Tuesday, April 3, 2007


what an amazing weekend.

friday morning i got up at 6:15 to catch the bus for the brockport trip at 7. chris, josh, dan, kat, her mom and i were waiting in the suv courtyard when we saw carol and skye waving at us, and went to meet them. we had a 5 hour bus ride down with the macquarie kids, and it was good to see them all again. most of them slept the whole way down, but i listened to my ipod and tried to just enjoy the ride.

we got to our cabins at murramarang, and saw kangaroos literally on the doorsteps. we got settled in, and then chris and i went down to the beach. eventually the sun started to set and we got cold, so we came back inside and watched tv. i made pasta for everyone in the cabin, and we ate it while we watched message in a bottle. at 8 we went to carol and skye's cabin to see uncle max, and he spoke to us about the land and our identities and being in touch with the world. he said:

never loose your identity. otherwise you become like a stick thrown into the ocean: you're just going with the flow. but i believe you mob are stronger than that. so don't lose your identity, where you come from.

that hit me, when he said it. even though i believe that people can and should try to change and grow, i agree that you should keep your identity- whether that is family, your values, your friends, your passions. i'm trying to do that, to find some sense of grounding.

uncle max took us down to the beach and told us about how when he was little, he was given the honor of pulling up the first fish caught of the day at that very beach. he asked us to at some point, stand with our feet planted in the sand at the edge of the surf, close our eyes, and just feel. he said:

for you to feel anything, to experience anything, stand with your feet in the sand and let the waves wash over them. close your eyes. and then, you will start to feel.

saturday morning we got up and met uncle max on the cliffs between beaches. he told us how his people would come to eat the fish there, and how the shells closest to the surface would tell them what had been eaten last, and so they would not eat them. he spoke a lot about being in touch with that land, looking at nature for signs instead of just doing whatever you wanted. about keeping balance.

we hoped on the bus for a ride up to gulaga mountain. when we got there, we started the hike up to the saddle, where there are a lot of sacred aboriginal sites. let's just say that it was at least a 45 degree grade all the way up, and it was two hours with a few short breaks to rest and drink some water. i haven't done anything that strenuous in a long time, and i felt really good when i reached the top. we all ate lunch, and then uncle max put ocher above each eye, in the center of our foreheads, and on our chins, he said:

these fellas are to open your mind
this fella here is to open your eyes, so that you may hear what i teach you
this fella is for silence, for respect to those gone before us

after that his grandson gave us each a red string to tie around our foreheads. uncle max then had us each pluck a leaf from a tree, smell it, bend it and smell it again, then crush it and smell it a third time. each time the smell got more potent, and he told us that the more potent the smell, the stronger the healing.

he took us into the sacred sites, first to two rocks that symbolize a man and a woman. he told us the creation story of his people, and then asked us to each place a hand on the female rock. he asked us each to think of things in turn- an unborn child, a sick family member, an animal- and then asked the wind spirit to take our healing. he said afterwards that he felt something strong, that he would tell us about it later.

we next went to the rock that symbolizes a pregnant woman, and then to one that was a child. all along the way he told us many things about what he’s learned in life, about respecting the earth and learning from it. we next went to the teaching rock, and climbed up on it. uncle max asked us each about how we felt the energy from the rock, and what animal we thought of. It turned out that 7 people thought of dogs, and he’s never seen anything like that. He spoke to us about totems, how he has a personal one, and family one, and a tribal one, and then he also told us about how the government treats his people.

we hiked down from the teaching rock and uncle max thanked us for coming with him and being respectful. uncle max told us how when we was 7, he told his grandpa he’d had a bad day and his grandpa said sit down, I’m going to tell you a story you’ll never forget. Uncle max said he sat down and looked up at his grandpa, and his grandpa said. there are sunny days, cold days, frosty days, snowy days, rainy days… there is no such thing as a bad day. That really stuck with me, and I’m going to try to remember to say that to myself when I feel like I’m going through something I can’t handle or I feel like everything is going wrong. we took a ton of pictures and hiked back out. when we got back out we had a snack and talked to uncle max for a bit, and i asked him what he thought the greatest thing he had learned in his life was. he said it was probably learning to communicate in silence. He told me that he learned that by spending 10 days not talking with his teachers up in the same spot where we were.

we soon left to hike down the mountain, and it was soo much better going down than up. we got back on the bus and i talked with Andrew, one of the guys on the trip, for a while, and then tried to snooze. i could feel my legs already getting sore, and when i tried to uncurl from my seat when we got back it was painful.

we went down to the pool for a barbie. i served uncle max- he is always served first as a sign of respect- then got my food, and sat down to eat. we all sat around talking about the experiences we've had so far, and then Chris was getting tired, so I took a picture of her and uncle max and we walked back to our cabin.

on sunday chris and i got up and watched the sunrise together on the beach. it was great, just the two of us, totally beautiful and we were just having a quiet conversation and some tea. we went back to sleep for a while, then got up and spent the rest of the day on the beach. perfect.

we all took pictures with the kangaroos before we left, and then headed out for the 5 hour bus ride. i snoozed and listened to music, and before i knew it, we were home. i was exhausted, so i went to bed.

this weekend totally recharged me. i've been feeling kind of weird, like i'm not really living life, like i'm just letting it pass me by. like i don't have control over what happens to me. but hearing uncle max's teachings and then getting to spend time in such a beautiful and peaceful place restored my spirit, some. it's nice to know that it's still there.

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