One of the visitors to the gathering was Uncle Lewis whom I mentioned earlier, he is being groomed (or already is – I was unsure) as an elder of the Bundjalung nation of aboriginal peoples, his land stretched along the Rocky River in NNSW. One night after dinner we all gathered around a fire on the beach and took on a traditional smoking ceremony – eucalyptus and tea tree leaves laid thick on the fire as Lewis spoke to the spirits, explaining our presence and asking permission for residence along the river. We then listened to him recount the dreamtime stories of the local land in the 13 of the language dialects around this area (and translated to English). His body painted in ochre and white reflecting the dance of flames as the gathering sat silent on the sand listening to this man speak of how the river was formed, the end of the stories stilled by long silence and substantial stillness as the trickle of the water came into earshot.
The next morning I was due to make the phone call, this which exactly a week ago bought the same thoughts of leaving, however this time I was ready and knew my answer. On first light I strode the rocky upward walk to the van and drove the ten minutes to phone service. Call made and plans solidified, this time tomorrow I would be on the road once again.
Another desirous decision was the day I would have back at the gathering, this final day in paradise – verbalised to my friends, my family, my wonderful brothers and sisters – a loving, smiling, joyous day.
My final swim, I slid into the water, really taking in what I could see, the fluffy white clouds floating in the sky as I mirrored their action below, the walls of the valley, lush green Australian bush scrambling over ancient river boulders, yellow sand punctuating the snaking river – the colours seemed more vivid, a response to my intent of appreciation, a visual communique to say “Farewell”.
That night by the fire was music, Aneira – a touring musician – bought his guitar down and played as several other instruments came out complementing the song. Hendrix, California Dreaming, gathering and medicine songs bought such passion into the night. Untimeliness experienced for on this my last night Grace and Esteve whom I met at the gathering previous had just arrived, we caught up on news, smiled, hugged and sang. This had been a day and night to remember, in feeling and experience over activity and that feeling is still strong with me.
I awoke early again the next morning and took down my camp, the grass below the groundsheet turning yellow from the weeks without sunlight – a reminder to the age of my presence here at the gathering. Most were asleep still, I saw Maria, Cerise and a few others and said beautiful goodbyes over a cup of tea. Cerise walked up the hill with me helping to carry some of my burden.
Twelve hours was between my departure point and my destination, it was Saturday and my first day of work in Canberra began on Monday. I felt like a swim and thought of the beautiful river I had left behind. I made way to Catherine Hill, south of Newcastle and stopped after a draining eight hour drive to make camp and immerse myself in the sunset drenched ocean waves. That night I slept in the van for the first time in a long time, it was a good feeling.
The next morning I awoke and swam with the surfers catching an early ride. A cold shower at the surf club (first shower since September) and I was on my way texting Andrew – my gaining employer – when I would arrive at his farm. The drive was easy but I was impatient to get to my destination, driving into Canberra I reminisced of June when I spent a frigid week here in another employ – spring was out and I marvelled at the soft green rolling hills.
I drove the short driveway to Andrew’s house, he was waiting and presented a dozen eggs, the first of many treats living on the farm would present. I unpacked into the bungalow and stood under the hot shower until the water ran out.