Looking around inside this dark clammy dog-box, I remember so clearly when I first arrived at the settlement some years ‘back then.’ I would religiously sit down to write painstaking observations of ninija and her People.
Once tightly shut inside, I would light various deterrents warding off the swarming Flies, and then nervously remove my net from my face and sweat-sodden bush hat. But soon I began to run out of deterrents, and in desperation I called for extra supplies on my transmitter. Then the Wet season came and flooded out my dog-box, ruining my transmitter. No supplies were delivered. I was suddenly on my own, news-less, unsupported by my culture, stricken by a deep-seated panic that what had been my world was land-sliding away and leaving me behind.
I became fearful of dying a Desert death. But most of all, I was absolutely petrified of intolerable pain. It was when I was utterly consumed with my mortality, not any longer daring to step outside, that I began to speak in my dreams.
At first my scurvied lips seemed to be talking to myself using strange unconnected strands of language. I became quickly persuaded that I was in the early stages of malarial madness. But then I realised that there was someone else involved. I searched wildly in my four clammy corners for my interlocutor. To my amazement, ninija was giving me words like supplies of glucose to sustain my frail life, but she was nowhere to be found.
After that scary time when I feared for my mental health, and as I gradually accepted her as an invisible guide, ninija was with me most of the time. My Sleep-dreams and Day-dreams were woven into a gigantic carpet. She invited me continually to believe in ‘abundance,’ a word I had little recollection of ever using before. This word broke my conditioned addiction to the idea of ‘scarcity,’ to fending off hardship, to over-protecting myself until I became a dried Twig. Instead, this new notion of ‘abundance’ gave me a bright outlook of plenty.
Soon, after this mystical dialogue with her had begun, my aids to protection from Desert assaults did indeed run out entirely. Then one strange night, besieged as usual by armies of Flies in here, I inexplicably removed all my clothes, opened this Fly screen door, and walked outside. To my amazement, I no longer compulsively swatted or cursed the winged squadrons. I was no longer repelled by their persistent tickling and foraging for moisture.
Outside, Moon welcomed me and banished all fears of poisonous Snakes and pernicious Spiders. I was given permission by the Great Mother to be a naked and innocent creature, without collections of possessions or status. I no longer had any use for sensual cravings, and suddenly my heart and mind were empty of their stuffing of pictures and words.
I stood there with my bare feet dredged in Desert dust turned blue by Moonlight, shrouded by insects for which bared white flesh was a new sensation. I was empty and yet full. Instead of images, many of which had been planted there by the media and education throughout my life, the battery of my being was charged with Desert, Earth, Air, Sky, and Moon. My head was unusually clear and quiet.
It was simple. I had taken up my place which the Great Mother had been saving for me. I no longer cowered before the terrifying giants of Desert death and intolerable pain. I had selfishly coveted the secrets of primitive or indigenous Peoples once I was certain that western science had no sure solutions to death or disease. My original motives may seem entirely selfish, but perhaps there was some unconscious wisdom involved.
That Night, quite soon after I stepped naked outside, ninija arrived and led me, without any verbal instructions, away from the settlement. She turned left and right ahead of me among interminable thickets and Mulga scrub, the thorny bushes which cover the Desert. It was as if she was obeying invisible signposts. Her broad back was dark blue in colour as we walked quickly. Then, beyond the hillocks of Spinifex Grass, which she and her People called ‘Yellow Hill,’ we went on to a collection of large clay holes which had been dug into the ground. They were deep and smooth-sided.
Ninija turned and pointed at one, and I knew to climb down into it. She slowly lowered her strong body into the hole to straddle me, her cheeks swelling and emptying rhythmically, her eyes closed. Then she began to produce long rivulets of saliva which silvered down the narrow cleft between our bodies into the bottom of the hole.
She reached blind arms below us, kneading her mouth fluids with the skin of the Earth to make paint. I must have smiled in a bewildered way, for I had no idea what she was doing, or what it would lead to.
Then her black eyes opened and penetrated my blue eyes as she brought her fingers close to me and began to paint the traditional patterns known as ‘clan lines’ on my naked body. She made what looked like Fish or reptile scale shapes which ranged down my chest and thighs, and a huge tooth-filled jaw line across the width of my collar-bone.
As she painted she unexpectedly pronounced the words ‘Baru, Crocodile!’ Finally, moving to my head, on my cheeks she painted Baru’s tiny hooded eyes, and on my chin his ovoid nostrils. I shuddered.
She directed me to lie face-down in the clay grave. Then I felt her strong fingers marking bigger scale shapes across my back, and Crocodile’s thick spine in line with my own. I struggled to resist blathering while she worked, but failed, blurting out impassioned questions. I demanded to know why she likened me to a reptile, exactly what type of Crocodile I was, and so on. But she remained immune to my talk. After a time, the realisation of how inappropriate words and thoughts were on this occasion slammed into my mind, and I was silenced.
When she had completed painting me she told me in broken English that the Great Mother had shared my soul with Baru, Crocodile. That I must go and watch and care for my scaly brother and sister ‘totems’ down by Green River. Baru, Crocodile Man, according to the Dreaming myths, created Fire with the friction of his tail by accident one day during a ritual. He later learned how to burn the Lands with Fire to make them more fertile. But then he couldn’t stop making it. So, the Vast Hot Desert came into being.
Soon, all the species the Great Mother had created started to disappear in the ensuing drought, so she and her helpers created the Wet season exclusively to put Baru’s Fires out.
My clan lines painted, ninija left me in the strange blue light of the Desert clay hole. I had only ever seen pictures of Crocodiles, and most of them were in zoos! Now suddenly, this animal was my spiritual sibling. Everything was to be transformed after this Night. During the following days I did not set foot inside the biscuit tin of my dog-box. Instead I found myself walking, still naked and painted, away from the settlement and its giant Casuarina Tree towards the Buga Hills. I was no longer afraid of getting lost.
There I became magnetized to a group of pink Rocks, staring at their smooth surface. Then, I searched among piles of Stones nearby, in crevices, at the mouth of Caves, the faint traces of questions still between my lips. What was I looking for? Why? But their answers took the form of a sharp Stone axe between my fingers.
After that, I forged the form and the spirit of my new soul mate ‘Crocodile’ into the deep channels I had carved in the Rock. Crocodile. Baru. Me. I have been down to Green River day after day, often sleeping there, always within watchful distance of Crocodiles. They are pleased to see me, their tails expressively welcoming me to their homes of Mud and Water.