21 July, 2008

Desert Writings 3: Cantankerous Gorge

Written at Miller’s Flat, Day 2
I have named this canyon Cantankerous Gorge, because it is like a difficult personality that must be negotiated. It will offer you a little leaf of native sage, which you will crush and sniff and remember in association with a good roast goose, lace-edged napery and candelabra and amusing conversation and all, and then it will precipitate you down clefts and rough, tip-tilted steps of rock, or snatch the gravel out from under your feet, or catch and claw you with a piece of temper in the form of a thorny tree. It will offer you something indistinguishable from a daisy, but on a bush nothing like a daisy-bush from home, all fingery leaves and exploratory stalks, and then it will send along a buffeting wind, so that the ladies must hold their skirts tight about their legs to preserve their modesty, and the gentlemen snatch for their hats in case they should be lifted from their heads and thrown into some chasm, impossible of access, there to shelter no more than ants’ nests.

Here on the flat and surrounded by the honey-gum trees, it is difficult to credit how we struggled, on the high slopes covered with deceptively pillow-like growths of spinifex, in the low dank streambed all lumpish and uncomfortable with rocks both edged and round, where water belongs, not such as us, creatures of intellect, bipeds, clothed things and mannered.


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