Nanima: The Dreaming

Here is the next part of Nanima.

For those who have been following along, I have changed the name of one of the Namima rivers to its real name of Bell River (rather than the fictional name I gave it of Biladurang). The other Nanima river, Wambul (Aboriginal name) / Macquarie River (English name) remains the same.

Gadi and Wambad

The Bell and Wambul were running high and fast. They weren’t flooding, but it was close. Luna and Maliyan stood in the middle of the bridge crossing Wambul immediately before the Bell joined it for a dance. It would have to be a quickstep—the fastest and jumpiest of the ballroom dances. They leaned over the railing and peered at the loud, brown water. It was somewhat hypnotic.

“A long time ago, in the Dreaming,” said Maliyan, “Gadi, the Rainbow Serpent, made the waterways. Water is life. She gave life but could get angry and destroy life.”

Luna was about to make a joke about women’s wrath, but Maliyan continued, “Gadi, the creator, travelled through Country to this beautiful valley, Binjang [which means beautiful valley]. She needed a resting place to have her babies.”

“Who was the father?” asked Luna.

“When the baby snakes were born, Wambad, the wombat, chased them,” said Maliyan ignoring Luna’s question.

“Why?” asked Luna. 

“To eat them.”

“I thought wombats are vegetarian,” said Luna.

“As the babies tried to escape, they formed the rivers and creeks. The first two babies, the biggest and strongest, formed the Wambul and Bell Rivers.”

Luna peered at the hurtling water of Wambul and said, “They are like the winning sperm.”

“The littler babies formed the smaller rivers and creeks. Some babies weren’t fast enough, and Wambad ate them.”

Luna was about to point out that his question of the herbivore nature of wombats remained unanswered.

“Gadi was angry and chased Wambad, who tunnelled underground. She followed him, and her body in the tunnels created the caves. Eventually, she caught Wambad and strangled him. He was dead, but that did not bring the babies back. Gadi’s tears filled the caves and made underground rivers.”

“Not a happy ending,” said Luna attempting to pull Maliyan back from the Dreaming.

Left-Brain Malfunction

The following day, Maliyan had an appointment with the back doctor in the city. As her back was not improving, he suggested a minor operation. He had a cancellation for the next morning’s surgery list and offered the space to her. Her right-brained intuition told her to take it, so she did. The operation went smoothly, and she saw him again on her way home at the end of the week.

“My back is recovering well,” said Maliyan, “but I have a question about the general anaesthetic.”

The back doctor, who was a straight-talking, no-nonsense person, said, “Ask me how anaesthetic works.”

“We don’t know,” he replied after Maliyan asked him. “Is it good? Undoubtedly. Do we understand it? Not even close.”

* * *

Maliyan struggled on the five-hour drive to Nanima. It was not her back that was the problem. It was the effect of the anaesthetic. A few days after the operation, when the pain-killing drugs had worn off, she noticed that she had to force herself to concentrate on all the left-brained, logical, practical matters in life, such as driving. On the other hand, her right-brained, intuitive, creative side was on fire. 

As she drove, her mind drifted into the Dreaming. She remembered a woman she knew, in her twenties, when her friends started having babies. 

The woman had a strange birth experience. It was a caesarean. She had no religious or spiritual inclination, but she had a life-altering, out-of-body experience when she was waking from the anaesthetic. She vividly experienced the birth and death of every life she had ever had. Reincarnation was not something she believed in or ever thought about. She said the whole process was challenging but not disturbing. It was more like watching a movie. She also said that the deaths were much more fun and blissful than any of the births. There were an astounding number of lives, and she travelled through them in great detail. Yet, it happened very quickly. 

Of course, when she woke up, she tried to tell the nurses. They said it was the anaesthetic. She knew it wasn’t. Her husband believed her, although he didn’t know what it all meant. He simply chose to believe her, and that was that. 

Every time she went into the baby’s room for the first few weeks of his life, she would see the face of a wise, old man instead of seeing a newborn’s face. Again, it wasn’t disturbing, just perplexing. Gradually, it stopped happening. 

Concentrate, Maliyan reprimanded herself as she drove along the country highway, or you will be experiencing the reincarnation process first-hand!

Why?

Relieved to be safely driving into Nanima, Maliyan stopped at Luna Tiks for coffee. She thought it might help her left brain wake up. Luna was in a mood. Even though he hadn’t seen her for a week, he took her order without looking and then busied himself with something behind the counter. Maliyan’s brain wasn’t coming up with a likely explanation for Luna’s behaviour, so she called out to him over the empty tables.

“What’s the matter? Why aren’t you talking to me? I haven’t seen you for a whole week.”

Luna took one short, annoyed look in her direction and huffed off into the back room. When he was angry, he wasn’t poisonous. He was by no means a pushover—independent people aren’t—but he didn’t have intent to harm. Besides, almost everything he did seemed to have an element of humour in it. He had such a strong and natural leaning towards seeing the funny side of life that it tended to remain with him whether he wanted it there or not.

As Maliyan walked out, she realised that he must have missed her. 

I’ll tell him where I have been tomorrow when he has calmed down, she thought.

Even with only half of her brain working, she knew the limits of his sense of humour. And his feelings.

* * *

Keen to set things right, Maliyan headed for Luna Tiks on her walk the following morning. However, her happy, hopeful moment of setting things right turned into the opposite when she saw Luna walking into the cafe, arm in arm, with a woman. Maliyan recognised her—a bright, fiery young thing, recently appointed head of the new cultural centre. When she read about the appointment, she thought it was an excellent choice for the town. 

Suddenly, nothing made sense. Maliyan wondered if it was her muddled brain getting things more muddled. She wondered if her gut reaction was wrong. After all, Luna was an affectionate person generally. Even if her gut reaction was right, what was she upset about?  Maybe, Luna hadn’t missed her at all. Perhaps, it was only she who had missed him.

As neither her left nor right brain was helping her to be less confused, she decided to bypass Luna Tiks, head for the Wambul, and watch the racing water until it quietened her racing heart.

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