We’re deep in eclipse season, between portals, my email tells me. This patch of early winter holds promise, bookended by the disappearance of the moon, followed by the sun. I thought I missed the blood moon eclipse. I caught a glimpse after dinner, between Ruth’s front door and our car. A copper marble, tossed between trees. We went to bed early. I woke later, crawled over my baby, asleep beside me. The bathroom was lit from above by alien light, a shaft of silver on our dirty tiles. Skylight. I sat on the toilet and looked up. It hurt to look, but there it was, directly above. The light pooled around the drain in the middle of the room. Our damaged drain, sunken and damp where the tiles have been eaten away. A passage for nocturnal slugs and carapaced slaters. Slick trails under moonlight. Like tidal foam on sand.
I’d like to pay enough attention to the moon that I can blame things on it. Make a monthly moon ritual, a ceremony of blame. I love the idea of rituals, and I keep some. Anxious ones: check the gas knobs before I leave the house. Knock on wood (one two three four one two three four one two three four five times, with fingertips). Reverent ones: visits to the dusty Nyngan graveyard, far from the ocean but close to the river, where plastic flowers barely outlast fresh ones under the beating heat of desert sunlight. I’m always moved to see our names on Grandma’s grave. Her grown grandchildren. Still unnamed are the great-grandchildren, one of them my small son. Grandma’s already an ancestor. I think ancestors are worthy of ritual. For them, I could look to the moon—kiyan, in my ancestors’ language. I don’t speak it, but I’m collecting words. Every day I pick at the ties that bind me to my settler blood and weave them into words born of Country. My baby, my pipi. My kaya, my mother. Me. Ngurrampa. Birthplace. My place of birth. The place where I birthed. Neither is my Country. But both are home.
Here’s a ritual: the pink flannel flowers I collected on Gundungarra and Dharug country and left on Wangaaypuwan land, Anaiwan land. Brought to the graves of those who should have lived to see them. In offering, in remembrance. Actinotus forsythii in settler tongue. I can’t find its true name. I even left one on the graves of our dead dogs, buried out the back of 263. The painted burial markers were pulled out because the real estate people said they’d put off potential buyers. Dad left a star picket. I left a flower. Truthfully, I’m still conflicted about taking those flowers from their Country, leaving them to seed themselves on foreign soil. But that’s what I am. That’s Mum. Grandma. My son. Seeds in foreign soil. I brought my homes together, like palms in prayer, with flowers whose seeds won’t sprout. These seeds wait. Do you know about those flowers? Brought to life by bushfire. Mass blooming, once in a lifetime. I took my baby to see them. At first we couldn’t find them. I expected Oz. My skirt caught on blackened branches. Swipes of charcoal on cream lace. They were dying. But they were there. Dry clouds. Look closer. Do you ever look so hard at something you forget how to see? Julian calls it ‘Big Ben Syndrome’. He told me about seeing the clocktower while traveling. As he walked away, he turned and glanced back, again and again, waiting for impact. You don’t have to soak things in until the point of saturation. You can just look, and leave.
The moon does that to me.
You can turn anything into ceremony. Sometimes in the mornings I put records on, light incense that makes my head hurt. I pick up my baby and we sway around the lounge room till the sun recedes, then I make coffee. To be truthful I’ve only done this once or twice, but it feels like an event worth repeating. Like a memory in motion. My baby, my sun. Born into water, daylight peeking through the blinds.
Between eclipses, as one season surrenders to another, I take my baby to the park, like I do most days. We find our tree, the one with the best autumn leaves, the final few now giving way to winter sky. These leaves are the best because they crunch but don’t crumble. My son scrunches them in his chubby little hands before they meet his mouth. My mother told friends she’d let her children play with razor blades if it kept them occupied. “They didn’t get it,” she said. I do. I don’t think the leaves are toxic, but sometimes I wonder.
I pack books for the park. We rarely read them. A neglected ritual. There is one he seems to like; it’s called Kissed by the Moon. I always pause on the page with all the flowers. He bangs it with fat open palms. On the way home I pick him a pink geranium, as bright as the book. He eats that, too. I can’t tell you what phase the moon is in right now. But I can tell you about the sun. In a few days, the email tells me, the eclipse portal will close. I can’t tell you what it means but if you want you can go outside and see it for yourself. But you have to promise not to stare. You have to promise not to stare as the moon consumes the sun.