nomadic philo-sophy (34)
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Bio: Antennas in place, coming to terms with sacrifice, balance. You'd think I'd have learnt that by now no...?
Photos: praccus's photo libraries
Kissing the blue, Puck u! ( 8th Aug, 2008 )
Ederlezi ( 25th Apr, 2008 )
Blast from the past ( 17th Apr, 2008 )
Minor harmonic ( 3rd Apr, 2008 )
Hallucinogenic Placebo ( 19th Mar, 2008 )
sorry ( 19th Feb, 2008 )
V8 Black Holdens ( 1st Feb, 2008 )
Cursed in juju land ( 31st Jan, 2006 )
Space ( 30th Jan, 2006 )
In the cage ( 17th Jan, 2006 )
Where am i? ( 17th Jan, 2006 )
Sunday morning ( 6th Nov, 2005 )
Football and Fighting ( 5th Nov, 2005 )
Travel, sex and boys - an observer's perspective ( 4th Sep, 2005 )
Jewel of the west. ( 21st Aug, 2005 )
sticky ( 18th Jun, 2005 )
autumn quads ( 29th Mar, 2005 )
The windy city ( 15th Mar, 2005 )
Elemental ( 9th Mar, 2005 )
Fun fair rants ( 12th Feb, 2005 )
Jumping between - civilized world(s) ( 29th Jan, 2005 )
Random acts of planned mutiny ( 25th Jan, 2005 )
Burning organs ( 22nd Jan, 2005 )
Back at work ( 16th Jan, 2005 )
Seven winds, seven winds, seven winds blow through us all.
Let's not forget.
Theres's always room for more.
He moves slowly, mostly not moving at all, waiting, gazing at the white and orange specks of paint on those dusty black shoes. You would think, perhaps, that his whole being was stuck there, on those colour splayed boots. The rocks in the shimmering heat hum with more movement than he. There is stillness, a random truck, a willy willy throwing refuse to the heavens. A small flock of swallows darting this way and that, chasing the air. He follows it all with his eyes, feeling inconsequential, like an incongruous, odourless vapour. He is something of an outsider after all. The procession starts to file in, black pants on white shirts, cars and bodies, moving past and around him. Some of them nod as they go by. His head twitches, neck twists as hands come out of pockets, hazel eyes slowly lighting on a dozen veined brown and gold singlets poised in front, black shoulders pressed against one another, arm to arm. If it wasn't for the severity of emotions worn by each downcast face, not to mention the ochre rings of red earth on each upper arm, you could imagine yourself with a pie and beer at the MCG. But no, this town, on this day, runs with a very different liqueur. Sorrow and loss snake a red line with the soil whilst the blue sky shines down and out through their dark brown eyes.
The dogs, as usual, are in on their own game, greeting the ladies grief given wails with their own; mutated, crooning calls for food. A scuffle breaks out, bellows emerge and large sticks, wana, hit the ground. Not to mention skin. An old mangy flea ridden thing with three legs is given the boot and sent flying as the rest scatter. The outsider files into line, waiting until most have entered before joining the end of the cortege. Eyes never meet as he solemnly shakes hands with each of the boys in their footy stripes and moves inside with everyone else.
In summer the internal organs of the church swelter to 45 degrees. Its skin weathers rustic tones inside and out. There is no great gothic architecture, and not a window to be seen, though the dwelling is open to the world on three out of four sides. A single small gold bell hangs from the veranda beam. Inside, pews are mashed together from the schoolyard throw outs and a hard packed dirt on dirt floor. Not that our bleeding Jesus hanging from his cross behind seems to mind, though he does look, well, just a tad out of place in this western desert environment. Omnipotence must have its advantages in environmental adaptation, to be sure.
He’s touching the body now, fingers shaky on the corpse’s skin, and it all comes upon him, upon me, that deep welled valve of aloofness broken as the tears begin to flow. I hardly even knew the boy, not really, but I’m a part of this whole once again. Here and now, in this place, I belong. I look over to family, nodding back, okay, it’s okay, really, we’re all allowed to cry. Then move on, like everybody else. I look up and back to the dais, watching the local pastor continue his Jesus monologue, and my teary emotions turn. In lesser moments our God man sells petrol to kids, babies really, and spends half his days coaxing his mother in law’s hard earned cash. Like anywhere else, it’s a world full of contradictions. Some people just call it survival. Searching for a different view I look outside and the sun again eats my eyes.
“We are all in Jesus….., Jeeeesuss”, the pastor sings in his refrain.
“Jeeeesuss, Jeeeesuss”, everyone chimes in, as they go on to read from and sing the new testament.
My tears have now dried to become moisture for the sere vegetation of my skin. I lose interest in the Jesus song, having done my bit, and anyway, there’s still people back at the art shed scrambling for attention, and money, and food. Nothing waits for nobody you know. Some days I feel like a walking ATM machine. Others ring with the frantic tones of a 7-11 psychiatric ward. Then there are those, those days, minutes and moments that shine; golden, as good as it ever gets. That’s when I know the affection is real, we’re all family of sorts, and I’m part of the song.
I take one last look at that young fifteen year old body, frown at the pastor and head back to work. I kick the dirt as I walk, wishing I could kick a hole in the sky and punch God in the guts, just so they’d know how it feels. All in all it’s just another day really, and like so many others out here, funeral after funeral it too often seems, that youngfella needn’t have died.
He’s day dreaming again, head lolled back against the passenger seat whilst she's at the wheel. They're being circled by a triad of bustards, or bush turkeys as the locals call them, swooping, pecking the air, just like the camp dogs do at the wheels. He is passive, eyes following the bustards' swoop, his driving companion singing hymns to Johnny Cash falling into burning rings of fire. Every time one of those wide winged birds lift off that same old feeling emerges. Falling, falling, falling into the sky. Only in the desert, or underwater, or upside down, could you feel like you were tumbling against gravity.
Sometime later they make it back to the community. At the turnoff there’s a big red hand on a billboard, white spirals in its palm, welcoming them. He imagines growing his fingers large enough to fit the welcome.
“Wake up Tjungurrayi, we’re almost home”.
“Hhhh. Oh yeah, I was somewhere else, sorry.”
“You been somewhere else most of the trip. Palya?”
“Yuwa yuwa. Palya. I’m right, just sleepy, and I dunno…”
“That sky again?”
“Yeah, and those voices, all those old ladies singing. Even when they’re just talking, they’re still singing.”
“I know. Even when you can’t understand it all, it still gets in you.”
We enter town, dust trailing behind us, and both crack great smiles as all the kids playing on the road wave and shout us down.
“Tjungurrayi Tungurrayi, Nampitjinpa po.”
I used to tell people that the desert was a different world from the coast, even though no, it wasn’t all flat and yes, trees did actually grow there. From town to outbush, Alice to the western desert, is another world again. Everything takes it’s own time to adjust. And we’re continually shuffling ourselves, as well as weeks of food, between one abode and the next. It’s a strange feeling, at times disconcerting, and liberating as well. The locals aren’t concerned about such things, they travel hundreds of kilometres at a drop of a hat, with dodgy vehicles and ill health in tow. So why should they feel sorry for us, and why should we complain. I’ll just relax, have a cup of tea and gently noodle off to sleep.
I’m dreaming about a man who has arthritis from continually cracking his back. Is this man me? I thought my back was one of my strongest points. Am I looking forward to middle age as a stiff root vegetable? What about an otter sleeping on a floating moor of algae. No no no, that was the fare of last weekend, when I was drunk! The image disappears and another pops up in its place. Old Napanangka, true princess of the western desert, lady of Lupul and speech impeded matriarch. She’s looking at me, and, just like so many occasions when I’ve seen her happy, has that fifteen year old glint in her eyes. I’m crying out of joy, but she won’t have any of that. She glances upward in bewilderment and probes me with a question…. “a--e--r--o-p-lane”?
I really don’t know what to say, but she’s grinning that cheeky grin again, I don’t need to tell her anything. As if I ever could. She huddles back in on herself and I awake, sleepily, to walk bleary eyed toward the coffee pot. And instantly burn my hand.
“Tjungurrayi what are you doing, I already made us a brew.”
“Ahh yeah, whoops. I just realized.”
“You alright, did you burn yourself?”
“No its okay. I’ll be right.”
Off we go to work.
The early morning sees half the ladies rubbing various organs in tones of pikarringu, hurty hurty, most seeming to wear agitated pangs in one place or another. Maybe they’re just impatient for canvas to paint on, something to do. They’re about as tough as they come, these old ladies. Diabetes, adrenal meltdown, free flowing waste, cataract eyes that have been fried by bad diet and years in the sun. But they carry on with stamina and grace, like anyone in the comfort of their own home. They have more on their plate than me, that’s for sure, with three or more generations of family underfoot, needing care from their fifty-sixty-seventy year old famous breadwinning grandmothers. It is, of course, just another day.
I’m out at the shop buying food, mangarri, for the ladies, and miss most of the action. I return to find that our small four-legged friend CO has been run over. By a clinic troopy of all things, going way too fast in the grandma dot-dot-dot slow lane. They didn't even stop, and I guess I probably wouldn't have really cared if it wasn't one of OUR camp dogs. She’s been hiding under the shed all afternoon, broken front left leg, bloody suppurating eye, her variegated coat wearing small splatches of the same. I really should put her on the front doorstep of that gung-ho clinic driver who’s been here all of two weeks. One dead dog uncared for and another who hadn’t been here long enough to learn the rules. As if they shouldn’t already have known, or at least had their eyes out and about. Is this is just another exotic holiday for them? Is that why some people come to these places? Oh well, it’s just another death really, isn’t it, lets rack em up. Dead dead dead, one day we’ll be dead!
The weekend is upon us and also the annual football carnival. Those brown and yellow singlets are out, as is the rest of the spectrum. Blue on red, black on white, maroon to gold, black on red, there’s even a purple in the mix that’s travelled four hundred kilometres to get here. They roll up in an old coaster bus with no windshield, bald tyres and nine mile smiles. Their driver, an older man and perhaps also their coach, wears the forty four gallon hat. Later on that evening everyone gets social at the Friday night disco. It’s these nights, on remote community footy weekends, where friendships are made and remade, romances kindled, babies conceived, jealous punches thrown and hundreds of little asses wiggled to the ubiquitous bling.
Saturday comes and it’s on. First it’s the red on blacks versus the blue and reds. The first quarter is slow, seems like they’re all a bit sleepy at this hour, until a blues forward lands a six pointer. Two hands go up and down as one side of the oval erupts in cheers. The blacks quickly answer but the boot is wide of the mark and it’s a behind. There’s a quick scuffle and fists fly as the siren sounds, scores are announced and the teams jog to either side of the field. The second quarter sees the blues head out in front and stay that way through the third. The final quarter of the first match is an even tussle with both teams kicking four goals and the blues run out winners, 58 – 42.
The rest of the day is much the same and sees the brown on yellow locals head to head favourites with the blues. In the meantime we’re helping to cook a thousand sausages and judge the older ladies damper making competition. It’s a tough call, or should I say a doughy one, as we end up awarding two for first place. Saturday night’s disco is BIG with three different bands from surrounding communities playing as well as half an hour of showering rocks from the little drummer boy who wasn’t happy with being kicked off. Things calm down after a while and everyone keeps dancing through until midnight. Tomorrow will be interesting.
My morning starts by attending the old men’s spear throwing contest. A cardboard cut out roo is stationed as the target down the end of the pitch as the old men straighten their spears, bring out their old spear throwers and squirt saline into their eyes. Its hard to keep a true eye when you’ve been waiting for a cataract operation for the past two years but these tjilpis, old men, do themselves proud. There are a bunch of spears sitting to the left, right, behind and in front of our cardboard malu, and three that have hit the mark. It’s more of a social occasion for many of them, discussing which country has seen the best hunting recently, which waterholes are up and reminiscing on the old times and family who’ve passed away.
The afternoon sees the final four teams vying for the prize with mobs of people and cars excitedly taking up position at different angles around the field. Communities that are not still playing are all packing up and starting to leave. The first game sees a close contest between the blues and the purples with the purples being ousted in the final minutes. The next has the brown on yellows trounce the black on whites in what would normally be an upset, but not on home turf. The black on white magpie mob are not happy as they’re used to winning and a heated argument about biased umpiring erupts. Neighbouring dialects bounce off each other and you can see the spittle fly. Two older men come in to settle things down and I can’t help think that it’s good for people to lose now and again. You cant really argue with a scoreline of 86 – 43 in any case.
It’s late afternoon now and the final game for the cash has begun. It’s a close tussle between communities with many close family ties as extended cousins and brothers face off to see who can jump the highest. The first two quarters are all about the high marks and the showmanship from both sides sits equal. 28 – 25, the blues just in front. The third quarter see the western sky break into a glorious palette of pink and orange as the sun dies another little death.
Oh no, a fight has broken out, and it looks like its between rival families, or their bloodlines on the field. More players join the fray and it’s on. The football itself looks lonely and discarded. Before I can blink half the crowd has run on the field and it’s getting serious, a mish mash of fists flying bodies and torn singlets. It all calms down a few minutes later, though people still don’t seem happy and there’s an overwhelming feeling of bloodlust in the ever darkening air.
The last quarter is underway and it’s close, too close. Spectators on either side of the field seem to be eyeing each other off and there’s a fair stream of name calling shooting from side to side. Headlights go on in cars to give the boys a bit more to see by. The brown and yellow hawks are just in front as we come down to the final ten minutes. A couple of cars move off somewhere and, hold on, what’s going on here, one vehicle drives straight onto the field. The players confusedly disperse to avoid being hit and suddenly there’s another car coming in from the other side. It’s all dust and mayhem at this stage as the first vehicle starts doing doughnuts right in the middle of the oval and the second roars in, then smashes it in the side. Shit, the sky has called us once more, and I feel like I’m floating again. The driver of the second car reverses and roars off the field to who knows where, perhaps to hide from his own shame. The players and most of the spectators, me including, run to the vehicle still on the oval. It’s motionless now, and from the looks of the damage was hit square on the drivers side door. Shit, this could be bad. I mean it is bad already, but it could be real bad.
People are everywhere, screaming. A nurse arrives on the scene but they can’t get the door open. They go in from the other side and the driver is unconscious. The nurse clears people away, or tries to, but it’s an entangled woollen ball of bodies in there. No, not again I’m thinking. Why are people so volatile? Can’t we have a bit of calm with our passion, just a little bit of sense before we kill each other. Is this the song of yet another needless funeral I hear beating on my eardrums? They pull the driver out as the troopy ambulance comes and carts him off to the clinic. People start arguing. There will be payback for sure. I can’t bear to think about it and walk away, kicking the dust and wishing to give God or whoever’s up there another punch in the guts.