There was a man lived in a banyan tree. A hunter. A painter.
His people had lived all around – in huts, caves, all places.
But he lived in a banyan tree.
His brothers were beside him, the roots making room for solitude when a man would need it.
Dancers they were, all three.
Come nights when all the souls would reach for what made them one, the man and his brothers would take the sap from the milkwood and the red ochre from the earth and paint the land upon their skin. In honour and in celebration.
And their uncle would bring the branches of the eucalypt to sing through the night around his lasting breath. So that the fire glowed with stories and the colours and shapes that were on the skin and in the skin and around the skin danced for all the nights and days that had ever been.
And the man was not a man but part of a winding river that reached through time and joined him to his brothers and his mother and her people and his father and his father’s brothers and all the blood that had made him. And the river flowed through the roots of the banyan tree and over the flood plains and across the wetland and down estuaries until it reached the ocean. And the ocean’s water lapped against the land and knew it and felt it breathe and stretch as it always had. And always would.
But then some came who were only men.
Men who did not belong to the land but blindly thought that it could belong to them. And they did not listen to the earth, the trees, the animals – but to their own dry voices that could crack the wind and lie in harsh rough pebbles on the precious ground. Pebbles that remained. In stark unearthly colours. That animals would shy from and the dirt and sand and clay would never welcome. Pebbles that were cold and bitter and hard.
And more came. More men who were only men. More foreign pebbles on the wide brown land.
And soon the red earth was hidden beneath something that was not from it.
And the trees fell. And the long grass lay down and died. And the birds called and called for what they knew until their voices were thin and lonely and only a few shrill songs were left to echo off the stony ground.
But the oceans held the land and soothed it as it sighed at the veil of stones, the naked fields, the pining creatures. And the rivers flowed when the rain came. And the sun beat down through all the cracks between the pebbles.
And the banyan tree grew and grew and grew.
And come the night that all the souls reached for what made them one, the colours and the shapes danced as they always had. On skin, in skin, around skin. And the blood that had made the men of the banyan tree flowed through them into the heart of the red land that beat beneath the pebbles.
And the music of the trees, the creatures – the voices of the land – sang a tribute, sang an anthem, sang a lullaby. And the earth breathed beneath them and the sky yawned above them.
And the land said that it was forever.
As long as those that were part of it could hold on.