Two years ago I had a wildflower adventure in Kakadu.
My birthday brings the memories back because I had my birthday out there under a tree on the escarpment with two incredible women who kept me alive and amazed me with the blessings they kept pulling out of their backpacks. Grapefruit tastes like manna from heaven when you are thirsty from shock and you still have to get through the night with only half a litre of water to share between three people.
I’ve decided to publicly share some of the writing I’ve done about this, even though I’m not sure I will complete this story and release it as a second wildflower book. It was an incredibly powerful experience, and one I would love to share, but I can’t seem to write about coming down off the escarpment without having nightmares, so I’m putting that part of the writing on hold until my psyche feels safe to continue. The journey ended with us being rescued by helicopter from a waterfall ledge half way down the cliff face. Phew! I may have cured my fear of heights in the process but that’s only because everything else seems like a walk in the park by comparison.
I feel nervous sharing ‘the cave’ part of this story with you- emotional actually- but I think it’s time, and at least this part of the story is mine to share…. or is it? Spirit assures me it is, at least in terms of my relationship with Spirit and the land. Some of the reason I keep hesitating with the writing of this book is because it involves two other people. Do I really have the right to tell a story shared? And if so, how do I do it in a way that honours their privacy and the fact that their story might be very different from my own? Perhaps I need to revisit the cave and re-anchor the decisive male energy I discovered there.
I lay down again and opened up my senses, reaching out and speaking to the canyon, the cave, the rock spirits, the space itself.
We apologise if we are trespassing but we have travelled a long way. It’s getting dark and we are very tired. Can we please rest here for the night?
The reply came as it always does: a collage of words, feelings, impressions, images and knowing. I could feel a strong male energy stepping forward.
We understand. You may stay the night but you must leave as early as possible in the morning. We like you three. You are quiet. We are tired of noisy people. Everything is changing. We don’t like all these white people coming through here. We long for the old days.
I suggested to the spirit energy that he could talk to his people and ask them to speak with the rangers about this. At first, all I could feel was silence in response. Then grief, which soon gave way to reluctant acceptance.
We’ve already done this. The way it is now, with this area being shared with the white man… it’s the only way. We have already negotiatied. It’s either this or nothing.
I could feel the deep grief of the canyon about the way everything was changing so quickly. I felt sad for Spirit, but what could I do? I agreed to the terms laid down about our stay and gave thanks, ready to end the conversation, when it suddenly veered in an unexpected direction.
We want you to come into the cave. We have things to teach you.
It wasn’t a request. I almost felt as though it was part of the condition of staying, a sneaky addition tacked on at the last minute. I also knew I would do what I was told, in spite of my reservations about entering the cave.
I conveyed all of this to the girls and they relaxed a little. Or at least, I thought at the time they did. Later I was to discover otherwise. While they began setting up camp, I went into the cave. As I entered, I became aware of a power position on the ground, up against the rock wall in front of me, and headed towards it. Then I stopped suddenly, confused, because there was another one up against the wall to my left.
Which one do I sit in? Why am I aware of two?, I asked myself. The answer came in a flash. The one directly in front of me was a man’s power position. The one to my left was a woman’s power position. I turned automatically to the left to go and sit in the women’s position, when Spirit stopped me.
No. Sit in the man’s position first.
First. Obviously that meant I was going to end up sitting in both. I sat in the man’s position, feeling very comfortable with the rock wall supporting my back.
Are you sure I’m meant to sit here?, I asked Spirit.
Yes. We have things to teach you, Spirit replied.
Are you sure I’m meant to be in this cave? I’m white. I don’t have the right.
In hindsight, I’m guessing I sounded a bit whiny, but I was exhausted and feeling overwhelmed.
Quiet. We asked you to be here. Everything is changing. We make do with what we can get. Black, white, it’s irrelevant. You are a Spirit Walker. Not many like you come up here. We make do with what we can get.
Reassured, I settled back into position and went into trance. A series of shadowy images flittered through my mind, morphing and shifting. I peered more closely. It looked like an animal. A black mountain goat? Or was it a mountain lion? A kangaroo? Finally the shifting settled. It was a black dingo.
I felt the spirit I had been speaking with earlier drawing my attention back to the canyon. I became aware of my position in the cave and then the perspective lifted, as though I were flying upwards and looking down over the canyon. Higher and higher we lifted. Finally the ascent slowed and the cave spirit pointed into the distance. I looked and could see Uluru.
Puzzled, I asked Why are you showing me this?
This is your Country, yes?, asked the spirit, it’s tone light and friendly. I realised it was making a connection with me, almost like a traditional form of greeting.
Yes, this is my country. It was close enough. I grew up in Alice, a days drive from Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock, or more simply The Rock. During my childhood we often went to Uluru to visit my Great Uncle Peter, an arid zone botanist and ranger.
As the spirit and I gazed out over the land I could feel a connection in the land between where I was in Kakadu, and where I had spent time as a child in the comunity at Mutijulu, where my Great Uncle lived. I felt as though the land here in Kakadu was understanding me via my connection with Uluru.
Then the spirit showed me an image of a dingo and referenced the famous Australian story about a dingo taking a baby, back in the 70’s when I was a child. I wasn’t sure why spirit was showing me this, but I politely acknowledged the event, saying yes, I remember this. I also remembered the many dingos I had spent time with at Uluru, especially the one that used to visit the community in the evenings, looking for food. We were taught to be wary and careful, but not afraid. I thought they were beautiful.
The spirit seemed satisfied with my memories, somehow identifying me and where I belonged via my connection with Uluru and the dingos. Then it’s attention snapped back to where we were, pulling me back with it. I could feel it looking into me and through me, as though rifling through my memories, especially of the journey up the side of the mountain.
You are a flower spirit walker, it declared emphatically, as though this were my sole purpose in life, engraved into the fabric of my being.
I’m a healer. I work with colours, I replied, trying to convey a broader sense of who I was.
If this spirit had had a hand, he would have waved it dismissively. All spirit walkers are healers. You are a flower spirit walker. Obviously my identity beyond this wasn’t open to discussion. I shrugged and acknowledged what the spirit was saying, feeling a little dubious about my new title.
Then the spirit showed me an image of one of the flowers I had met on my way up the mountain. It was the first flower I had met along the way, on the first day heading out of base camp.
This is cleansing spirit medicine, it told me, showing me an image of my aura, full of small dark blotches.
You need cleansing. You filled your mind with negative thoughts on your way up the mountain. Why were you thinking these thoughts? You are a spirit walker. Be in your power.
It brushed the branch of flowers over me and through me, all the while scolding me for my unbecoming behaviour on my way up the mountain.
How can your body stay strong with these useless thoughts? And no wonder you were having trouble keeping up! Look!
It showed me an image replay of me climbing the mountain, pausing to decide which way forwards as I debated whether to go around a tree or under it, push past the bush or go over the rocks. Over and over again I had lost time pondering while the girls pushed forward without hesitation.
Just keep going. Go in a straight line. You think and wonder too much. Just get on with it!, said the spirit with exasperation.
I could feel my body soaking up the male energy in the position I was sitting in, and I started to shake off the indecisiveness that had slowed my progress, not only on this walk, but in my life in general. Then the branch disappeared and tiny points of yellow light appeared, like sparkles of sunlight coursing through my mind. The lights were flower spirits and they were filling me with positivity.
After a while the shower of yellow light stopped, and I knew it was time to move into the other position.
Leave your spirit-body here, said the spirit, so I was careful to stand up in body only. I left a firm image and feeling of myself sitting in the men’s power spot while I walked over to the women’s position.
The women’s position was just as comfortable, but the rock behind me sloped backwards rather than being completely vertical. Instinctively, I leaned back against it, with my legs in a squatting position. It felt like such a good position to give birth in. My mind filled with images of women giving birth here, while my body went through the bearing-down motions as though I myself were giving birth. I didn’t really feel like me: I felt like all the women who had ever come to this place to give birth.
As the baby slipped out of me into my hands, the spirit of the place stepped forward and took the baby from me.
Now leave your body here and go sit in the men’s position.
I did as I was asked, stepping out of my body and walking over to the other power spot. I could feel myself in both positions at the same time. I was the man watching the woman giving birth, and I was the woman giving birth.
I watched the spirit hand the baby to the man, the father of the child. I held my hands out as the man, and received the child. This imagery repeated itself, over and over again.
Then I saw an image of someone taking the baby into the water and somehow ascending together up through the rockface at the head of the canyon, emerging up through the rock onto the top of the escarpment. The baby was held aloft to the sky, as though being presented to the heavens, as though a great event had unfolded and was to be celebrated.
Then everything became more intense but I don’t remember all the details because I was in such a deeply altered state at the time. I was being shown a dreamtime story. What I do remember is that when it first began, I realised what was happening and felt alarmed. What right did I have, to hear such a story!? I got quite upset about this and wept until spirit calmed me, saying Hush child.
You are a spirit walker. The stories have to be told. We make do with what we have,
I wonder if my reluctance to hear the story is the reason why I can’t remember all of it, or if this partial memory loss was a safeguard established by spirit to ensure the sacred parts of this story were kept secret.
The story began with an image of a vortex over the cliff face at the head of the gorge, above the waterhole. I remember feeling mesmerized by it and drawn towards it. Spirit stopped me. It almost felt like an invisible arm was pushing back against my chest, holding me back.
No. Don’t go there. Not for you. Not safe. Stay here and watch. Listen.