It is, in the end, all about creation time. The meaning of this is not obvious to the Western psyche steeped in its causal logic, locked into this-to-that and the inevitable need, therefore to create this…. and the fear of not doing.
If you believe that we don’t create anything, that our role as a divinely inhabited observer is subtly different, then everything changes, and you can enter what the Aboriginal people called Dreamtime…
Only, they didn’t. What we call Dreamtime, meaning a kind of trance, is only a part of a way of harmonious living with the land and with others. This greater name is Tjukurpa.
I had only been there for the shortest time when the understanding came. There was no single moment when it happened, just a sense, afterwards, of something profoundly present, where it had not been, before.
She knelt, perfectly at ease on the floor, as someone proficient in yoga might, her crossed and folded legs tucked under a thin blanket which acted as her artist’s table.
Before her, white-edged and black-centred, was her canvas, on which the Tjukurpa picture was emerging. It was the touch of her deft fingers on the simple brush that drew my attention, called my eyes to follow the circles…
If I really wanted to….
The Urulu Ranger may have been related. I’ll never know. He had that tough bluster that marks out those men of the Anangu Aboriginal peoples whose home is the area around the Rock; the sacred rock, meeting of all paths, and as old as life on Earth.
The Rock. Her name is Uluru.
It doesn’t mean anything, it’s her name. The Anangu smile, amused that the minds of the pale folk must always find a reason to find meaning…
The fingers painted the perfect circles on the black cloth canvas. There was no effort, simply harmony between finger, dark skin and white, softly-loaded brush. I leaned forward. Was she humming, faintly?
The Ranger took us to the teaching cave and pointed out the designs in crushed limestone and animal fat on the curved walls – walls that resemble the size and scale of the body of a whale, though no whales wandered here.
But perhaps they did? The Arkose rock, rich with Feldspar, itself the sedimentary attrition of millions of tons of old granite mountain forms the body of Urulu. It’s a body as old as the fossil record.
The brush paused between strokes; just for a second while the brown and gold flecked eyes flickered from their humble focus below to sweep across my watching.
I had joined her on the floor. Not doing as others had and staring down, but being with her as she created. The speckles of golden brown danced again before the white circle resumed its manifestation.
The Ranger had said:
When the boys grew hair on their faces they were deemed ready for the ceremony that would take them into manhood, said the Ranger. This is still used today. Their uncles would wash their faces and take turns in shaving a small area of the face until they were clean. Then, they would be presented to the tribe as young adults, ready to become hunters.
There would be feasting, crowned with the finest meat of the spiny ant-eater,, stuffed with leaves and baked in the burning soil, in a vessel made from wet clay so the spines could be removed with a single pull of the hot lid.
And eggs, half – but only half – of the eggs deposited in the Goanna lizard’s spiral birth tunnel, leaving enough for her and them, next year, to prosper.
The women would forage for succulent grubs, fresh berries and other bush-tucker.
All this would be laid before the freshly-shaved young men, the hope of the tribe as the greater wheels of life turned.
The older man, who may once have been a Ranger, but now teaches, in the community museum, is speaking.
“And then mother England poisoned our lands with their testing of atomic bombs. Land lost to us, forever.”
There is deep sadness that the land they love has been so hurt. I cringe at the arrogance of our history, but it is also the arrogance of the world’s history, and I am here to learn the gentling, not the hating… There is enough hating back home.
And then time shifts…
The way that her fingers paint the circles as she hums, speaks that Tjukurpa has a lot to do with gentleness and being taught by what’s really ‘out-there’. It’s a form of graphical tuition reserved for a special kind of canvas – the human body…
It’s a better way to capture true aliveness – the aliveness of Being.
And then time shifts for a final time and it is the morning.
It’s good to say thank you for gifts of understanding. A sacrifice, even a small one, can be a thank you.
Our day begins at 03:45 without breakfast so we can catch the first bus to greet the dawn at Urulu.
Eventually, we stand on the viewing platform with a growing number of others, but the chatter is not what we want.
We move down the trail to be lower, but nearer to the slowly brightening rock. It’s unusually cloudy and very little of the customary red-gold is coming through.
We find a place of aloneness and wait, hungry and unsure of success. It is not ours to make.
For a period of no more than ten seconds, the sun breaks through the clouds behind us. The body of the great lady of the rock is bathed in red gold… and, to the gasping amazement of those on the platform behind us, there is a rainbow.
My camera is poised. I’m lucky that the iPhone captures the shot, but it does. It’s a very English rainbow. Perhaps the sky knows how to forgive, too…