I have just returned from a Desert Writers walk lead by Raymond Hawkins of Into the Blue Creative Walks with writing workshops facilitated by Sydney based author Jan Cornall. The walk took us along sections of the Larapinta trail through some of the most beautiful country in the world. Lying in my swag on a dry riverbed on the first night surrounded by red river gums awash with milky moonlight, I heard a dingo approach. I stiffened, hardly daring to breathe. I felt him sniff the back of my head, then, as if warning others of our intrusion, he let out a high-pitched yelp and disappeared up the embankment and into the darkness. I will never forget that wild dingo encounter, or the profound silence, or the countless stars in the black canopy, or the mopoke calling all night long, or the colours of boulders, rocks and gorges, or the satin smooth skin of the ghost gums. I have never seen so much variation in the colour of rock before from subtle hues of mauve to bright orange to burnt umber to yellow ochre.
Morning teas, lunches, afternoon teas, dinners were all taken care of, so we were free to walk, to muse and take in the wonder of this ancient land. For five days I was completely in the moment, the closest Ive ever come to being in the Now. Jan led us through three writing workshops a day. Some in the group were amazed at the words and stories that they discovered deep inside themselves. We were 12 strangers brought together through our love of writing and country.
A defining moment for me was when I connected with the character of my brand new novel. I hadnt felt her inside me until I sat up in a red river gum in a giant nest of old leaves and twigs that the last big rains had left behind.
I highly recommend this journey to any writer, no matter where you are on your writing path. And don’t think that you are too old – Malcolm turned 83 on the walk. On a practical level, I came away with four full synopses for the quadrilogy Ive begun working on. On a deeper level, I feel a love for this ancient land, a love that was first aroused when I took a school trip to the red Centre in Year 12. And now, more than ever, I hold tremendous respect for the local aboriginal people who are fighting so hard to keep their land and their culture.
I would like to thank Herman, elder of the Arunda Tribe and his wife Mavis for welcoming us to their land.