Night songs

Murdudun is a place with strong women’s energy. Each time I walk into this camp I feel a flood of nurturing energy. Walking into this camp with my sister and women friends in July, my sense of this as a women’s place deepened. Many of us began our monthly cycles within hours of being there. There is a story about three women at a place just down the beach called Murdjal. Their miligan (digging sticks) live there now, on a small sandy knoll, in the form of three prostrate murga (saltwater paperbark trees). I had heard the story about these women (they live very close by in the form of three rocks at Lija) many times before, but had never known where their miligan had ended up. But this is a whole other story for another time…

Each year Humback whales swim north through the waters off the coast of Murdudun and Walmadany (right up the Dampier Peninsula), giving birth to their calves, playing and teaching them how to be proper whales. Friends of mine who are undertaking the Kimberley Community Whale Research Project at Murdudun told me a story about a night of strange sounds and songs, right before they started the project for the year.

They had been sleeping in their camps, dotted along the cliff tops and sheltered under mamagen, marool and gubinj trees, when strange sounds began filtering through the bush. Each person who told me this story struggled to mimic the sounds; some were high pitched, others were deep and guttural, but all were followed by a loud slapping of the water’s surface. It was a still night and the strange singing drew people out of their tents and swags, over to the cliff edge. The tide was high, lapping at the red pindan cliffs and there, not far from shore were whales in song, filling the night air with these mysterious sounds.

I carried this story with me to Walmadany, the next traditional buru (camping place) along the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail. It was a full moon the night we camped there. I dragged my swag up onto the high dunes where I could see all around – the monsoonal vine thicket to the east, north and south and the ocean to the west. I felt a balance when the moon rose from the mayi (bush) and the sun set into the ocean.

A perfect stillness, the water was like a sheet of glass. The breathless sunset turned into a still night.

Only the sounds of a fire burning, night insects and me writing in my journal, settled in around me in my dune top camp.

Then faint whispers reached my ears. The promise of a night song or a trick of the mind still racing with stories from Murdudun? But they were there, singing. The high pitched song, then the deep guttural sound and the slaps. The high tide and breathless night allowed this whale music to drift up the dunes. In my own stillness I was able to hear it, feel it resonating in my gut. How do we feel connected to something we don’t always see it? Maybe we can hear something, even if it is quiet to our ears, our body can feel the resonance deep within. Was this night at Walmadany a kind of encounter? Do the whales even realise we are here? I was grateful that the deep groans I could feel and hear were coming from these beautiful mammals, creating new life, unlike last year when it was a giant drilling rig groaning in their place. And the full moon, how wonderful to be kept away by the beaming light of the full moon and not the flood lights at the Woodside compound. All around us I felt a creation energy. Life perpetuating and us somehow part of that cycle as we walk this country as one mob.

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