How can it be so? You wouldn’t believe it if you’d not seen it with your own eyes. There’s no way I’d ever have thought it possible.
These creatures, they’re not quite the same, although there’s no reason why they can’t be. It was a while ago, now, when their type first arrived. They were very organised but certainly not in the way the new ones are.
The first type of creatures, they seemed to know how to be sensible. Yes, sensible. That’s the best word for them. I became more complete, somehow, after they made themselves at home. I was more complete and had more to give. Night and day there was always singing, dancing, cooking, loving. The fires worried me dreadfully at first but the first ones ensured they were well kept.
I loved their stories, too! They’d always be telling them around the fire, teaching the little ones under the stars, teaching them how to see. Here’s one of my favourites:
‘Long ago, there was a little boy called Garru. One day, he saw warriors from another tribe. Their lands end at the marshes but they had come all the way in here. Garru was angry because those warriors were from the north and had no right to be here.
Garru wanted to tell them to go away but the big men with their spears and body paint frightened him. Garru flew back to his tribe and told Aunty, ‘There are bad men at the creek, Aunty! We must tell Grandfather!’ So they went and told Grandfather.
‘I will speak to them as chief. You two stay here. Peace is the way.’ Grandfather put on his body paint and headdress to show his authority, Aunty helped him with spear and woomera and Garru got the message stick.
Grandfather found the warriors by the billabong. They were eating yabbies under the shade of a tuckeroo tree. ‘Excuse me, noble warriors, but you have trespassed on our sacred lands.’
The warriors leapt to their feet. They did not notice Grandfather approach. They froze in place when grandfather held the message stick high for them to see. ‘Please observe law. I will not report this.’ The warriors felt their shame, collected their things and left.
Well, they would have left in peace but Garru had climbed a tree to watch. He was furious. The warriors had broken the law but Grandfather was letting them leave. He swooped down upon them, yelling and scolding them, ‘Get out, bad men, get out!’
Lucky for Garru, Grandfather eyed the warriors. They knew the warning of a Clever Man and started running. Garru gave chase as long as he could but the warriors moved fast.
That night, a visitor came to Garru’s dreams and spoke to him, ‘Today you broke law, naughty child.’ The visitor’s face was one of the warriors but was a Spirit Man. Garru tried to call to Aunty but his voice came out like a squawk. ‘In the morning you will sing from the trees.’
Next morning, Aunty and Grandfather woke to the sound of a wonderful birdsong they didn’t know and their little boy was missing. ‘Garru, Garru?’ They called again and again but the little boy was nowhere to be seen.’
Just marvellous! The little kids always sat wide-eyed through the telling and the parents happy knowing their kids would grow up good.
Along with their stories they also brought in their odd animals and plants, down from the north, but the first ones never let them get out of hand. Some special first ones were very clever, too. They knew how to speak and listen. They would often open their eyes and see me looking back at them. They were good friends.
When the dry would start, the heat baking the plants and roasting the animals, the first ones would move down the hill to the creek. Keeping the water in shade also kept the fish and yabbies around. Even in the driest of spells, there’d always be life hanging about, not like before they came when everything would dry into scorching silence, apart from the cicadas, of course. The clever ones would get the mob to bring water up, just enough to keep my trees alive.
In the blink of an eye they were gone!
Then new ones turned up. They were very different. They didn’t have any clever ones to see me and often went by, never noticing I was here. They were an odd sort, all pink and red and always on the move. They brought strange new animals with them, too. Loud and stinking and eating everything in sight.
Then bloody murder. They cut down my trees! Deaf to my pleas, my screams, they just cut down and took whatever they could. Nasty steel teeth sawing through ancient woods. Horrific.
After that I couldn’t welcome the animals let alone the first ones, even if they came back. I couldn’t recognise myself. The wet years washed away my ground. I shrank. The hot years baked me, burning me like the pink skin of the new ones. Terrible times, they were.
Sometimes while these new ones were chopping and sawing, they sang, but none of their songs made any sense. One they kept repeating was about someone dancing and an animal in a tucker bag? Boiling billy? I never could make heads or tails out of it. They never sang to the land or the stars, the plants or animals, or their children, and certainly not me. Very odd.
A short while ago, the new ones went through a change. I thought that maybe they had some clever ones in their group, after all. Better late than never, I guess.
A small group of the new ones turned up and planted trees. I could not believe it! They watered them and kept them growing strangely fast. Maybe they knew they went too far before. Maybe the first ones told them how reckless they’d been. Who knows. But for all their effort, they weren’t the right kinds of trees, these ones belong closer to water. And they were planted simply too close together. They’re warring each other limb and root. They’ll kill each other eventually and I’ll be back to square one.
A short while ago, another group of new ones put up signs and laid paths of brittle stonework, they are easily cracked by roots. Then they put in trunks with no leaves but which shine like stars in the night. They dug deep inside me with tunnels and burrows but not that they ever used them. I just don’t know what to make of it. They even moved the trees afterwards!
But now there’s a new type of visitor. Where the first ones came and stayed, and the second ones came and took, this third type, I can’t make out whether they are real or not. I can’t quite grasp them. As fast as they come, they go. A brief song, a short meal, doing things with round things or small metal rocks in their hands. They come in for such a short time I never get to know what kind of creatures they are. They hardly notice me and never see me but at least they aren’t murdering my trees or washing away my ground.
I wish the first ones would come back. I enjoyed their company. They always made me feel good. Much better than the steel-toothed pinks or these virtual ghosts. If the latest visitors are actual creatures, they had best get in contact with the first ones! So many changes are on the way and I’ll need all the help I can get if I’m going to provide them with somewhere to live.