I have been reading lately. A lot. Doing my homework in preparation for this upcoming trip. I've read stories about how the Australian landscape was made. Stories about how the stars came to be in the heavens. Stories about piles of rocks on wide-open expanses that I'll probably never see. When I read them, they seem like overly simplistic accounts intended for children, which I guess they are.

I suppose it's what I should expect from a story I'm only just now starting to learn, about a place I've never been to. When my mother first told me about sex she didn't exactly fill in all the particulars from the beginning. Instead she let the details unfold as I did: one experience at a time.


I have a pile of books to go at least eight more that I hope to read before embarking. I've learned more about the exploits of Aboriginal men, from ritual to daily life than perhaps an Aboriginal woman would know. I've learned more about the horrors of white men, from ritual abuse to independent cruelty than I've ever wanted to know. I've learned about a few nice gents too. But there have been no women stories. Apart from one story by a white woman which I am continually reminded by didjeridu elders is forbidden. And I'm ever more uncertain about what is sacred and what is real. And ever more certain that everything I've read to date is completely out of context.

After reading the last one, I called my mother and said, "Mom, do you have the handwritten stories that were photo copied and saved for us by our ancestors?" It was with urgency that I asked her this.

What is becoming apparent to me in my study of Aboriginal culture is that the best way to learn about these people is to learn about my own. Because the origin of myself is the origin of all humankind, depending on how far back you go. At some point, our stories merge; it is inevitable. But I can't bridge understanding by swinging from branch to branch on humankind's family tree. If I don't know how the tree is constructed, I'm very likely to unwittingly grab a broken limb and come crashing down. My new method is then, to climb down a little from the branch that I'm on and investigate another view from where our common limbs diverge.

In other words, get myself into context first.

After that, I think I'll discover how we are related.