When what you find is that it shouldn’t be found.

So, if you’ve been following our goose tracks, Kathryn and I have been in the Red Center looking for clues as to the identity of the pod in her coming book, Peter Dobb and the Wondrous Pod. We had a hunch that it had something to do with the Aboriginal dream time, and for that reason we booked ourselves on back-to-back cultural tours and headed for a big red rock in the middle of a big red desert.

If you know me, you’ll know that I’m well traveled and have lived on four continents. I like to think of myself as culturally sensitive. But in retrospect, I rode into that red desert as prejudiced as any colonialist. All I was missing was the pith helmet.

My prejudice was that if you have a story, you will want to share it. I’m an author. That’s my world. My colleagues, my clients, my friends, my family, we are all story tellers who want our stories to be heard. So it was quite a revelation to me that there is a fundamentally different way of thinking about story: that you can treasure a story as a secret; that you can nurture a story in order not to share it.

What I learnt, following a guide around who was so passionate that he literally frothed at the mouth (correct use of literally), is that nobody is supposed to know the entire dream time story. Even within small family groups, what the men are allowed to know is different from what the women are allowed to know. Neither must search for or even inadvertently discover the story that belongs to the other. Hence the community’s wariness of photography, because it puts images out there of things that should be seen only by owners of a certain part of the dreaming.

As a story teller I’m fascinated by this concept of story—by having a great, intricate cloth, to which you hold only one thread. You know where your thread intersects others…threads coming from other family members, other families, other tribes. You also know that you’ll never see, are not meant to see, the whole picture. So you treasure and nurture this thread in trust, with faith that it has its place and its meaning, and that meaning you will never fully know.

In the red rock canyons, having let the others walk ahead so that I had everything under a blue bowl sky to myself, this thought is what resonated with me—that sometimes it’s OK not to know. You can hold something precious without knowing really how it relates to the rest of your life or the world. You can just have faith that it does. That it is sacred and necessary.

Sounds simple, but it goes so much against our cultural grain.

And where does that land us with the pod? We have more cultural sleuthing ahead, but at the very least we’ve learnt how delicate this dream time fabric is. How delicate and how very lovely.

Shirin Yim Bridges

In Search of the Pod: The Red Center

So we’ve made it to the Red Center: Uluru, a sacred site for all of Australia’s many aboriginal cultures.

Our one disclaimer: Kathryn says she’s sorry for her mispronunciation of Ayers Rock.

Coming soon, a slightly deeper dive.
Stay tuned!

Shirin Yim Bridges and Kathryn Otoshi

And they’re off! Kathryn and Shirin’s Great Adventure: The Treasure Hunt Down Under

In three days, fellow children’s author, Kathryn Otoshi, and I will be making the grueling journey to Sydney, Australia, to begin a three-week adventure that is, amazingly, all business.

First thought: This is what writers actually do.

Second thought: What a blessing to be a writer!

When I say “grueling,” I want you to know that I have been on a three-day camel trek into the Thar Desert that resulted in a butt blister, and I think cattle class for 18 hours on an international carrier is worse. But it will be worth it. Most of the trip is essentially a treasure hunt—researching key nuggets that Kathryn needs for a book. Nothing could be more fun to a self-confessed nerd and travel junkie like me.

This short video will explain exactly why we’re going and what we hope to accomplish. You’ll find an animated map of our itinerary in the sidebar to the right.

And then, we’ll be posting from the road. First stop: The SCWBI Australia East and New Zealand Conference where both of us will be speaking. Do the antipodeans have a different perspective on kids’ lit?

I’ll let you know!

Shirin Yim Bridges