Following the Range
A touch of light hit the Nanima horizon, and Maliyan began the long journey to Geboor. She crisscrossed the countryside towards the Great Dividing Range. As well as watching the colours of the morning sky, she had to watch out for kangaroos. They move quickly and impulsively, with no road sense, and are most active at dawn and dusk. For their sake and hers, an unscheduled meeting was best avoided.
Maliyan told herself that once the beauty of the morning and the danger of the kangaroos had passed, she would settle into something “useful”. It didn’t happen. Although she intended to use the drive for listening to audiobooks, they remained unopened. Something else, however, did open. As she followed the Great Dividing Range southward, through farms and little towns, she felt no need to listen to anything or even think about anything. It seemed enough just to be alive, to be the mountain range’s travelling companion, and to be a part of life. It was silence and aliveness in a pure, still, aware, and awake form. It was more than enough. Even before she got to Geboor, its thread seemed to be winding itself around her.
She stopped here and there but dared not stay too long as she still had far to go before nightfall. For most of the journey, the mountain range was on her left, and she stayed in the pasture land. However, towards the end of her travels, she moved into the hills of the Macedon Ranges. The greenness, wetness, and coldness increased with the climb. The air became dense. It was thick with possibility, both in a material and energetic form. Riddled with the multitudinous forms which multiply in such environments, it was highly fertile for nature and people. The area would suit creatives down to the ground. For a spiritual seeker, it was ideal.
At dusk, Maliyan came to a mist-shrouded town called Black Forest. She pulled up at Bell-Bell’s father’s house and could see Geboor in the distance, a fifteen-minute drive to the top. Bell-Bell’s father was in a nursing home but did not want to sell his home. The family were glad to have her look after it. And so, in the charming town of Black Forest, at the foot of the exquisite Geboor mountain, Maliyan moved into a different time of her life.
Thread of Geboor
It was a few weeks until winter began in earnest, although it already felt cold to Maliyan who was used to the more northern temperatures. The top of Geboor was clearly not going to be a safe place to drive during the winter months in a little city car. There would be too much black ice on the narrow roads, and you could easily slide off the mountain and become part of it in the wrong sort of way. She drove to the summit most days while she still could.
As Francis’s poem in the poustinia instructed, she pulled a thread from Geboor or, more to the point, the thread pulled her. One crisp, clear morning on Geboor, looking down to Black Forest in one direction and to the faraway city in the opposite direction, she heard more of the Geboor poem.
Look at the town below.
It is you.
Look at the city in the distance.
It is you.
Every rumbling car, pacing person,
running child, and wagging dog
Look to the far reaches of the range.
It is you.
Look to the endless sky.
It is you.
And when the heavens are full
of the shining masses of long ago,
know that you, too, were long ago.
A story of old,
still being told.
Like the burned-up stars
giving their fire until
they are no more.
You, too, are that.
Geboor was a powerful place, but it was also round, soft, and feminine. From its summit, you could see, a mere ten kilometres away, a different sort of imposing structure called Hanging Rock. Before it had an English name, it was the intersecting point of three Aboriginal groups and was used as a gathering place. Its cliff-like precipices with seemingly bottomless drops made Hanging Rock ideal for ceremonies, initiations, conflict resolutions, marriages, and trade.
Places, like people, have their own unique energy. Hanging Rock was vibrant, intense, otherworldly, mysterious, changeable, and predominantly masculine. It was a balance to Geboor. Of the two landmarks, it was Hanging Rock that brought fame to the area. Joan Lindsay’s 1967 book, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Peter Weir’s 1975 film of the same fascinated Australian readers. The story became embedded in folklore as a possibly-true, unsolved mystery.
Maliyan thought that the fame was misplaced. The story of the disturbing disappearance of schoolgirls at Hanging Rock on Valentine’s Day, 1901, made it a place to be somewhat feared. Some amount of respectful fear is sensible in such a place, but not because of a fictional mystery. The different layers of life and reality which emanate from some natural structures are far more complex, marvellous, and fascinating than any scary story. Hanging Rock was a place of ancient sacred beauty, not a place of sinister modern mystery. However, if it weren’t for the book, it would still be relatively unknown, sitting there quietly, as it had for six million years, with a mere 26,000 years of First Nation’s people treading its ground and a small number of white visitors (who were generally more interested in Hanging Rock Racecourse than they were in the powers of the Rock).
Hanging Rock, Geboor, and the township of Black Forest made an energetic triangle. Maliyan sensed it and felt both safe and challenged within its confines. However, other triangles soon began to mysteriously appear.
The Oak Tree Wizard
Every evening, before dark, Maliyan walked along the creek next to her house. As she loved being outside, the dusk walk was a last breath of nature before morning. A few days before full moon, she noticed that one of the grand oak trees had strange arrangements around it. She stopped to investigate. On the first day, a large circle of leaves bordered the tree as if to mark some territory. Every consequent day, varying-sized piles of sticks were placed under the oak as if somebody was getting ready for a ceremony. To add to the mystery, an increasing number of triangles made from sticks appeared on the ground. Maliyan became more and more convinced that it was the work of local witches preparing for the full moon.
They’re probably called the Black Witches of Forest, thought Maliyan.
On that note, she decided to walk in a different direction on full moon day. The following evening, she returned to the oak and saw a senior man slowly getting out of his mobility machine. His right side was paralysed. With much deliberation, he pushed the leaves into a line around the oak and fiddled with the bundles of sticks. He looked nothing like a witch. In fact, he looked the epitome of conservativeness.
“What are you doing?” asked Maliyan.
Looking up startled, the man explained that he had worked in weed control and the best he could do now was confine himself to the weeds around this oak.
“I’m not against any plant,” said the man, “but a weed is a plant in the wrong place.”
He explained how he painstakingly pushed all the fallen leaves away from the trunk so he could spot the invasive weeds. Thus, the circle around the tree. He collected all the unwanted twigs into tied-up piles because, otherwise, he couldn’t move them. Thus, the neat bundles.
“And the triangles?” asked Maliyan.
“Come look,” he said, pointing to one with his stick. “The triangles mark the areas where suspected weeds are sprouting. To be sure, I must watch them for a while.”
As the man seemed glad of the company, Maliyan told him how her little witch story had grown daily in her mind. He was not the sort of person to have ever contemplated witches. She figured he would tell himself that she was joking.
“I’m no witch,” he laughed.
“Maybe a wizard?” said Maliyan with a wink.
“Maybe, a weed wizard,” smiled the man.
“The Oak Tree Wizard,” said Maliyan with a bow, leaving him to his self-appointed task.
That serves me right for taking myself so seriously, thought Maliyan as she smiled and hurried along before the darkness set in. I think I need a break from visiting Hanging Rock and Geboor. Tomorrow, I’ll head out into the gentler pastures with content cows, rusty Utes with old-time farmers rattling along the bumpy roads, and impatient young men driving around the familiar bends at breakneck speed (because young men have always done that). But right now, I’ll head home for dinner.
End of Part 2—Sacred Spaces (Autumn)