Problems and Solutions
Chapter 17

Patrick was asleep when he became part of the Dreaming. The Dreaming is many things in one. Among them, it is a kind of narrative of things that once happened; a kind of character of things that are still happening; and a kind of logos or principle of order transcending everything significant for Aboriginal man. It is cosmogony, an account of the start of the universe, a story about creation. It is also a cosmology, an account of how creation became an ordered system. Patrick thought how the universe became a moral system. And he fit that system to the moral system that is the Law.

Still asleep, Patrick saw Old Pundu, the Cod, whose duty it was to drag and create the river we know as the Darling River today. And Cod came out with Mudlark, his mate, and they set off from the north and they created the big river. That water flows right through our country, right into the sea. That was done by Guthi-guthi, the spirit of our ancestral being, he lived up in the sky but he came down because he wanted to create the special land for people and animals and birds to live in.

All this country was also created, the first two tribes to be put in our country were Eaglehawk and Crow. And from these two tribes came many tribal people, many tribes, today’s sub-groups. The Ngiyaampaa people and the Barkandji further down are all sub-groups of Eaglehawk and Crow. Even the Kullila in Queensland.

When Patrick woke up, Rachel was sleeping beside him. But he recalled telling the story of Eaglehawk and Crow when he was by the Darling, beside Lake Menindee, and how Crow became black. And Patrick recalled that the waratah became red from the blood of the pigeon separated from her mate. It was a bit past seven. Too early to be up and about.

Why was he thinking about the Dreamtime? Only a week ago he’d been near the Darling. The waratah was the emblem of New South Wales. Did that mean anything? Did it matter? Would his serpent let him know? Goorialla was the great Rainbow Serpent. What sort of being was Guthi-guthi? Patrick recalled that Guthi-Guthi had two assistants in creating the land. Who were they? Was it like the Titans, preceding the Olympian gods? The Titans were born of Chaos or of Chronos and Ananke – Time and Necessity. Or should it be Fate? The Iliad says that everything was born of Oceanus. Hesiod has a whole catalogue. Earth, Sky, Mountains ... But they were strange. Darkness and Night; Light and Day. Why two pairs? Mozart made more sense: Sorastro and the Queen of the Night.

There were 12 Olympians: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Hermes, and Hestia. Some lists included Dionysus, but that’s wrong. The Twelve were born of Chronos and Rhea; Dionysus was born of Zeus and Semele, he was but a demigod.”

“Are you awake?”

“Yes, I was thinking.”

“You were making strange noises.”

“I had strange dreams. About the Dreamtime and about the Titans and Olympians.”

“Was it the serpent?”

“I don’t know. It was puzzling.”

“Are you getting up?”

“I think so. Do you remember how everything begins in Norse?”

“The melting ice in the Gap solidifies into Ymir. And while he sleeps a son and a daughter grow from his armpits. Joyce reuses it in Finnegans Wake.”

“Mmm. What’s today’s agenda?”

“I need to call Al. We should do several days worth of shopping. Nothing else is pressing. You?”

“I was thinking of inviting Gordy here.”

“You want me to make dinner?”

“Why not? And that way I can talk to him.”

“Let’s have breakfast and then make our family calls.”

It was past ten when Rachel called Al; Patrick took the opportunity to call his father.

“Did I wake you?”

“Is that intended to be humorous?”

“I guess not. Anyway, we’d like to have dinner with you ... No, not out, here ... Yes. We decided that we were out too much ... Either tonight or tomorrow ... Oho! A hot date! ... Do you have any preferences, we’re off to market in a bit ... That sounds fine ... Anytime after 1700. But we won’t eat until after 1900. Sure. See you tomorrow, then.”

Patrick got off. Going to a lecture at Macquarie with Sandra? Weird.

“Dad’s off to a lecture at Macquarie today, so it’ll be dinner tomorrow.”

“I should have realized he’d be interested! I didn’t think of it.”

“Explain, please.”

“Maquarie’s giving a series of three Saturday sessions on anaphylaxis. Being an entomologist, this would be right up Gordy’s alley.”

“Oh. Right. Allergic shock. You know, if I’m going to places like Sturt and the Darling, I should do a first aid course. Do you know anything about them?”

“No. But it can’t be hard to find out. I know St. John Ambulance gives courses. Just Google them.”

“Let’s shop first. What will you serve tomorrow?”

“Japanese, I think. Rice, chicken katsu, and two vegetables. Beer with the meal.”

“Soup first?”

“Yes. Miso, I think. And we can get vanilla ice cream for desert. I’ll serve it with preserved ginger.”

“Sounds good. We can have salad and cheese for lunch today and tomorrow and something simple for dinner today.”

“Whatever honorable husband commands.” Rachel bowed.

“Clever wench! Do you know the story of Kandarik, the kangaroo man?”


“In the beginning, when the Ancestral Heroes were making the land and the laws, they could change at will, from human to animal forms. Kandarik, who was making the laws for turning youth into men through the Ubar ceremony made a wooden drum which was so secret that no woman or uninitiated youth was even allowed to hear its sound, much less to see the drum.

“And as Kandarik made the drum, he made the ceremony called the ‘Ubar’, which he decreed must always be performed whenever the drum was sounded.”

“I get it! Making and striking the drum are part of the maturing ceremony. Like in ‘Winter’s Tale’... ‘the art itself is nature’. So making the drum is making the ceremony, part of which is striking the drum.”

“Exactly. So am I python or husband?”

“Both and neither.”

They went marketing.

While they were out, Rachel thought about the fruits and vegetables. “Gombrich wrote that Cubism was ‘the most radical attempt to stamp out ambiguity and to enforce one reading of the picture—that of a man-made construction, a colored canvas.’ But Braque said ‘Painting is not depicting. Verisimilitude is merely an illusion.’ And they were both talking about the same thing.”


“Look at a recognized masterpiece, say Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a pearl earring’. What is it? It’s a man-made colored construction, as Gombrich says. And it is merely an illusion. In fact, in a Platonic sense the picture is an imperfect attempt at representing a shadow on the cave wall.”

“Very heavy. Do you really want it to be that deep?”

“I think so. Otherwise all of art, from the handprints to Turner, is just a sequence of attempts at verisimilitude, reaching its goal with photography and color photography is the epitome – the nec plus ultra.”

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