As they get nearer, the mountain that emerges from the surrounding bushland reveals itself to be a cluster of tightly grouped stony hills. There is no apparent entrance but he has been here before and pulls off the dirt road that has taken them about two hundred kilometres from the coast. Soon a rough track shows itself as two faint wheel ruts that appear and disappear up the side of the hills. Large stones and ditches cause the vehicle to sway and dip as it climbs slowly upwards.
This is their first trip together and she has never been here before. She doesn’t say anything but he senses her excitement. The Toyota reaches a gap between two hills and they begin a steep decline through thick bushes and washed out waterways. The spring sky is clear and the air already warm but in a thickly aromatic way that makes his head swim. Gradually they emerge into a small valley nestled and hidden between the hills. A fading bed of green cloaks the valley floor and gum trees grow out of empty creek beds.
“Oh God,” she says. They park at the foot of a trickling waterfall and he takes her hand and helps her up the ragged red rocks towards the top. “Look,” he says and there on a rock beside her she can make out a faded Aboriginal etching. Then she notices that they are all around her. The two of them sit down on a boulder and the valley stretches east and west below them. She doesn’t say anything and he is glad. He hates the banality of language and how it pollutes beauty, how inadequate words hang over the indescribable and tarnish it with the prosaic. He feels her hand on the small of his back.
Later they make their way back to the homestead. “You love all this, don’t you?” she says.
He nods. “I do, I always have.” Then he adds, “It’s my country.” And she knows he doesn’t mean Australia, only this small part of it where he grew up and where she met him when they were still teenagers. When the next question comes, he is not even surprised. “Did you used to bring your wife here?” she asks. It has become important to her this knowledge. It insinuates itself into everything that is important to her and him; into everything that she wants to make her own. She has a need for a new history with him, not one that is shared. He understands this even though they don’t talk about it.
“No,” he answers. There is a silence and he can feel her longing to know more but also that she is slightly afraid of spoiling this moment. “My wife loved beautiful things,” he says, “but she didn’t have time for beauty.” He reaches out and touches her hand. “You’re different.” She clasps his hand and looks out the window and says, “Don’t talk” and he senses emotion coursing through her like a tide that stops her speech.
He remembers that there is a flat ground in some low hills not far away where you can still make out the outline of strange lines of gathered stones. A black stockman told him once that the Aboriginal people around here used to spend weeks making the intricate patterns and colours and then one day they would just dance all over them. He will take her there tomorrow. She will understand how beauty is not always for keeping and how you can dance it away and how not holding it makes it grow more beautiful still.
He suddenly wants to tell her that he loves her but then he realises that he loves everything.