Northern lights

Sarah D

Australia

"He was a poet; and they are never exactly grown up." - J.M. Barrie

Message to Readers

I'm completely open to feedback but it would be great if it could be constructive. I'm always looking to improve my work!

Sunlit Horizon

February 15, 2015

I always loved being outside in the morning. The property was so different without the blazing sun, the active animal population and the noisy sound of bush work. In the morning it was still, silent, waiting. I felt like it was waiting for me, so I never made it wait long.

I would wake up at 3:30 exactly and sneak out of bed so I wouldn't wake mum, dad and my brother Sean, even though they all knew where I went in the mornings. First I'd feed Dakota, saddle her up and then head out the back gate. When I'd open the large piece of corrugated iron my heart would pick up pace. Suddenly my mind would go still and all I could do was engulf the world in front of me with as many senses as I could manage. Revel in the beautiful land I called home.

For a while I'd forget about all my chores and jobs on the farm, forget about the trouble on the property, forget about the boy who’d probably be waiting for me in the trees.

Dakota always knew when it was time. I'd never have to push her, only a simple pat and we'd be flying. We'd go straight into a canter and be galloping in seconds. I'd urge her for more and laugh when we picked up pace. But it was never enough, I always wanted more. I'd loosen the reins completely so there was nothing to hold her back and it was the only invitation she'd need. We'd go faster and faster until my head was spinning and I couldn't bear to stop. The crack of the reins sounded like lightening and Dakota's hoofs sounded like thunder.

It was perfect. I thought it would always be like that; perfect. But there was something different about this year, and walking Dakota through that paddock, it couldn't have been clearer.

The drought had lasted longer than expected last year and the crops had suffered because of it. We had to sell off land just to get enough money for food. We sold everything that didn't have crops or livestock on it. Even the paddocks I'd ride through with Dakota. Even the land that I knew someone lived on.

They're building a factory on it. Destroying the land. Clearing it all out.

I jumped off Dakota to give her a rest and swung myself onto a fence. I slowly rose to stand on my feet like I had done so many times before.

Then suddenly, I saw something in the trees. Only a slight movement, but I had known it would be there. I leapt of the fence and ran, throwing a reassuring look at Dakota which I'm sure she didn't understand. I turned back towards the trees and saw a fast blur running towards me. I threw myself at the person and they wrapped their arms around me.

"Coen, we sold the land. My dad sold the land your people live on." I sobbed into the Aboriginal boy's shoulder.

"It's ok, Clair. I know. He told us." Coen said as he let me go with a sigh.

When my dad first bought our property, he didn't realise that there was still an Aboriginal tribe living there; the Wiradjuri people. We had every right to have them relocated, but that is something none of the family would even consider. They belonged on the land more than we did, so they remained our secret. We would talk to them occasionally, but for most of the time they stayed on the far side of the property and we stayed on the main part.

Two years after we bought the place I was out riding when I spotted someone in the distance. I chased them down and was shocked to discover a young Aboriginal boy who looked around my age. I was surprised that he spoke English, but he explained to me that a lot of his tribe could speak the language as well. We were both only eight when we met, but I knew that he would be a friend I would have forever. He was a funny boy; odd, yet caring. He always had a strange joke that I didn’t understand, but after explaining it, most of them were quite funny. We’d run through the bush together, make fires and pretend we were dancing at a corroboree.

I met him down in the paddock almost every day during the holidays that year, especially because I was at boarding school during the term. Sometimes he'd even take me back to his tribe with him. The Wiradjuri people would let me talk and eat with them, even dance, though I was terrible. My parents knew about my morning riding trips, my encounters with the Aborigines, but they knew nothing about Coen.

"You can't possibly be ok with it, can you?" I asked with a frown.

"Of course not," he sighed again, "I just don't know what we can do."

"The buyers are going to build a factory, right where you live." I yelled exasperatedly.

"I know. My people understand that. Which is why we're going to leave." He whispered.

"Don't be ridiculous, where would you go?" I asked in outrage. It hadn't occurred to me at that point that he might actually be leaving. Coen was always there, he was a part of the land and I knew it just wouldn't be the same without him. Him and his people.

"We've made contact with another Wiradjuri tribe further inland, they've agreed join with us to build a bigger, stronger tribe." He said slowly, almost carefully as he took one of my hands.

"You're actually leaving?" I said, more a statement than a question. My eyes lowered to the ground and I willed myself not to cry

"I was hoping to find you so that I could...say goodbye." He finished.

Somewhere deep inside me I knew he was going to tell me that. Some dark part of me had unwillingly braced itself for the impact that that sentence would make. So when he said goodbye only a single tear rolled down my face.

"I don't want to think about it." I whispered, not willing just yet to let go.

"Ok." He whispered back. I closed my eyes and pressed my forehead against his.

"Let's think about the red dusty land." I finally said.

"Moojel buunan permul." He repeated in the Wiradjuri language.

"The great, old gumtrees."

"Dookal goonood Munumbas."

"The sunlit horizon."

"Yirri yarrin birrang." He finished.

We stayed silent for a moment longer until Coen pulled back to look at me.

"That's how you can find me when I'm gone." He said with a small smile on his face. I looked at him sceptically before he continued.

"When you're riding in the morning, come up onto the hill and look out across the land. Watch the sun rise from the horizon and you'll know that we're both watching the same sun, that the same light is touching our faces. It lights up the same land, the land we both walk on. Nguurrambang."

"What does that mean?" I asked as another tear made its way down my face.

"Home. Our home." Coen finished.

"Nguurrambang," I said slowly, "no matter where we are we will be on the same land, connected through the earth."

I didn't say another word and neither did he. I just turned around, walked back to Dakota and rode away from the boy standing in the dirt. The next time I looked around he had blended back into the trees, but I knew he could still see me. So I raised my hand in a final farewell and uttered a single word. A word that could align a whole country. A word that could bring together two cultures. A word that could join two people for a lifetime.

"Nguurrambang." I whispered.

Home.

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