I awoke on dawn, as with most days, sometimes I got up for meditation, sometimes I lay motionless and basked in the post slumber bliss, this was the latter of the two. The hammock and I swaying in the morning breeze, the sun slowly and persistently breaking through the fog resting over the valley and illuminating the scores of bright yellow flowers fallen from the vines all around my camp. I usually rose when the sun had sufficiently evaporated the glistening dew drops from the soft green grass and invited me into the river for a morning swim – my body keyed in to the wisps of sensation as I dove into the clear water, relaxing to the weightlessness, releasing all tension. I swam closer to the beach and lay for a while in the shallow parts that the sun had already begun to warm, dozens of tiny fish tickled my legs and feet as they fed on the remains of my body. Once out of the water I would dry by the sun and talk to whoever was doing the same – sometimes Heath would wander down with his guitar and we would create beautiful morning music to the background trickle of the river flow.
Later that morning food circle was held and clouds settled back across the land. A vehicle was requested to order and collect food for the gathering, I accepted and before long three of us set up the hill bound for the Tabulam co-op, a community run store with lots of delicious organic produce. We made the order and set out for the next destination – my companions this day had both camped long term at Uncle Lewis’ place, Lewis is an elder of the Bundjalung people who are under custodianship of this area, and these two stayed on his land under invite. They had stashed a few things there and wished to collect them to contribute toward the gathering, in return I got a tour of the place, sharing the beautiful winding Rocky River its landscape was not dissimilar to the gathering but was a larger, more established ground with small dwellings spotted hither along the banks.
The time was getting away on us, I had to be back at the gathering by 3pm to drive Maria to phone service for an important call, I left my friends at yet another secret pirate stash on the way and returned as the rain came down and found Maria waiting at the top. We got to reception, however it was pouring and I also needed to return to collect the other two guys, Maria seemed OK with this so I gave her my wide brimmed waterproof hat and left her in the rain to taxi my way back and gather the pirate stash haul. We made it quick and loaded the items including a wheelbarrow and a circular saw (from deep within the bush) into the back of the van and made way back to my third rain soaked but happy passenger. We all returned to the top car park and organised the equipment for transport to the camp.
The next day the rain cleared, I watched patches of fluffy white clouds go by as I floated on my back in the swimming hole.
I had spoken my desire to hold a men’s circle to Maria a few days earlier, after breakfast I called it and took the talking stick across the creek to an open grassy spot – in dribs and drabs a dozen or so of the brothers came up the side of the valley to meet me. For those who aren’t familiar with the talking stick the name says it all, it is passed around the circle and the one who has it speaks while the others listen – like the conch in Lord of the Flies. We sat in circle as the stick was passed, no topic was taboo and this was a chance to open up and speak hurts, loves, whatever. Some amazing and heart wrenching words came out, from a group of guys I expected a masculine pack hunting atmosphere but this was an exercise in tenderness, in understanding and brotherhood – through this such strong bonds were formed. Throughout the rest of the day when I encountered someone from the morning’s circle there was an instantaneous ease, a feeling of family, this happens so quickly, not one brother was anything more than a stranger a week ago and the magic of these gatherings transforms the defensiveness of social encounters to an experience of joy and freedom, an ultimate safety within – safety created through vulnerability. We can only find this truth of happiness by doing the opposite of what the mind and our cultural upbringing is telling us to do – the best hiding spots are right under our noses.
The morning following I went through the standard blissful routine and contemplating what I would do for the day, perhaps help out in the kitchen or do some construction work, when a brother approached and asked to talk to me in private. We walked further down the beach and he explained that an event happened yesterday that generated serious problems between a male and female party. Several of the women had also been informed so I went over and spoke with them to determine their side of the story, eventually a conflict resolution circle was called and about eight of us took breakfast in the tepee and held council. The two parties had equal opportunity to speak and so did all involved giving perspective and understanding to an emotionally charged situation. We went around the circle for hours, accusations, deliberations, sympathies and constructive solutions were presented and although I try to keep this an anonymous unbiased report I feel that neither party was mature enough to learn and heal from the situation. One left, overwhelmed by emotion, so we spent a further hour or so working with the other in an attempt to cultivate an understanding or at least break through the brick wall that had been raised. Eventually a partial success and the council through its fatigue tended to accept the limited outcome, we broke with final word, each member heading toward seclusion after such a draining exercise.
After the council I wandered toward my camp, a neighbour, Miguel, was quite ill and requested my help, he was vomiting and had painful cramps in his abdomen. I consulted with Gemma about this and she told me the only thing I could provide would be ginger and lemon tea – I ferried back and forth hot cups of the spiced brew to the suffering man. Later this afternoon I would find out that this sickness was spreading throughout the camp.