Helen Sheil (October 1999)
The day I first saw the dragon
sparkled with spring sunshine.
I’d gone to the creek to walk with local people
to better glimpse their dreams.
They were new acquaintances
but felt like old friends.
Rather like my husbands’ son
who I’d recently met when he was 26.
So like his father
it was difficult not to assume
a knowledge and closeness.
That had no foundation
in his life experience.
The night before we walked
thunder had rolled
and clapped right on the town,
then rain and on sunset, a rainbow
both ends here in Nowa Nowa.
The earth by the creek had that smell
of damp rotting life
a smell I’d forgotten existed
working as I then did amongst
concrete paths and buildings with air conditioners.
The smell instantly linked my memory
to home and love and heartbreak.
Of days walking along our track
by the Cabbage Tree Creek
with babies and goats
of clematis in canopies over the tree ferns
above our heads.
All this came in with my breath
stopping me in my tracks.
As the memories expanded
threatening to escape
in words and stories
to these people who were showing
me their place.
I had to stop myself.
It was their time to talk.
So I looked, walked and listened
noted trees, flowers, fairy dells and houses,
and grand amphitheaters for local performances.
Heard children’s voices by the river.
‘You can plant the garden.’
An offer made to a partner in a new venture.
A gift of new opportunities.
We passed the cherry trees
a gift from the Shire
given without discussion
and received with dubious delight.
Room for improvement in that relationship
but invisibility no longer the issue.
as the community planned and worked together.
We spoke of guardians of the rivers
wondering about words
to better reflect the soul of this place.
Coming from other countries were stories
of trolls under the bridge. Maybe bunyips?
But they didn’t quite fit the bridge over Boggy Creek.
Kippling’s stories of evil growing greenness
needed adapting to the Southern Hemisphere
into the life and vibrancy of spring.
the time before flys and mozzies.
of blossoms along the river
bringing the fish and birds.
The sky blue and the bush green.
Conversations moved to other people and places
of families. Of stories that didn’t get written.
Talking of life, we also talked of death.
Of ways we grieve.
This time there was a space
for emotions to surface.
Then a time to sit quietly
By the water.
It was then we saw the Snowy River Dragon
Here on the arm of Lake Tyers
Beautiful greens and yellows
on the spikes and scales
shining in the sun
yet disguised by the country
to which it belongs.
A liberating day,
the day I met first met the water dragon.