It was dry in Tasmania, the poor souls of this land had not had rain for many months and it was a hot topic – like the bushfires that surrounded our peaceful community.
So we decided to do a rain dance.
Around the sacred fire were four tubs of water, standing defiantly on the dry dusty floor and guarding the four compass directions. Next to each tub lay some eucalypt branches, in the centre the sacred fire, no flames crackled forth from this extinguished symbol of assembly. The tribe stood in a large circle while Aneira called in a booming voice to explain and initiate the ritual.
We were called forth to affirm in our minds the presence of rain, the presence of water – with our imagination we would feel the droplets on our skin, between our toes would squish mud from a well-nourished ground, we would hear the patter and hiss of the downpour, we would look up and see the clouds breaking and we would dance and stomp to the beat of drums.
I got naked, like many of my brothers and sisters and joined hands. The circle closed inward as we moved in line and stomped the earth with each step while the drummers set the beat. The eucalypt branches were dipped in the tubs of water and swished skyward, the droplets arcing and returning to land on our bodies – like rain. The ground at our feet moistened and eventually turned to mud squishing between our toes. We chanted for rain, we chanted for torrents of rain. The tribe gathered around the drummers, dancing wildly, the tubs were raised high and gushes of water were poured on the dancers – the movements raw, furious, muddy – the heart stomping drum beats louder and louder. “RAAAAAAIIN” we screamed, heads and hands raised dramatically at the sky as the leaf propelled droplets continued to be fed from nearby hands.
My voice was hoarse, as I withdrew from the few that remained, I stood exposed to the night time air waiting for the rest of the water to fall from body before I slid into my dry clothes. I bade farewell to the ancient ceremony and made for the chai tent and bed.
A few days later it rained.
And it rained, constantly, through the light and through the night. I was glad to have established the big tarp joining our little community and we often sat together during these days, the water build up and regular release from the blue plastic was like a not-so-peaceful Japanese water feature, the great dump terrifyingly close to where we nested.
I awoke early one wet but clearing morning and following my routine ventured out to cross the cemented tire steps gaining the far river bank – no steps to be found, the river was four times the height and flowing rapidly, we were cut off from the rest of the gathering, I took this as a strong sign to go back to bed.
Later on I came out again and met some of my fellow exiles standing on the bank as some more of the tribe stood on the other, waving. Juliet, our hero, burst out of the far trees with a rope, tying one end to a sturdy trunk and with a brother, bravely navigating the raging brown torrent. We now had a guide rope and one by one we put our clothes in our bags up high and traversed to the other side, the strong running water at waist height all the while wanting to carry me along with it. We all told our harrowing tale at the camp.
The following days were considerably dryer however each night the river rose and gave us wet feet as we crossed over the tyres at night, hearing fish splash away in fright as our feet slapped through the inch or so of water covering the concrete – all part of the experience.
Not long from now I would be venturing from the gathering again to go head to head with loggers clear-felling some of Tasmania’s old growth forest.