Ninija begins to talk out loud to Lumaluma, white ghost, once more. She doesn’t only look down at the red Lands, but occasionally flashes her eyes at Gina. They are like comets and silver fish. They are grandmother-rich. But she is still talking, answering more questions from invisible Lumaluma. Grandmother breaks the Laws many times. Great Landowner is a criminal!
‘She Gina Lumaluma. Ginger’s Gina. Ninija’s Gina. She play with stone of the Lands, her Lands.’
Ninija is not really looking at Gina, but up above her head somewhere. She is answering questions, which Gina cannot hear.
‘Toys? Toys? What this Lumaluma? Ninija not know word.’ Gina drinks these strange words. It goes on like this – Ninija making answers and Gina listening.
‘Baby. Baby. Doll you call?’ Ninija is suddenly outraged. She shouts.
‘Wahhh! She baby. Why she need another?’
Ninija swipes her arms around insisting that Lumaluma leave her alone. She looks down into Earth again, still answering his questions. Invisible questions, breathed by white-fella. Answered by black grandmother. White-fella can’t stop his talk.
‘Book? Crayon? No Lumaluma. We no need in Lands. Mother Nature and Father Earth. They give everything we need. Rock. Sand. Body. For writing and painting. We grasses. We twig. Tail. Feather – to make brush. Earth. Blood. Ash. Charcoal – to make paint.’
She smiles a little.
‘Gina no book. Gina song. Gina story. She legend of dwellers in Lands, in Sky.’
Gina has heard this word before. Word. A word in the red and blue desert. Gina tries it out quietly with her stones, dropping them one by one and trying to match the sounds.
‘”Book.” “Book.” Like fruit of mulga drop into hot Earth.’
“Toy.” “Toy.” Like wind in a cave. Like jabaroo, big black bird, sing.’
“Doll.” “Doll.” Like koala in distance.’
’My bitsy Gina. She always love stones. Pink, green, sometime shiny, sometime hole in, sometime black beetle – stone beetle, always change colour. Sun. Moon. She change colour. They change colour. Gina sit. Day and night. Watch stones they change as Sun sleep and rise, and moon rise and sleep.’
Soon Gina moves away. She wants the last of the Sun as she sets. She is weary of all the clatter of words. She darts around, making an ochre dust cloud. Then she becomes still, holding her hands up to the Sky. She can’t hear Ninija talking in the background.
The desert children do not have toys. Instead they have stones, leaves, river, Moon, Sky, possum, red Earth. They know everything in their environment in great detail. They are not afraid of the desert dangers. They are naturally clever. They listen deeply so stay in the moment always. They never experience loneliness, because they are integrated into the natural world.
When they are first born they are exposed to their totem, an aspect of Mother Nature, to experience its energy immediately. Gina’s totem is porcupine, jirubuga. As a tiny baby she was always close to her porcupines, imitating them. Jirubuga is Gina’s companion and guardian for life, and afterwards.
Ninija answers yet another of Lumaluma’s questions.
‘She not want shadow to sink into Earth, so when it get very short she run up, she run down line, till it vanish.’
‘Gina? She always know these things. She try beat Sun as she fall. Try beat Sun she rise. And when she run she tell story of Light Crab. It chase shadow like Gina. Up. Down. Edge of Sun’s cloak as she slip behind her dark night. When crab fit in thin last shadow space, then he go on tippy-toes and wait till last moment. Then he dive below desert sand, look for Sun inside Earth.’
Talk for talk’s sake is unknown in the desert. There is no need for language outside thestories and songs and the special rituals and Laws. Ninija’s strange answer-talk blows away like a small handful of bush-rose seed in a breeze. Gina goes over to sit on her favourite mound. Every evening since she arrived in Ninija’s Lands she has sat here. She stares out into the endless desert beyond the mulga scrub, watching the Sun fall into the Earth.
Gina watches and listens. She is still and complete. Then she makes the sounds of Sundown. She puts her head back and howls like dingo; her head down and croaks like frog; she widens her cheeks and whistles like parakeet; and barks like vulture. Then her calls are answered. Gina giggles as her nature playmates join in with her game.
But Gina does not know that her grandmother has been persuaded to let go of the dog- box, and shown across to a rock. Lumaluma has offered her grog. Now more happily answers his questions. She is more business-like.
‘Gina? She just-know next sound before its come. She know “loud.” She know “high-low.” She know “one-two hoot.” She know “one-two-one-two-three croak.”
So she make game with animals. Emu. Gala. Jabaru. Sea Eagle. Purple Heron. They all surprised. Then Gina she laugh and laugh. She just-know the sound come. She desert-mother ear like me when I child.’
She takes another swig from the big bottle with Lumaluma’s help.
‘No. No no no Lumaluma! Gina not here when she baby. She with Ginger and bandicoot wife, many thousand mile away. She not copy Ninija. I not teach her do this. She just crawl out there herself to that mound every day, even when she bitzier.’
‘No. No. She not happy. She not sad. It not like that out here in desert. She just!’
Then Ninija gets serious again. Her head turns in the direction of the casuarina tree, but then stops and takes another drink.
‘That body not “dead father” Lumaluma. No, that just bones, flesh. She just-know that not Ginger-father.’
‘No. She not sad. Her Ginger-father free of you Lumaluma! She know he on his way here to say galiya, goodbye, before he leave for the camp grounds in Sky.’
Another pause for refreshment.
‘Flies? No Lumaluma.’
Ninija suddenly becomes exasperated with all the questioning. She turns away as if she is turning her back on someone, even though there is no one there. And…..
‘No! Gina live with them in the Dry! She. Fly. They both wait for Wet. All flies go to Vast Hot Desert then!’
‘and…. ’No! No! Red dust good for skin. Keep clean. Great Mother make.’
The questions go on ignoring the just-knowing which fills the desert. They are just ‘talk-talk-talk.’ No listening. No respect. White-fella’s questions are fired like his bullets, but he has decided on the answers for himself. For Gina they flap overhead like Sundown bat as he sips at moonlight. Meanwhile, Ninija has gone with Lumaluma again to his Lands of ‘Easy-Happy-Sexy.’
Later Gina manages to pull Ninija away to King Waterhole, high in the Buga Hills. Here secret spring water can always be found during the parched months of the Dry. Then, not even the green pump provides water at the settlement. This waterhole is their favourite place to go together. Ninija sits Gina on the edge of green rock so that she can dangle her dusty feet in the cool Water.
Their people know this Water as the tears of Rainbow Serpent. They believe that in times of drought Rainbow Serpent, Builder of Lands and Giver of Water, makes sure they have some water in sheltered rock pools. They are called soakaways or waterholes. Some are for drinking, and some for bathing.
Suddenly Ninija is back in the Lands, back in the ‘Here’ and ‘Now.’ Lumaluma has gone for the moment. Grandmother and granddaughter, Landowner and Landowner-elect, do not talk. Gina leans all her weight against Ninija as they look out, beyond and beyond and beyond. Then Gina makes her grandmother talk without words about him. Ninija sighs, and ‘Wah!,’ the hot-tempered hand slaps down on the stone. It’s as though she is picking her way through a bog full of thickets.
‘When we bring Ginger body back to Lands from city, Lumaluma he follow us. He bring him terrible sounds with him. Car. Truck. White-fella whirring engine. Many many people loud. I think I stop breathing because I not hear my own lungs crinkling shut then open again. I not hear lovely sweet flapping sound of knowing – Lumaluma he call it “waiting.”’
‘And smell? Smoke! They fill Sky so it like white night. I breathe fast because white night sting if it inside me. I pant like dingo. I look out but only see white-fella wall, wall and more wall. Wall bigger than Ninija Rock or Buga Mountain. Wall and roof so I not see Sky. I cannot run without big hard concrete stop!’
Gina encourages Ninija to carry on. That way Lumaluma will not find her and drag her away to his ‘Easy-Happy-Sexy,’ whatever and wherever that is.
Then Gina suddenly asks a silent question.
‘What he Lumaluma do to Ginger father?’
Her eyes are black desert ovals, making eye questions. Gina just-knows what happened to her father, and just-knowing is enough, but she and her people are addicted to eye-talk. Mouth is easy to poison, but eyes, they know real truth. ‘Eyes talk rich-rock-Water-Sky best.’
Ninija speaks slowly inside. But this is Lands’ business, and Landowners must do what is needed for the Lands no matter what it entails. The Lands come first. So Ninija will tell Gina what happened to her father in white-fella’s talk-talk-talk. She begins, talking inside, once again glad to obey the Mortuary Laws of not talking out loud.
‘Lumaluma take him spirit. Jam it tight inside his big bottle Gina. He shake ithard and I see him down there. Father. Son. Landowner-to-be. In bubbles. I try get the bottle from white fella. Our Landowner spirit never been trap like rock-fall in cave. Never close in with hard hard Lumaluma metal fist!’
She puts her open palms up to her face to cover a mixture of tears and laughter.
‘Ginger, he swim in white-fella’s seeing-stone bottle. He go to white-fella city. Leave our Lands. Elders ask him to leave because he prefer white-fella’s bottle to Lands. No more Dreaming story for him Ginger.’
Ninija and her people live in peace and harmony with their environment. Their lives are integrated totally with the cosmos. Crime in the Lands was unknown until ‘civilized’ white people arrived there.
So, it is almost impossible to understand how he has the power to tear them out of their integration, their solid harmony. Perhaps he has got into their minds with his bottles and flashing pictures and addictions? Or perhaps he is aided by his own gods of Coca-Cola and Levi, of Ford and Football, of Arms deals and the CIA? He has found a weakness in the fabric of their balanced lives, and his power over them like a laser beam. White-fella wants everyone to be like him. His ‘Easy-Happy-Sexy’ never seems to fail.