She is looking for an answer.
Picking up her teacup she artfully swirls the last of the leaves. And waits. When they settle she will know. If it will be blue skies or grey. If fate is drawing near. If tomorrow is something to fear. Either way, she will know.
Today I’m ignited. On a genetic trajectory. Born in the tea leaves and burned in the unforgiving Australian outback. Like the trains that once ran regularly to the outposts, to the folks who were determined to imprint an alternative story on the Australian landscape, the route is no longer serviced. No one in my family has tread this path for 60 years.
I’m a wary explorer.
Armchair anthropologist at best. Taking the richness of the mythology and stuffing into my cushions. So I can sit more comfortably while I ingest. While I make it mine. While I read a chapter and dog ear a page. You know. To come back to later. When I’m up to it. Maybe skipping the end completely. Absolutely.
Skipping the ending, it never happened. Another book I didn’t finish. A historical re authoring maybe. An alternative version of her life. The version where the future me is a thought that keeps her from the darkness. The version she didn’t read in the tea leaves.
They said she was a dancer. I didn’t inherit that skill. They said she was born for the stage. Or that one either. They said she loved to wear costumes. That would be a negative on all counts.
Today I have my trusty guide. My Muse. Three generations on and I’m staring into the face of another myth maker. Long legged and theatrical, drawing out the story with her probing curiosity. Unafraid of the unchartered territory ahead. And purposefully guiding the way with her handy GPS oracle.
We make good time. Only 6 or 7 hours until we have arrived. At the middle of nowhere, at the heart of everywhere and near the end of the unfinished book. We have handwritten instructions. In archaic Victorian cursive. They are specific. Buried between the Catholics and the Anglicans but not with the paupers or the Aborigines. No head stone. Just a number.
Ida is a number.
Is that the number of the days she has lain alone between the Catholics and the Anglicans? Or the number of drops of rain that have fallen on the red gravel that covers her? Or is it the number of steps that led her to her dusty death? Or the number of times her name has passed between the lips of those who remember her? Partially, sadly, incompletely. It’s just a number.
We wonder aloud. We ask questions of the earth that holds her. We find her number incomprehensible. And we ask her to answer. To claw back the time between us and add body to the bones. To finish what was started. To make the mythology corporeal.
Here lies Ida Lavinia Craig. Not lost. Still looking for an answer.