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