Windjana Gorge

Windjana Gorge

by Heather

The stories have been written
Preserved for an eternity of time.
Our heartfelt thoughts and feelings
Described in every line.

We peeled off all the layers
Of our lives, present and past
Read out loud to others
So memories will last.

We acknowledged the custodians
Each foot upon these sands.
The endless souls that touch the rock
Rubbed smooth by many hands.

I’m leaving now I’ve done my time
I shall not mourn this place.
Just hold it in my memory
With dignity and grace.

Tunnel Creek

Tunnel Creek

by Heather

I entered the cave behind the row of cave dwellers. With trepidation the first steps down to unstable rocks. The darkness begins gradually at first. I slip my soft bottom over the smooth rock, speckled with marbled pinks and greys, polished by many other bottoms before me. This is an ancient place a sacred place and I’m privileged to step inside it, back to another era. The temperature has dropped like walking into an icebox. My feet submerge into chilled water, a pleasant feeling on this hot day I’ve just moved from.  I follow the leader and darker it gets. Forms of rock and passage way disappear in the darkness and reappear with torchlight. The mood is hushed apart from the human voice of the other cave seekers and Dylan who narrates his aboriginal stories pointing out inverted bats painted on ancient rock. Time captured for eternity.

We soldier on marching in step, dodging hidden rocks in the water course, dark, inky in the subdued light. Eerie, conjuring up pictures of early times when men informed youth of this rite of passage.

The serpent snake has been here before us. He weaved his way through the rock to create tunnel creek and here in the centre he stopped and raised his head and where his head once was is now a shaft of light illuminating the cave and its rocks, its water, its green plants and passing inhabitants. I pause and take in its height right up to the sky. The colour of the rock, amber, ochre, sand….

Back to torchlight on stalactite. Wet feet in soggy shoes, trod, trod, crush, crush of tiny stones underfoot. These stones which we each take one of and as instructed by our aboriginal elder, dark faced and clad in hat, we toss them into the water to ensure our safe passage. His native tongue resonates in the darkness as he utters ancient words.

We continue til the light of day draws us to the end. Wet to the knees, soggy shoes full of tiny stones, painful under my tender white feet. The pain worthy of this experience.

The Goodbye

The Goodbye

by Heather

Easter Monday 2015 we are saying goodbye at Southern Cross bus Station, Melbourne. I’m about to return to Tullamarine Airport to return to Adelaide. My home. The boys now men of 27 and 30 are with me and their respective girlfriends. The five of us say goodbye. It is a series of hugs and kisses and the word goodbye repeated over. I’m in a funny space it’s hard to describe. I feel like I’m leaving them there together for the first time which I am in fact. Deserting them.

This leaving began in 2013 when Andrew headed for Melbourne and a new work opportunity where he met Jessica and they have since bought an expensive apartment on the 6th floor of a modern building on Bridge Road at Richmond.

Cam’s leaving, well his recent leaving was only 3 weeks prior to Easter. Romina and Cam decided Melbourne may offer better work prospects than Adelaide, both being creative they sought broader opportunities.

My goodbyes for them leaving had been put on hold and gone unnoticed while all the recent commotion occurred. Cam had left the converted bake house studio in Adelaide quite untidy and less clean than respectable. I with professional cleaner ex-husband in toe took to sprucing it up as requested by the next occupant. Windowsills and light switches wiped, bath double dose cleaned. Toilet, best not to mention but much improved.

Now I step onto the bus of red and yellow. Case lifted for me by number 1 son and I take my seat. As the bus reverses I see the 4 of them waving goodbye and the tears prick my eyes and tumble down my cheeks. I’m leaving them to start their own lives, a new chapter for all of us collectively. A sadness of not having them nearby anymore, no longer 20 minutes by car. Now an hour’s flight and the travel and the prep time either side of that increases the distance.

I watch out the window as the tall city buildings recede behind me and a myriad of thoughts bounce about my head, alone, will I be missing out on details? In fact the opposite has happened. The text and phone calls come with delightful detail of significant events rather than strained conversations in the past. Cam has an interview and wants to tell me all about the job the other side of town 90 minutes travel time required. And then another text to say he has it and starts on Wednesday. Another call with details of the first day at work. It’s not goodbye, its hello again.

Misunderstood

Misunderstood

by Heather

I have a memory of going to the side entrance of a building in North Adelaide for an appointment with the speech therapist. I must have been 4 when mum took me, no doubt by bus, me holding her hand. She was worried about the poor quality of my speech. Being the third child she had others to compare me with and I wasn’t up to scratch. I called my sister Karen Karden and Daddy was Darden and the two were often confused by others. I was misunderstood. A drink on milk was a ning of mulk and a glass of lemonade was a linga-linga-lade, but we only had that at Christmas.

The speech therapist reassured mum that I would grow out of this by school age but if you know me well enough, growing’s not in my genes. Mum was provided with a list of intricate sounds and dutifully she set to work to have me practise these daily at home. Unfortunately she didn’t think to do this while my sisters were at school. Instead she left it to the evenings when they were home to listen. My attempts would set them off in fits of laughter. As I tried to copy the sounds oog eeg aag arg, oog eeg aag arg they would laugh and titter and chuckle. I have a vivid memory of being in the kitchen and the pair of them in the passage peeking in as I went through my sounds. No doubt they had been banished for discouraging me. This became a family story to repeat and laugh about and share with others.

There was a day when I presented myself to Mum and Nanna in the laundry busy washing and squeezing the clean clothes through the ringer.
“Mum, I want my paints “ Mum heard.
“Not now I’m busy” she answered.
“Mum, I want my paints”.
“Yes I’ll get them soon when I’m finished the washing”
“But Mum I want my paints” I repeated clutching my crutch.
“Ooh you’ve wet your pants, ok I’ll get you some dry ones”
Oh so misunderstood

One Saturday morning Dad took me with him while he had his hair cut at the barbers on Port Road, next to the deli by the bus stop. I became bored while he was in the chair so he passed me a shiny sixpence and sent me next door to buy a packet of Smarties. I remember reaching the coin far above my head to the counter and pronouncing as best I could, “Smarties please”. Back I walked into the barber’s shop, eyes full of tears as I held up an unwanted white paper bag. In it was a pasty. Again, misunderstood.

Kimberley Dreaming

Kimberley Dreaming

by Heather

I keep being drawn back in time to the Kimberley, to Windjana Gorge. The crevice in the rock we walked through into the body of the gorge. Her dappled light through a canopy of leaves, her deep sandy floor and walls of cool rock rubbed smooth by countless hands and years of water.

This space of telling. The telling of our stories in line with customs of the custodians of this land.Telling and sharing. We wrote and read and listened and learned. We exposed our gut. Saw what we are made of, our essence. Our burdens, our resilience, exposed, shedding layers of our lives.

The Kimberley heat draining our sap. The sky above blue with sunshine. The rock black with dramatic orange patches of story. Birds awaken us each morning with a chorus of song. Cockatoos screeching. Kites circling. And in the evening darkness as we extract ourselves form this dreaming place we are spied upon by the glowing eyes of crocodiles watching.

Camping

Camping

by Heather

I don’t mind forgoing makeup
Or product in my hair.
As long as there’s no mirrors
and others do not stare.

I can go without a shower,
And toilet anywhere.
But warm milk on my cereal
Is very hard to bear.