Lake Cargelligo is a natural overflow basin for the Lachlan River. For thousands of years, it was a ceremonial, and practical, meeting place. The locals used to source red and yellow ochres for body paint from pits near the lake's edge. The remains of these pits can still be seen. I learned all this as I walked around part of the perimeter of the lake, pushing William in his stroller, reading the signs that have been erected explaining the history of the lake.
It was one of those quiet, still afternoons that seem to go on forever. There was faint sunshine and the birds were milling about the lake doing what they were doing yesterday and I could hear a tractor or some piece of farm machinery buzzing in the far distance.
I walked on.
Australia has been inhabited by Europeans for 218 years last January, I thought. Most of the country, including here, much later. That's the blink of an eye.
The stroller crunched in the gravel and we rounded a tiny inlet in the lake.
My grandfather died at 98 years two years ago. One and a half lifetimes more of that length would have exceeded the entire history of European settlement, I thought.
We enjoy our traditions, celebrate our backgrounds, hold on to our Irishness or Italianness or Indianness or wherever we came from that blink of an eye ago ... , I thought, walking on and reading another sign about the birds that congregate on an island in the middle of the lake in winter, having flown from China or Japan or somewhere. ... But what happens to thousands of years of Aboriginal tradition? Who celebrates it? Does it evaporate? Does it sink into the soil? Do a bunch of broken, alcoholic aborigines on a mission somewhere dream about it at night? Does someone write it down?
I walked on and the pelicans sat on the lake and pointed their beaks at nothing. They might know. I don't.