Happy new year, 2022. May you make the most of this year. Here is the beginning of a new story to start the year!
Chapter 1: Nanima
Nanima lay in a pretty-as-a-picture valley at the joining point of two living, breathing rivers. The small country town had an English name, but Nanima was its ancient-as-the-rivers Aboriginal one.
When discovering it, English explorer, Oxley, said, “It is beautifully picturesque.”
Of course, he didn’t really discover it. Even before the local people knew it, the valley and rivers knew themselves. The idea of discovery and consequent possession is used by those with neither the intelligence nor sensitivity to see the value in lives other than their own. Anyway, the Aboriginal people had a different sense of ownership. There is no need to possess anything when there is access to everything. It is only when someone says that your mother belongs to them that there is a problem. For more than fifty thousand years, there wasn’t a problem. For the last two hundred, there was.
Oxley also said, “The valley is studded with fine trees upon a soil which may be equalled but can never be excelled.”
When you live from the land, which ultimately all of us do, soil is everything. Forgetting this is at our peril. The rich Nanima soil spread its generosity well beyond the banks of the rivers and fed the trees, the long-time people, the soon-to-arrive Chinese who would befriend the Aborigines as fellow under-rated people, and the incoming white folk with their eyes on grain and stock.
Amongst the early white settlers were men who were good and men who were bad. Either way, the soil and rivers fed them, their children, and their grandchildren. One of those grandchildren recently returned to Nanima after a thirty-year absence. The pull of the land, the beat of the waterways, and the voiceless voice of the neither black nor white earth spirit beckoned her back.
Chapter 2: Maliyan
Maliyan waved back at the blackfella sitting underneath a large, metal statue of an eagle in the park. She didn’t refer to them as blackfellas. That’s what he called himself. She knew him from many years ago. The statue was her namesake. Maliyan meant wedge-tailed eagle to the Wiradjuri mob of the area. She didn’t call them a mob. That would have seemed insulting from a white woman. When the Aboriginal people call their groups mobs, it doesn’t have the connotation of an unruly gang of mobsters as it does in common usage. On second thoughts, maybe it does, but who could blame them for a bit of self-defence?
Like Nanima, Maliyan had an English name. It wasn’t her birth name or even a female name. It was given to her affectionately, by an Aboriginal boyfriend, in high school. He said that one day, she would fly away. As it turned out, it was he who flew away. He died in a drowning accident. Almost certainly, the course of life would have soon enough separated young Maliyan and her boyfriend, but when such a course is abruptly derailed, we can become part of its buried unresolve.
After school, Maliyan left for the city and rarely returned until now. It was only upon her return to Nanima that she decided to use the indigenous name. She wanted a fresh outlook. How we name things is closely connected with how we perceive them. Why else would colonisers rename everything? She didn’t have Aboriginal blood in her, but as she considered the indigenous people part of her country’s fibre, she considered them part of her. She was pretty sure they didn’t feel like that about her.
After three decades of work in the city, Maliyan had enough money to buy a small, somewhat rundown coalminers cottage and enough to live on—if she lived simply. Simple was precisely what she intended to do.
As she walked, she pondered how everyone walks everywhere in a country town, especially the children. Although most are unaware of its impact, it automatically connects bodies to the land. All the temperature changes are keenly felt when little divides the body from its surroundings. Nanima had a relatively comfortable climate, but the local children had endless memories of crunching through frost-kissed grass or sweltering in the summer heat.
Passing the last shop before home, Maliyan gazed at her reflection in the window. Her hair was short. Her face was clear and clean. Healthy, well-balanced people tend to have uncomplicated faces. Faces only become complicated after years of layering from mental and emotional stress. Her body was, in the words of her city chiropractor, “age-appropriate”. It was meant to be a compliment of the highest order. “Don’t get me started on the grossly avoidable problems most people have with their bodies through laziness and compulsions,” he would say.
Chiropractors tend to have a multi-levelled type of intelligence. They have to be academically smart enough to get through the years of medical training. They also have to be emotionally and spiritually mature enough to understand the energetic part of their work, which is considered equally important. It makes for a coherent and intuitive type of health professional, which unfortunately is uncommon.
On Maliyan’s recent visit to her chiropractor, he asked, “Did you get something special for Christmas?”
“Not particularly,” said Maliyan with not a trace of self-pity. “I suppose you did because you have a wife.”
“Not particularly,” said the chiropractor with a smile. “I’m more the one to do that. She’s a last-minute panic shopper.”
Yes, thought Maliyan, that’s exactly what you would do—think about a lovely present and make an effort to arrange it.
“Enjoy your new life in the country,” said the chiropractor at the end of the appointment. “I envy you.”
Maliyan smiled at him. People like him don’t envy. Happy people don’t compare themselves with others. If they like something in another person, it inspires them to do something a little different in themselves. They don’t waste energy on jealousy.
“What’s stopping you?” asked Maliyan.
The chiropractor pointed to his office and the pictures of his family on the desk.
“One day,” he said.
Maliyan doubted that. He had too much in the city. Besides, it is one thing to pack up a single life and completely reroute it. It is quite another when it involves the lives of other people. As the African proverb says,
If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.
There is one place you can go as fast and as far as you want, thought Maliyan. It’s the inner journey. That one, you don’t have a choice. You have to go alone.