Kuracca Prize Winner | Great Grandmother Arrabrilya

I am waiting for another dreamer to come down from that Arrabrilya there.

I don’t know who it is yet. I don’t know their skin or songs, or when they’ll be here, but I’ll wait just the same. They’ll bring stories and tokens from their dreaming days on that Arrabrilya. I will greet them with ritual. And they will give me a smile, a secret smile, and we will both laugh, knowing laughs, and we will embrace as girinjii, as mountain kin. They will carry their own tokens and the cool, clear yungil of the higher places down with them. We will drink the yungil and lay in the grass together, and talk about wandering, and lore, and our families, and the people. We will tell stories, sing songs, dance and fall asleep, with that Arrabrilya watching over us. And then we’ll dream. Yes, it is good waiting. It is a time for waiting, for nawa.

I have been here for many days now. I have been thinking and sleeping and dreaming. And slowly waking and slowly being. Night, Niguni has come, and rain, and gentle winds. I have done many things since being here.

I have slept in the sunshine, safe, ripe and heavy, my skin warm, fragrant as Waraburra. Like a child, I have chased tdkil-tdkil, for no other reason than to play, and have climbed the burrunin, with strong branches, for no other reason than to climb. I have found the ochre of this place and have made my marks. I have painted myself. I have hunted. My belly is full of neelong and nerabogng, tadak and sweet yerrinyah. I have swum in the deep, clear yungil of the creek, holding my breath for a long time, feeling for special stones to take back to my promised one, my kumiri of the campfire smoke. It is good here. I am happy and these are days full of happiness. It is a time for happiness, for daninah.

That Arrabrilya there waits with me. She is a Great Grandmother Arrabrilya. She is old beyond all ages. She is beautiful above all beauty. She is wiser than all my wisdoms and the wisdoms of my people. She has had many names, given to her by many other dreamers. How can I know these other names? These names and the dreamers who spoke them have become the dust at her feet, the sounds of the breeze. I wonder where their spirits, their gnariji are now?

Maybe they fly on the wings of the tdkil-tdkil, that dance their secret joys in the hazy sunshine, or they whisper their stories amongst the leaves of the burrunin. They might now be silent stones on the bottom of the creek, with cool yungil, brown and sweet, running gentle fingers over their unfeeling skin. They could be those high, white yera, gathered way up in the big sky, that big arunyil up there. Maybe they are my family and friends and my kumiri back home, many days into the trees, at the place where the sun, Jalakun, first comes. We live, we die, we live we die, many times over. Maybe their gnarun are resting shapeless on that old woman Arrabrilya, waiting for me to go and talk to them. I will talk to them, one day, but not just now. I have not yet climbed the proper path up that Arrabrilya. I must wait for another time. I must wait for her to say dyin, yes, to me. Dyin. dyin. Come climb me, son of Goraama, son of the white feathered Kilgaran.

That Great Grandmother Arrabrilya sometimes speaks to me. Her voice is deep and wide and serene. Her breath cool and scented, rushes down from her high and secret places. She whispers softly in my ear, runs her teiarri, her wind fingers through my hair, or gently touches my skin with unseen fingers. But sometimes, she will pick me up in her cold arms and squeezing, make me laugh, taalak-talaak. She gives me her wisdom. We talk of rain and wind and sunshine, the stars, of birds, the animals, the secret pathways, the song-lines and the colours of Goolungyi, the land. We speak of the nothing and the something. We sing songs together, until I run out of breath. Sometimes, we don’t talk. And that’s just how it needs to be, too. It is also a time for no words, it is a time for silence, for the watching tulani and ulani.

When I sit quietly, all day long and look at her, I think she is the most beautiful Arrabrilya that I have ever seen. Jalakun will come and splash yellows and oranges and reds and all the warm in-between colours onto her seven faces, while the clouds kiss her old skin. She laughs and sighs as Jalakun and the yera move over her. They are all old friends. I watch them, as they talk, from the waters of the creek, floating around like an old brown leaf. Sometimes I hear them when I rest in the grass after hunting the quick kalu. And sometimes, it seems they all follow me as I look for tokens; for feathers or colourful leaves or the small bones of borang to take back to my promised one. When the yera are close to the ground they make my skin glisten, and then Jalakun warms me up.

Later, Jalakun will say goodbye to that Great Grandmother Arrabrilya and me, as he makes his way to somewhere else; to a place I haven’t yet been. Niguni comes. That’s when I lay down to dream. Sometimes, I dream about my kumiri, or my family and friends. Sometimes I dream about the burrunin and creeks and grass, and about the soft tdkil-tdkil, the birds and lizards, the kalu, and all the other brother and sister creatures of the land. I see how we are all connected. It is a time for connection, for yurru.

But sometimes, I dream about strange things and crying things. About new strangers to this land. About their strange faces and lore. I dream about things I can’t understand. I will wake up and think about what it means. That’s when I hear that Arrabrilya there talking to the stars and the moon about things I do not understand, and I look at her. She becomes coloured by the sometimes moon, that Ngaani, or by dark and moody yera full of rain. Yes, she is still beautiful. I think about my ending, and about where my gnarun will travel when my brown skin goes cold. Maybe I will be a tdkil-tdkil, brief and colourful, chasing each other through the seasons. Or I might be a leaf on a branch full of other leaves, dancing gently in the bright blue breeze. I could be a lizard, bursting with laughter at being tickled by illiwa, or a brief yera. Perhaps I might be something that abides a longer while, such as a big old gnarly burrunin, mellow and green. Or could it be that I will be a round stone in the deep part of the creek, solemn and singing quietly to myself. That would be good, too.

Great Grandmother Arrabrilya, says she has a place for me when I might be coming to an end. It is one of her high places near the feet of arunyil. Quiet and cool and full of blue air. I will stay awhile there, I am sure, and talk to the deepening shadows and visiting Jalakun. And then this arjit, this body will be gone with my people, who will take it back home, and it will turn to dust. But my gnarun might linger here for a while and chase the tdkil-tdki. I might sing all the songs I know in a no-more voice, then go gently to sleep for an age, in the arms of that Great Grandmother Arrabrilya there, before becoming something else; something new. I would like that. But, that time is not yet. For now, we talk together. And we think and dream and wait. She’s laughing softly even now, and I am happy. Euyanne! Euyanne, ka meninbrida!

I’ll go on waiting for a while and see if another dreamer happens by. It will be good to talk to them; to say, Nurwandana, hello, come sit with me. I will ask, ‘Tell me, where have you been and what have you seen. What did you dream?’



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Adam Brannigan

Adam Brannigan, Kuracca Prize winner, is a registered nurse, and unpublished author, currently living on the Sunshine Coast. He is undertaking a degree in Creative Writing and Publishing, part-time, and favours post-modern flash fiction and short story forms. Dystopia, surrealism and themes of cultural displacement inform his fables.

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