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Murrary Darling Basin Commision Australian National University

Keeper of the Strathbogies

21st  August, 2009  Strathbogie Ranges
Mountain Face

There are no signposts. The track from the picnic spot at Moonie Moonie Creek is its own advertisement. A trail of black soil shaped by the tread of thousands of boots draws the eye to a formidable slope at the edge of the Strathbogie Ranges. No need for a mud map. The footpath meanders through the eucalypt forest like Indian ink on crumpled paper. School children shepherded by teachers with abseiling ropes, stern bushwalkers with trim packs, family groups in need of therapy have taken this route to …

Halfway up the incline there is a perfect place to take breath and stock. The proposal to pause is forcefully put by several granite boulders – massive forms that pull on the imagination. Here the air is definitely fresh, cut on-site by hundreds of lanceolate leaves. The path fans out to become a rest area. An inch from its perimeter the undergrowth resumes its vigour to camouflage a cosmos of miniature life. There are also lookout points to other far away places.

Here at the resting place in the midst of this cascading landscape is the perfect position for a Gate. It’s not a ‘typical’ gate. It has no latch; there are no hinges; there is no fence. Consequently it is easy (especially if your body is focused on the thrill of free-fall; or moving briskly to the ‘top’; or holding a camera steady) to walk through the Gate unaware that a boundary has been crossed. Fortunately, this Gate, such as it is, has a Keeper.

The Keeper of the Gate is also easy to overlook. This is no failing on the Keeper’s part for it is not the Keeper’s role to confront or obstruct. The Keeper stands ground for no other reason than for ‘being-so’ and ‘knowing-so’. The Keeper of the Gate on this side of the Strathbogies is manifest as a mountain face.

Mt Face 01 lr

Mountain Face, Strathbogie Range, East Lima

Were it not for this anthropomorphic rock the idea of a Gate Keeper would rarely, if ever, arise; and hence the awareness of a Gate itself; and in turn by its realisation that a boundary exists; and when the boundary is crossed that one enters into ‘another place’.

Naturally, the mountain face that signifies the Gate Keeper does not perceive the world through its crudely rendered sensory organs. The eyes, mere slits, have been sealed since its first appearance. Delicate tissue (like our eyes) is of no use on a mountain face. There is a faint suggestion of a nose or the place where it might have been. In all probability it was cast aside aeons ago to cheat the inevitable attention of vandals. The lower lip survives, cracked and weathered, still protruding from the formation of an ancient utterance that was never delivered. The ears, flattened by a grinding birth, are clogged with an infusion of flesh-pink quartz.

In the light of these observations it would be a mistake to regard the mountain face, the apparition of the Keeper of the Gate, as nothing but an unknowing mask. There is a matrix of igneous minerals that links every point of the face to the vast mountain core that extends for kilometres into the Earth – billions upon billions of disciplined crystals jostling for action. The vibrations from every foot that has passed through the Gate, passed by the Gate Keeper, and crossed over the boundary, are registered in every detail. Maintaining this register is the business of the Keeper of the Gate.

(To be continued)

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