Every so often, if I’m not careful with my feet, I find that I have clicked my heels together and landed somewhere completely other. Not Berlin, 1939, the Hitler salute. Not that sort of heel-click.
But not Kansas, either.
If they could see me now, that little gang of mine, by this campfire, in this twilight, starving after a day’s hiking, relieved after liberating a day’s worth of piss into my trowel-dug commode — but I know they can’t. Never will. Don’t care to.
The fire flickers. It warps the air above and around and makes the gum leaves hum. Spinifex — the only thing that can tame the sand’s tyranny — holds it down so it may not shift and sting our eyes.
I have just heard the rhythm of the dark-eyed children, fierce freedom streaming from their drumming palms. They help me set up my swag. Their footfall is so light I think it leaves no mark.
I’m a trekker on someone else’s land.
One touches my curls and says she likes them. I ask if I may touch too and gently wind her hair through my fingers.
Distinct from the little gang, my mother — missed these past eighteen months — would have understood it all entirely. In her own mirror, she would have seen me struggling over rocks, determined but uncoordinated. Like her. She would have marvelled at the way I had learned to pick Spinifex out of my socks without ripping them.
But her heart would have stopped for an arctic moment when she saw that, without being taught, I also knew how to husband my water until the next rest-stop. Better than most. Having imbibed it somehow. My parents had learned that trick on forced marches. A different country. Another time. No rest stops.
Yet out here, in the fire-lit silence of the land, I know my mother can see me now.