Martin Edmond lives and writes in Sydney. His most recent book is The Supply Party: Ludwig Becker on the Burke & Wills Expedition
My mind takes a holiday and my body, faithful and indissoluble accompanist, goes along for the ride. We circumambulate a sacred lake above which the mountain floats white on a white sky like something that cannot be yet is. Later I drive around another profaned by corpses from an ancient massacre; about the first we walk in perfect clarity, the second I round in a miasma of confusion and get lost: body and mind crying blindly out for soul. Had I forgotten there is a third in which all of our complexities are mired? It is like this in all the old places. New memories rise up with the alarm cries of birds and say: Go! Depart this place! Come here not as you are but as you were or would be! Nevermore! Etc. The bush fizzing with tui in the glory of the morning. Light glinting from the leaves and from the swift mirror of another lake, across which the once baleful cone now looks almost benign. As if the echo of catastrophe can only linger for so long before a sleepy domesticity of sun and shadow prevails; as if the days outlast the nights. There’s nobody here but me and the birds: paradise ducks honking as they swim out past the landing place. Black swans spreading their wings in alarm as they stagger clumsy through the mud to water’s edge then instantly transform to nonpareils of elegance and grace. Little blue ducks that were here last time I came as well. The wordless fascination of wordless things. That silence in which all other silences inhere. I can almost touch it—there, past the weir, past the raupo, past that greeny slope and past the sky. In the visitor’s centre the man from Tuhourangi is thinking of giving up his curatorial duties and going to Port Hedland to drive a road train. Port Hedlands, he says. Headlands maybe. Uncorrected. What is interred here laments still in his eyes. It is written on a plaque beside the road: They lay scattered in the deep night, the intense night; the sorrow and grief a tattoo of pain on my skin; and tears stream from my eyes for my dear departed ones. I show him the photo of the man I’m interested in. That’s one of my great great uncles, he says, but I don’t know much about him. And that little he does not say. Rewiri not Rawiri. Bare feet not boots as I had always thought. The quizzical look of one who has died and been reborn: we are not separate and distinct he says or seems to say. Mind body and soul: three lakes with one source. Turbulent or calm. Fathomless. Full of green bones. Or crayfish. Or the massive weedy trunks of trees. In those black depths you may drown. Fall through the earth all the way to China. Become engulfed in tendrils of fear, the terror of forgetting, that dreadful sink of longing. Although I wanted to I did not go through the dark doorway to the buried village. There was an ache in my soul as I drove away, bereft, unsatisfied: like a spirit hungering for blood so it can speak what it knows. And this was not some kind of possession from outside, this was me. Us. Mind body soul. Spirit. And then I knew we must go there again another time.