

Another post that links in to my Kimberley Story

Like most stories, mine is not a linear one. It would be so much easier if I could look back over the time since my birth and see the orderly steps and logical progression of the mystery that is my life.

But that’s how it is with spiritual and psychic unfolding. I might hold a puzzle piece for years without knowing where it fits, and then suddenly one day it all starts to fall into place.

On Saturday night, the night of the big thunder storm when we lost power and ended up losing all our telecommunications, I dreamed of Auntie, the old Aboriginal woman who was my spiritual and psychic mentor, for the first time in a long time. She has come to me almost every night since.

Let me tell you about those dreams…

On the first night she took me flying. We left her country, the wild and remote Kimberley, and flew north until we reached the land she calls my ‘Old Grandmother Country’.

I was wearing a big warm coat, lined with the softest fleece. On my hat was a red woollen beanie and on my feet were bright red socks. It bothered me, those red socks. How could I land anywhere or walk around without shoes?

We stopped just above a large old tree with rags and ribbons tied to its branches. I reached down and tied a scrap of fabric too, and offered up a prayer. It was as if I knew what I was doing, and the landscape was familiar – like I was returning to a childhood haunt.

I don’t remember the dream’s ending, but I woke on Sunday morning feeling bright and clear and resoundingly peaceful.

Fairy Mound by Lazzo51

Fairy Mound by Lazzo51

In the next night’s dreaming, Auntie came to visit me again and we flew from my farm to her country with the Black Cockatoos. Then up we went, back to that cold, old place we’d visited the night before. This time we alighted not far from the rag tree, and drank from a deep clear pool of water.

“Good water, dis,” Auntie said to me. “Real sweet.”

I knew that pool. At the time I couldn’t say why. But I knew it as well as if it were in my own backyard.

The next few nights Auntie took me to many locations that have been significant for me since my birth. City-scapes, wilderness, places I used to live.

“Stop lookin’ with your eyes,” the old woman chided me, her warm hand pressed firmly into mine. “Feel dis place here,” she put her other hand over my heart.

Oh… When she did that, warmth flooded my body and my ears felt as if they had filled with blood. Not unpleasant, but still a strange sensation.

Now I could hear whispers. I could see myself, and other people that I knew. I could feel and see the energy and the wisdom of each situation – insights that had never been apparent when I was living those moments. I could hear the earth itself.

It has given me much to think about.

The night before last, Auntie took me flying one more time. Back to ‘Old Grandmother Country’ we went, me with my warm coat and red beanie pulled down snug over my ears. Auntie was still wearing her old cotton dress, barefoot and with naked arms. But she didn’t seem cold at all.

This time we passed the rag tree and the beautiful pool and stopped above a fairy mound. In a heartbeat I was standing on the ground beside it, my ankles sunk into deep green grass.

“There’s a door,” I heard Auntie say.

I looked, and just to one side of me was a low doorway made of stone.

“Go on,” the old woman encouraged me. “Go inside. They’re waiting for you!”

I didn’t feel nervous. I didn’t feel scared. My heart swelled with longing.

I didn’t even wave Auntie goodbye.

Ducking my head I stepped over the carved stone threshold and entered the mound.

To be continued…

Dreamtime Sisters by Colleen Wallace Nungari

Dreamtime Sisters by Colleen Wallace Nungari

The Gift of Feathers

Wanjina with Black Cockatoo Feathers - Photo by Kim Akeman

Wanjina with Black Cockatoo Feathers – Photo by Kim Akeman

“Now you got your Story, your Spirit no longer lost. That Dreaming inside you make you understand who you are. That Story how you gonna walk this world.” ~ Auntie

The next installment of my Kimberley Story

It was late in the afternoon. The shadows were long, the air had cooled and a light breeze had stirred, bringing with it scents of warm earth and the salt of the sea.

We were still sitting, these old Aboriginal women and I, around the embers of a camp fire. Auntie was right up close to me, and we were back in our bodies. No more flying. But she was still holding my hand in her strong gnarled ones. Auntie kept holding my hand but turned her body away from me.

She said something in language, and a proud elderly woman came and sat with us. Her hair was dead straight, and glossy black, with just a few white hairs showing through. I hadn’t paid much attention to her before now. She and Auntie had an earnest conversation in language, and another old woman soon came over to join them. They all talked back and forth, back and forth, while I sat there excluded. I didn’t care. I was dazed and exhausted.

I found a plastic bottle pressed into my other hand. A wide smile grinned down at me. “Drink some.” I did. It was Fanta, and the warm, sickly orange-flavoured liquid tasted like the most sacred and beautiful thing in the world.

“Dem Elder sisters not all from dis place. Not all speak same language. Dey talk around, talk around; dis tongue, dat tongue, old words, new words. Try find right fella guide for you. Big business for you today.” The woman with the Fanta had squatted down beside me, while the others were talking. She was younger, maybe in her thirties or forties, with coffee-coloured skin and curly hair bleached blonde on the ends.

“How many languages do you speak?” I asked her.

“Four. And English.” She grinned. “How ’bout you?”

I felt embarrassed. I spoke English, and had a smattering of German and Japanese from school. “Only English really,” I answered.

“Yeah,” she sighed. “You lost your languages too. Just like us. Dem old people die and they take language away. Lost to us living folks forever. Dem Grandmothers and old, old Grandmothers of yours, all dem Ancestors, speak only to you in the Spirit tongue now. Speak only in the Dreaming way.” She patted my shoulder kindly. “My name is Maggie. At least we got language together.”

Maggie sprang up from her squatting position. “Auntie is ready now.” She hurried back over to sit down in the circle.

One of the old woman retrieved a thick curled piece of bark from her bag, and placed some green leaves on it. She took a smoldering stick from the remains of the fire and added it to the leaves until it began to produce a thick white smoke. The bark bowl was then passed to Auntie.

Something else was passed to her. A large white feather.

Image from Hiking Fiasco

Image from Hiking Fiasco

Auntie used the feather to stir up the smoke, and while the smoke enveloped me she gently brushed the feather all over me, from the top of my head down to my toes. As she did she sang something under her breath. I became covered in goosebumps. I knew something important was happening.

Then, reverentially, she gave me the feather. As she pressed it into the palm of my hand my head was filled with images of the bird.

“Dis fella your totem,” she said. “Dat your sacred animal, come to guide your spirit. Remind you who you are.” Auntie chuckled and her eyes danced with light. “Dat fella whitey just like you. We give dis fella in honour to your Grandmothers and their grandmothers who kept that family voice even when men took them a long, long way from their own country. Dat why we took you home again just now. With dat flying business. Anchor that home energy back in. Restore your country in here.” She put a hand over my heart and I felt it – that connection to the places she had taken me.

All the women were smiling at me. Smiling with happiness and connection, and smiling with the joke that my feather was white, like me.

“White fella bird is dat messenger. Tell all the people. Tell the big stories. Talk, talk, talk. Always gonna have dem stories, stories people need to hear.”

“You gonna see dis fella everywhere. He not let you forget. Even pictures. Even on the TV. People talk to you about him. Spirit saying, you dat ting. Spirit not let you forget.”

Another feather was passed around the circle to Auntie.

Glossy Black Cockatoo 451-2 (400)

Once again I was drenched in smoke and brushed all over with the red and black feather.

“Dis fella keep you company too. Remind you of your black sisters, up here in dis country. Even when you leave and go far, far from here, dese black fella birds and their yella-tailed cousins will find you. Sing to you and say ‘Remember, Remember,’ No way we let you forget. Dat story in you now. You belong part of our family now.”

“One day you live somewhere, you call dat country home. Smell like dis place. Earth. Sea. But make you happy again. We send all dem black fella birds remind you your promise. Remind you your story. Then you know it’s time. Time to be dat story. Live dat story in your heart. Live your true Dreaming.”

She pressed the other feather into my hand and I saw, not birds, but a lush green country, with tall pine trees and tropical lushness. I heard the mournful cry of the black cockatoos. Tears streamed down my cheeks.

Auntie kept talking, and her voice dropped to a whisper only I could hear. “Dat fella husband you got now, he finished. No good for you. End soon. End good for you, okay? Good for him too. Not be sad. Better man coming. Better for who you are now. You dat ting. Need man who understand.” She hugged me and stood up.

“Let’s go, sisters. Enough now. Tucker time!”

Brown hands reached down to me and hauled me up. We walked back into camp holding hands, bedraggled and dust stained, and as giggly as school girls.

To be continued…

My farm, with the big old hoop pines where the black cockatoos come to sit and sing to me

My farm, with the big old hoop pines where the black cockatoos come to sit and sing to me

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…

Little Bird

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” 
~ Robert Frost

The next installment of my Kimberley Story

Auntie, the old barefoot Aboriginal Elder in her faded pink dress, had turned up in my dream before she ever turned up in my waking hours.

And when we finally met she promised me that she would take me flying again. In turn I had promised her that I would visit her in her country – the land to the north of us.

But I never went.

And she never came back to my dreams. Instead she sent others to the Station to check on my progress. Little Auntie and Grandmother, two other Aboriginal Elders came to visit me. I fed them sweet tea and cake. They helped me to feel the connection to my ancestors, and they awakened the energy in my hands.

Which was fine. But they went home, life went on, and I was still stuck in this agonising limbo of spiritual awakening where I felt less like my old self each day, and more and more a stranger in my own skin. I had not a single soul with whom to share my journey. No benchmarks for what was normal, no-one to ask for help or to help me understand what was going on as my psychic skills lurched from one level to another.

Image from www.pbase.com

Image from www.pbase.com

I was struggling, out there on my million acre cattle property in the remote Australian Outback. I was desolate with loneliness, and the strangest sadness. No matter how hard I worked, no matter how I filled my days, there was an emptiness inside me that nothing seemed to fill.

My nights were crowded with crazy dreams, snippets of things I knew I should understand, things I DID understand in the dream state, but that left me bereft and confused each time I woke.

I began to withdraw from the handful of people I lived and worked with, and spent my spare time gazing out over the river or the flats. Each night I watched the fire, went for walks to count shooting stars, and waited for my owls to visit.

And then one day a little bird turned up. It was a tiny bird; a type of wren with an upright blue tail, a duff coloured crown and tiny splashes of chestnut around the eyes. I had never seen another bird like it.

It flitted from branch to branch outside the dining room, and when I walked back to my office after lunch it followed me to the door, chirruping and singing and click-click-clicking away.

It was there again in the afternoon. And somehow when I saw that little bird, I felt less alone.

The little bird followed me for two weeks. It even flew into my quarters one morning and sat on the railing at the end of my bed, all bright-eyed energy and curiosity.

That tiny bird came to mean something special to me, and I looked for it every day.

So, of course on the morning that it did not turn up I worried. Where had it gone? Was it okay?

As the day progressed I became more anxious. Perhaps you could even say I felt depressed. And then, in my head, I began to hear wailing.

At first one voice, this high keening sorrowful sound. It was so real that I actually looked to see where it was coming from. But I was all alone in my office, with the hum of the air-conditioner. Outside in the dry heat I could hear the helicopter, braying cattle, a motor bike, the sound of banging in the workshop and of mens’ voices. I could still hear the wailing, but I couldn’t tell you what direction the sound came from.

emma_Activity_Helicopter_Taking_off_from_Homestead_2

I really thought I might be going mad.

By nightfall I could hear more voices, all keening and wailing in the most melancholy of manners. No one else could hear anything.

I was overcome with irrational sadness. So sad that I couldn’t face dinner. So sad that I couldn’t face people. I went down to the river with my dog, and scuttled off to bed as soon as it was dusk. I threw the verandah doors wide to catch the breeze, had a shower and put my nightdress on and hopped into bed, longing for sleep to come quickly and end my day.

I don’t remember falling asleep. But I do remember peeling back from my sleeping form and looking down on myself in the bed, hair fanned out around the pillow, and my long limbs all tangled in the sheets. I felt such love for my other self, lying down there on the bed. I saw my pain and confusion and loneliness as if they were the emotions of someone else, and I understood that it was all transitory, and attached to that life I was immersed in, rather than to my soul. This, THIS was my soul – this joyous free being floating near the ceiling of the room.

I soared out of the bedroom and began flying over the dark Kimberley landscape. I could feel the pulse of the earth. I could feel the flow of the river as she flowed over stones and sand. I could feel the fishes swimming, and the crocodiles sliding from the banks into the water’s murky depths.

As I flew I could hear the breathing of the animals, and the thoughts of the trees. And like I was tuned in to some strange compass I kept flying northwards.

North to Auntie’s country.

I could still hear the wailing, but now it sounded like silver light rippling along the dark face of the earth. I could hear the individual voices, I could hear the ancestors’ voices contained in the voices of their children’s children. It was a song as old as time, a linking song that ties our souls to all that ever was.

It was the saddest lament. It was a song of goodbye, a release of pain. It was a staircase made of sound.

The little sparks of souls illuminated the night. I could see every one, lighting up the darkness like the nightscape of a city.

Orbs of light by sadman2k

Orbs of light by sadman2k

Through the soft air I flew. By myself, but connected to everything.

When I woke up back in my own bed my face was streaked with tears. My hair smelled of fragrant smoke. I hastily packed a bag, and scrawled a note.

It was just on dawn. I crept out of my room and went over to the dining room, bag slung over my shoulder.

The Aboriginal Stockman was squatting on his haunches just outside the door, mug of coffee in his hand, a thin home-made rollie cigarette dangling from his lips.

“You ready?” he grunted.

I nodded.

He flung the reminder of his drink into the garden, and placed the mug on a table.

Wordlessly we walked back to his ute.

He didn’t say it. I didn’t say it.

But we both knew.

Little Auntie was dead. We needed to go home.

Munja Wandjina 1Sister, sister, watch over me. Little Auntie in the night sky…

Show me dem hands…

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

The next installment of my Kimberley Story

The night that I sat up by the campfire with Auntie I knew I was making choices. I knew I was making decisions that would affect the rest of my life. I just didn’t know what I was really getting into.  If I had, perhaps I may have chosen differently.

I’d endured a huge argument with my partner when I finally went back to our room. He couldn’t understand why I had spent so long sitting in the dirt with an old, barefoot aboriginal woman. I couldn’t explain it myself. It was the beginning of a distance between us that would eventually end the relationship.

Weeks went by, out in my remote corner of the Outback. After Auntie came to visit me I tried to shrug off the sense of foreboding and concentrate on my work, and on trying to be ‘normal’. I know she had asked me to come visit her up in her country, but I felt uncomfortable to go.

Soon though, she sent a delegation. One Saturday morning Little Auntie and Grandmother turned up at our Cattle Station; two old ladies chauffeured in the Aboriginal Stockman’s brother’s big old red truck.

The Stockman came and banged on my door. “Auntie send some women for you. She bin watching you. You come have tea with dem.” It was an order, rather than a request.

Image from flickr

Image from flickr

It was a quiet time – the weekend – and I had two days off. My partner was away, working. All I had been doing was lying on my bed, reading a book. I could hardly say no.

Little Aunty was one of the tiniest women I had ever seen. She was perhaps four feet tall, stooped and leathery, with fragile-looking wrists, impossibly thin legs and birdlike eyes. I can’t say how old she was.  Definitely in her seventies.  But she could have been in her eighties or even older.  It was hard to tell. And I was younger then, and not so observant of these things.

Grandmother was a stocky woman in her sixties, with a broad waist and hips, an ample bosum and a tremendous laugh. Her curly black hair was shot through with silver, and she spoke good English.  Little Aunty had no English at all.

I made a pot of strong tea, and at the Stockman’s request brought a tin of condensed milk and a plate of cake with me, and I met the women outside the dining room, where they had gathered some plastic chairs under a tree. It was just the three of us, sitting in the deep shade on a stinking hot day.

“Why are you here?” I asked.  “Did Auntie really send you?”

They both smiled and ignored me.

We ate some cake, and drank the tea, made thick and sweet with the condensed milk. Little Auntie smacked her lips together in appreciation, oblivious to the flies that crawled all over us. She hooked one finger and scooped a fly out of her tea and kept on drinking.

Finally Grandmother looked at me, all business. “Show me dem hands,” she said.

I held them out to her, and while Grandmother took my hands by the wrists Little Auntie scooped up some red dirt in her own hands and rubbed it vigorously into mine.

Image by Holger Leue

Image by Holger Leue

Then Little Auntie took my hands and held them loosely in her tiny ones.  She poured over them, pressing her thumb into the palm of my hand and the fleshy mound below my thumb. She turned them this way and that, tracing the lines with a grubby thumbnail. While she did this she made funny little clicking sounds with her tongue. The longer she held my hands the warmer they became.

“You feel dat?” Grandmother asked, coolly observing my every move.

“Yes,” I said. “My hands are hot.” But they weren’t simply hot, they were burning and tingling and it felt like ants were crawling all over them.

Grandmother just nodded. Then she made a small grass fire and placed some green gum leaves in it to make smoke.  The two old women passed my hands back and forth in the fragrant smoke. Little Auntie would sniff my hands and feel them, and then back they would go into the smoke. Finally she was satisfied.

Little Auntie’s eyes were glistening and happy with a kind of pure child-like joy. She said something that sounded like a curdled sigh. Grandmother laughed and then turned to me, smiling.

“You know dat ting in dem hands of yours?” Grandmother said. “It come from your grandmother, from your grandfather, from your people way way back. All dem ancestors. It in you now, dat power. In you forever. No give him back. Okay?”

I don’t know why, but my eyes filled up with tears. I felt the connection deep in my heart, and it made me feel so much less alone.

Behind us the station workers began to file in to the dining room for lunch. I flinched under their gaze, exposed and vulnerable. I didn’t want them to see what we had been doing. Even though it probably didn’t look like anything at all. But it was SOMETHING to me – something significant, something so unexpected and raw and wild and strong.

I longed to soar up into the sky. I craved to dive into the deepest ocean. But I sat on my chair in the shade, and asked if I could get these ladies some lunch or some more tea.

“No,” said Grandmother. “We walk a lil bit now. You come too.”

So I fetched my hat and my sunglasses and we went down to the river. Little Auntie found me a craggy raw agate, rimmed with bright carnelian, and pressed it into my hands, placing it between my palms and then squeezing my hands tight against the stone.

“Dat fella good for you. Good for dat magic,” said Grandmother.

It’s the first crystal I ever felt the energy of – and it remains one of my most treasured possessions.

That was the day my hands were activated. And Grandmother was right. I can’t turn the power off. I can’t give it back. And I don’t want to anymore, anyway…

il_fullxfull.454258528_4wod

 

PS: If you’d like to work with activating your own hand chakras try these posts:

Activating your hand chakras

Sensing energy in objects

Sensing energy in places

Sensing energy in people

Sensing energy in food

 

 

Night Flying and Cups of Tea

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”  ~ Leonardo da Vinci

 

The next installment of my Kimberley story…

Do you know what it’s like to sit in a bush kitchen with a barefoot old aboriginal lady in a faded pink dress – a lady you’ve never met, but who you’ve dreamed about in vivid detail?

It’s a spin out. It’s a crazy feeling that makes you feel tissue-paper thin, like if you breathe too deeply you’ll just bust yourself to pieces and drift away on the wind.

The day that Auntie turned up at the remote outback cattle station I called home, my life changed forever.

While the aboriginal stockman and his brother made a fire to cook the big fresh mudcrabs they had brought, Auntie and I sat down together and drank strong, sweet tea. Mug after mug, pot after pot. At first she didn’t say anything much, just drank her tea and ate the cake I had put out on a plate for her. Then she asked about my family, and where I had grown up. What about my parents? My grandparents? She wanted to know what my ‘country’ was like. And where had my people (family) come from when they all came to Australia in the boats, back in the old days?

We sat on chairs under a tree by the river, not far from the fire, and in view of the main staff dining room. The afternoon shadows drew long, and soon the stockmen and station-hands began to gather for their evening meal. My partner at the time came to see if I was coming in for dinner. Things were strained between us so he didn’t linger when I said I was staying outside to talk with Auntie.

crab I was almost beginning to think I had imagined the whole flying-through-the-night-sky-holding-Auntie’s-hand thing when she said, “So, girlie, you like our night-time trip?”

My cheeks flamed with embarrassment. What could I say? Would speaking about it make it more real, or less? What if some of the staff heard what we were talking about? Not sure what to do, I smiled.

“Your grandmother, your women-folk, they tell you about dis thing? They take you in the sky?”

“No.” My voice was small, hesitant. It didn’t sound like my own. It was as if I was brimful of tears and if I opened my mouth any wider or said anything else I would dissolve into a puddle of salt water.

Auntie sighed and patted my hand. “No one help you with dis thing? No one get you ready?” She seemed puzzled, perhaps even a little sad. She sighed again and shuffled her feet in the dirt.

The sky filled up with stars.

When the crab was ready we feasted together in companionable silence. The two men stayed by the fire, drinking beer and eating. Others joined them but Auntie and I stayed where we were, under the tree. P1010139 My partner came out of the dining room, and called to me, “You coming, Nic?”

I shook my head and he trudged off. I felt guilty, and part of me wanted to run after him, but the rest of me was glued to the spot.

“Dat your fella?” Auntie asked, inclining her head.

I nodded.

She shook her head, her mouth a grim line. “Dat all finish. You be dat ting, it all finish.” She made a wiping motion with her hands and a clicking noise with her tongue. Her face became very serious. “Finish. Understand?”

In my heart I did.

If I kept sitting here, I was making a choice. She was giving me a choice.

I was so far from home, so far from everything that had shaped me or made my life make sense. Out here I was drowning in loneliness, so far from fitting in, so far from everything familiar. Out here I was someone else. I was something else. And I couldn’t seem to make it stop. I didn’t want to make it stop.

The stockman came over with his big yellow torch, In his other hand he held a flask of tea, and an unopened packet of sweet biscuits. He looked at Auntie, but didn’t say anything. It still seemed as if they were having a conversation, the air thick with their thoughts.

She wiped her hands on her dress and stood up. “You come up country, okay? Come sit with me at my place. We got plenty to talk about.”

I stayed sitting on the plastic chair, my hands gripping the sides tightly, as if I might fall off if I didn’t hang on. I made my choice. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll come visit you.” I had no idea what I was agreeing to. It felt bold and reckless and a little bit stupid. I felt drunk with the fullness of what I’d just done.

“Good,” said Auntie. “But I see you first. Take you flying some more. Show you some things.” She chuckled, and cradled my face in her hands. “You got the stories in you. Plenty stories. Old stories. Dat’s your magic.”

She pinched my cheek, hard enough that it stung. “Gonna make big-time magic, girlie. You dat ting.” Auntie said it happily, smiling so that her whole face lit up, and she tapped me hard on the breast bone as she said it, just above my heart.

 

All of a sudden my heart was racing. I felt a wild heat coursing through my body. It looked like the night was lit up with sparks. There was no way I could stand up.

“Don’t go walkin’ in the night-time alone with dem owls, okay?” Auntie said sternly as she left.

“Okay.” I didn’t know what else to say. Something big had just happened and I didn’t even know what it was, but I felt it, right down to my bones.

And those big old owls, they just kept watching…

Out in the wilderness…

Image from www.walls.com

Image from www.walls.com

“Funny how “question” contains the word “quest” inside it, as though any small question asked is a journey through briars.” 
~ Catherynne M. Valente, Under in the Mere

“Say it, reader. Say the word ‘quest’ out loud. It is an extraordinary word, isn’t it? So small and yet so full of wonder, so full of hope.” 
~ Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

My Kimberley story, continued…

I would like to say that I was happy, out there in the wild vast spaces of the Kimberley.

But that would not be true.

Life settled into a routine of sorts.  Waking early, I would go for a walk before the heat of the day, dog following at my heels. Breakfast and then over to the office and a mountain of paperwork and management tasks. Sometimes I ventured to other parts of the property, sometimes I met the planes or helicopters as they came in to the station, sometimes I travelled into town. But no matter where I was, I was lonely.

Worse than lonely.

Miserably yearning for something, although I couldn’t tell you what.

Each night I sat by the campfire and waited for the owls, or if the moon was bright I went for a walk to count shooting stars. Sometimes I felt an owl follow me as I walked.

One evening after dinner, as I was walking back to the campfire, the aboriginal stockman  fell in beside me.  He always carried a big torch when he went anywhere at night-time, even if it was between the lit buildings.

“You. Why you go walkin’ off in da night-time?”

“I like to see the stars,” I said.  “And I talk to the owl that follows me.”

He stopped suddenly and shook his head, making a disapproving clucking noise with his tongue. “Don’t you goin’ walkabout in da night-time no more. No good, all alone. No good in dat darkness.”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“Dat owl talk back to you?” he asked seriously.

“Not yet,” I answered.

“Hmmmph,” he said, and walked off crankily.

The next morning there was a big old torch and a spare battery outside my door.  I knew it was for me.

After that, the stockman became a little more friendly.  One night as we were leaving the fire, he asked me how many owls I saw. I told him five. He rubbed his hand across his jaw as though he was thinking.  “Okay,” he said, and then he just walked off.

road-trip-1

Two days later he came to my office, and stood awkwardly at the door, balancing on first one skinny leg and then the other until I looked up from my work. “My brudda,” he said. “He gonna come visit tomorrow. You be here?”

I couldn’t understand how he would know that, unless he’d made a prior arrangement with his brother.  The stockman never used the payphone, and he never got any mail.

“Are you sure?” I said stupidly.

“Mm humph,” he grunted, and then he tapped his long bony finger against his temple. “My brudda talk to me in here.  He bring you tree (he held up three fingers) fine mudcrab. He gonna bring Auntie. You better be here.”

I didn’t understand, so I just smiled.

That night I didn’t go out to the campfire.  I went for a short walk, and then retired early to bed. All night my dreams were crazy, but one in particular stood out. An old, fat aboriginal lady with a jolly face and wearing a faded pink dress, took me flying through the night sky.  She held my hand and we effortlessly glided above the sleeping landscape.  I could hear the thoughts and the dreams of the people and the animals below.  The air around us was silvery and slippery somehow. And I don’t remember how I came home, but I woke up in my bed the next morning almost convinced it had been real.

That afternoon a rusty old truck rattled up though the riverbed and into the station. The aboriginal stockman stood in the middle of the road, just outside my office, waiting for them.

It was his brother, who had driven down from Wyndham to visit him.  I was introduced to the brother, and then an old lady climbed down from the cab of the truck.  She was barefoot, wearing a faded pink dress, and she was plump and jolly.

“Hey girlie,” she said to me in a raspy, strong voice. “I know you.”

I felt weak, like my legs would go from under me.  It was the lady from my flying dream.

She came over and put her warm hand on my face, looking deep into my eyes.  “I know you,” she said again.

“Hmmph,” said the stockman. “I told you.  She dat ting.”

I felt like I was hollow, like I was being sucked into another time and space. I could hardly breathe. It was shocking, although I can’t tell you why. This bare-footed, jolly old woman had such authority.

“I need a cuppa tea,” she told me.  “And my boy, he bring you three fine mud crab. In that esky,” she gestured to the stockman. “Betta cook him up while dem fellas still fresh.”

She patted my arm kindly. “Tea,” she repeated. “We need us some tea.”

Dream Quest by Robert Donaghy

Dream Quest by Robert Donaghey

You See Dem Owls?

Families gather around the campfire at night telling stories about the night owls. By Kathleen Buzzacott

Families gather around the campfire at night telling stories about the night owls. By Kathleen Buzzacott

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
~ e.e. cummings

So, back to my story about the Kimberley owls

Have you ever wanted to run away from yourself?

Twenty years ago or so, when I arrived at this remote cattle station at the top end of western Australia – a million acres of vast wilderness that I was to call home – I was already deeply unhappy. I’d been troubled by a mystery illness which had disrupted my career, and whose lingering affects of fatigue left me strangely unable to pursue a ‘normal life’.  I found that after working all day I had no energy for socialising or relationships, I could no longer drink alcohol without feeling ill, and the plans I had made for myself seemed to be going up in smoke. Instead of climbing the ladder I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, and that, it seems, was where my life was going.

After such a promising beginning, my life had spiralled into a place I couldn’t recognise. My relationship was in tatters, although I was still trying to make it work. The staff at the station were mostly men with poor social skills – only the gay and seriously alcoholic station cook took any time to talk to me. And I had come ill-prepared for living somewhere so remote.  I had brought only one book, and no crafts or projects for a nightly distraction.

Even worse, I had this weird psychic sense of something impending. I had moments of deja vu, lucid dreams, a feeling of being watched, and I often smelled flowers or smoke when there was nothing to create that sort of odour. I knew things about people or events without being able to understand why.

I worked hard on shoving any intuitive or psychic feelings and perceptions back down.  That was something I actively didn’t want.  Being unwell already made me different enough.  I just wanted to be normal.

That was quite hard to do, given my circumstances.

Kimberley Boabs - Image from www.boabsinthe kimberley.com.au

Kimberley Boabs – Image from www.boabsinthe kimberley.com.au

The aboriginal man who’d met us at the last river crossing on the day we’d arrived at the Station still treated me as if I was invisible.  It was becoming embarrassing.  Ever since he’d poked his bony finger into my breastbone, with his strange welcoming message, ‘You dat thing’, he had only spoken to me twice; both times in the evening as we came back to our rooms after a night around the camp fire.  Each time he simply asked me, “You see dem owls?” And then he’d ask, “How many fella you see?” There had only been one, and just like the first night he had grunted at me and walked off.

I felt like a fringe dweller in an already tiny community with limited social activities and opportunities for friendships.

The Station had satellite television – a big screen in the staff dining room – and we received two channels clearly.  One was the ABC, and the other was an amalgamation of sport, more sport, local sport, national and international sport, fishing shows and a few bad reruns. To change channels someone needed to go out to the big box under the satellite dish and flick a switch. No-one ever wanted to watch the ABC besides me, and seeing I was not a drinker either, it didn’t leave me many options for evening entertainment.  It was miserably lonely.

I ended up with two favourite activities.

I’d sit quietly around the nightly campfire, listening to the music as stockmen strummed their guitars and sang, or played their small (very small!) collection of country music CDs.  While everyone else drank beer I’d sip tea and watch for owls. Gradually, over the coming months, I began to see more than one owl coming down to the trees around our fire. But the aboriginal stockman never asked me again how many owls I saw, and I was too shy to say anything to him. I figured he didn’t like me anyway.

My most favourite thing of all was something I did with only my dog Bundy for company, once the station’s communal dinner was finished. On moonlit nights, Bundy and I would head out onto the main road, which was just a wide dirt track leading out to the runway or over to the river crossing and back into town. We’d choose a direction and start walking. The dust was soft and thick beneath our feet and we would walk until the laughter, loud television and bad country music faded into nothingness. We never needed a torch. The stars and moon were so bright that we could see perfectly well without them.

When we came to a good straight stretch, I’d lie down in the soft dust in the middle of the road, and Bundy would come and lay beside me, her head on my chest. Together we’d look up and count shooting stars. There were so many that I needed to choose a high number as our goal each night. Seventy-six I’d say to Bundy.  When we’ve seen seventy-six shooting stars we’ll head back home to bed.

Shooting stars - image from   www.freeimages.gatag.net

Shooting stars – image from www.freeimages.gatag.net

Out there the night sky was oh-so-beautiful. Stars stretched out forever, a milky blanket thick with light. The ground was soft and warm beneath me, and I grew to love the smell and sounds of the night. My loneliness would melt away and I would gaze in wonder at the world above me.  Over the coming months it changed me somehow. I found myself calmer, more open to things, and I realised that I didn’t need to fit in, or try to be someone other than who I was.

I began to see things I’d never noticed before – plants, animals, tracks in the dirt, scuds of clouds in the sky. I realised that the Kimberley was full of crystals, all lying in the dirt at my feet.  Slowly my collection grew. Amethysts, clear quartz, smoky quartz, carnelians, dusty agates and river-smoothed wonders.

The big vast emptiness filled me up with…

I still can’t tell you what it was. Magic?  Spirit?

So much of my life unravelled at my feet during that time, and looking back I can see that it was more a freeing than a falling apart. But that’s now. With the wisdom of hindsight. At the time I was lonely, isolated and afraid of whatever was dwelling at the edge of my consciousness. Change was coming, although I did not understand what that could possibly mean.

And with every owl I saw, that feeling grew…

Barn Owl by Andrew Howells

Barn Owl by Andrew Howells