The others left the track before me, choosing to scale up the low sand dune which grew off the side of the track. I kept going, drawn in by the corridor of tea trees that led me deeper into the heart of the big sand drift. The sandy track emerged into a windblown chute in the towering sand dunes. Beyond was an endless expanse of sand, sculpted by the winds that buffer this promontory. I’d expected there to be no other people here, it had always felt like our secret place. Somewhere in the near distance I could hear the sounds of people whooping and whistling as they slid down the steep face of sand dunes. I could see them in my mind’s eye, rolling and catapulting over themselves all the way to the bottom and then scrambling hand after foot back up to the top. Squinting into the sun, I could make out foot tracks, they crisscrossed the dune system below where I stood. More people; things must have changed. I hadn’t been back here for years, maybe ten or more.
Walking in giant steps down the slope, my eyes grow wide at the sight of a large soak (of water) in a depression in the sand dunes. Being early spring it makes sense for there to be water around, but having never been here in this season, to see water amongst sand dunes seems like a fantasy. Tracks from all directions lead to the edge of the soak. Bird tracks, roo tracks, but no human tracks. Confused, I look out again at all the tracks crisscrossing the landscape around me. Three toes imprinted in the sand glare up at me from the wet sand to my left. Three toes… three toes… ahh! I begin to follow these three-toed footprints away from the dunes. Countless other three-toed footprint tracks intersect the path that I am following.
Led away from the soak, I arrive at a group of acacias just as the emu tracks peter out. The thinnest sliver of a new moon sits low in the sky, making its final descent towards the dunes. This track that I’ve followed has brought me here, I feel a sense of having arrived somewhere. Scanning the area around me though, I wonder why it is that I have arrived here. Clambering up low sand hills I feel compelled to walk the edges of these sand sculptures. They are the embodiment of impermanence, providing (if any) only moments (or illusions) of stability. Wandering north to find my group, I feel called back. I am meant to be there. I look back and see the acacias that acknowledged my presence where I arrived. They are the only things in this landscape that have some kind of grip. So I descend and walk into their circle. Countless tiny seedlings shoot up from the sand, encircling a group of older trees of the same species. I walk forward and part the dense foliage of the older trees. Mossy growths inhabit the thick limbs of these trees and I can just make out what appears to be the ‘heart’ of the formation. Something about this situation feels familiar… the jigal mamara on the sand dune at Bindinyankun. What had appeared to be 10 or 15 trees growing out of the sand dune was actually one. I look deeper into the thick growth and see a dense tree trunk emanating from the dune. Tracing the branches, they all lead back to this central trunk. One tree. Standing within the spherical canopy of this acacia, I feel as though I am in a world. All round me native bees hum as they feed on the yellow flowers which are in bloom. This tree wanted to be seen, acknowledged, and there was a path that led me here.
I have always felt a strong pull by this place, since I was a young child. In my return there is a sense of having been called back. I am not sure why, but there is a strong resonance in my being with this place.
The faint sounds of ‘Coo-eee’ reach me before they are swallowed up by the sand. In the distance I see the silhouettes of three figures walking the ridge lines towards me. When we meet I ask them if they too feel a familiar sense of walking on the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail, across the pink dunes at Rujimon. When I think of this place as a home, a camping and hunting place (fresh water, animals to hunt, close to the coast), my feelings shift. Sensing the habitation of a place, the dwelling that is happening, or has happened, creates a profound shift in how I relate to that place. Place as home, it is an invocation, an opening for new things to emerge, new realities to be born.
We head north, back towards the farmland and the old coast banksias that fringe the path to this big sand drift. My eyes search the sand as we climb the dunes, and there they are…
… Small messages lying in the sand that this place is home.
Images by Hayley Bunting