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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 4, December 2014

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Gerry Jacobson
Canberra, Capital Territory, Australia


The Emptiness of Sunday Afternoon

Head down. I carry a heavy pack up the steep climb. Out of the Cotter valley towards Mt Bimberi. Trying to keep up with G and others. Eyes fixed on the track. In fact almost touching it. Suddenly, a stone axe-head embedded in the mud. Someone has been here before me on this remote track. Hundreds of years before. Thousands?

I pick up the axe-head, fondle it for a minute or two. Was it too heavy for him? Was he hot and tired, like me? Or caught in a storm? Did he leave it there for a friend? Put it down Gerry. Plod on.

scarred trees
along the pathway
where once they trod
the rough stone ridges . . .
Gura Bung Dhaura

From our valley camp we climb up to the Sentry Box, a prominent rock tower. Along the ridge we pass a twisted gargoyle rock, weathered out of a granite tor. I feel instinctively that this sculpture is the ancestral Bogong Moth. The annual migration of the moth to the high country was celebrated by the first people. They had dreaming lines, songlines, coming up from the east coast. Perhaps this was the end of one such line. There is a 'bora ring', a circle of stones, nearby. And another high on Mt Namadgi, the other side of the valley. Initiation sites?

a dying tree
in a suburban street
remembers . . .
the carved footholds
of the possum hunters

Early one winter morning I catch the skiers' bus from Canberra. It's still dark and it's foggy. As the bus crosses the bridge I doze off. Sometime later I open my eyes and find that day is dawning. The bus is passing through a magical landscape. Granite tors and boulders appear and disappear in writhing fog. Somewhere near Berridale. A glimpse of something that must have been revered. The bus driver comments: "Oh!" he says "We call this the Devil's Marbles!"

smoke
welcomes us to country . . .
whose country?
whipbirds . . . creek murmurs
gravel pricks my feet

A few place names remain. Cooma, I suppose, Numeralla, Bredbo. At Bunyan there were ritual burials 8000 years ago, people buried with their jewellery. At Tidbinbilla there is evidence of hunters camping in a rock shelter 23, 000 years ago, in the Ice Age. Lost tribes. Lost stories of a hundred generations.

passing
that large McMansion
today
through the shutters
I see shadows of people

The first white 'explorers' came through here in the 1820s. The last recorded celebration of the Bogong Moth dreaming was in 1836. Since then it seems that our land has been silent.

Bungendore . . .
new housing estate
in spring sunshine
the emptiness
of Sunday afternoon


Author's Note: Gura Bung Dhaura = Stony Hills (Ngunnawal language)

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