Chapter 36: Always Fashionable

The next morning a three-day southerly buster blows in, with strong gusting winds, low cloud and hard-driven sheets of bucketing rain. Getting to the 10 am gathering from their various places of employment in the outbuildings, everyone is thoroughly drenched. Horses and cattle standing in the entrance drip dry… cats variously wash or rub each other down with small travel towels. Bedraggled hens fluff up, while ducks, surrounded by an air of watery entitlement, preen and re-oil.

Through the steamy, sauna-like atmosphere, Stan mutters to Billy, “Smell those wet dogs! Phew.! There’s nothing like a wet dog to put a niff in the air, and the whole bunch of them together! Well… where’s the air freshener!”

“Hey, steady on you ungulates… us dogs put a niff in the air? That’s a great joke, that is. You’re a fractious lot just trying to make trouble. There’s only a few of you, but you pong the place out if it comes to that,’ says Patch, dancing and chanting “The goat that reeks on yonder hill, has dined all day on chlorophyll…”

Bess echoes thematically, “You stink from A to Z – nearly as bad as some people I’ve met. It’s best to put your own house in order before getting your nostrils in a twist.”

Chest high, legs wide, with a nod of the head Terror offers, “Let’s make something of it eh! Step outside and we’ll see who’s the most malodorous…”

“That,” says Ginger, “will be enough friendly camaraderie and banter”

“Actually,” Molly intervenes, “I rather like the assorted smells of the barnyard, or in this case fragrances in the great hall. It’s natural and healthy. We cows take it for granted, and you know we’ve great smell-ability. For generations we’ve sorted our own calf from others…” Pausing, a sad, wistful look crossing her face, Molly continues, “Of course, with the big herds and factory farming this never happens nowadays… pity… it’s not right or decent, or anything like natural any more.”

Phantaloom, leaning close to Ginger, whispers “Let’s forestall any more nonsense before those dogs bristle again.”

With a nod of assent Ginger says, “The box had a lot of ideas in it; including that we enlist the help of marine animals, or hire boats. Both could be viable means of getting to the island, but there are difficulties. Logistically we need to be in control of our movement to the island, able to travel quickly and at will as necessary. Delays and breakdowns are too likely with others involved, and enrolling people to assist may be foolhardy in the extreme. The less mankind know about us, and what we are doing - the better.

“That leaves us with one suggestion to explore - although it may turn out to be a pipe dream. A chimera, illusion without substance, a preternatural, fanciful conception! Anyway, Whitey-Black will explain.”

The large-framed, lightly covered Friesian bull, wearing a big cap on backwards, moves quietly out of his comfortable, clean, straw covered stall – where he has been enjoying chewing the cud from his morning grazing. Facing his diverse family from the rostrum, clearing his throat, he says, “Ahem…Well, what can I say. This is a bit surprising really. It didn’t occur to me for a minute that my suggestion might be taken seriously.”

Whitey-Black pauses, and Basil calls, “Tell us about your cap, WB.”

“Oh yes, my cap. Well that’s as good a place as any to start. Can you all see what it says across the back? ‘Hang loose.’ Okay.” With a quick toss of his head up and right, WB flicks the cap off, spinning it 180 degrees. He catches it with a deft thrust to his left. Now the peaked front faces his audience. He acknowledges the quiet round of applause, inclining his head to the leaders. He continues, “The legend across the front says ‘Loose unit’…that pretty much sums me up. ‘Hang loose – Loose unit‘. It’s a gestalt… expressing a wholeness of intent and vision. It’s a challenge; a metaphorical statement; a quizzical expression, or perhaps as someone suggested to me, a new paradigm from which to explore reality.

“I’ve been in the paddocks by the highway when I’ve overheard people comment about me.” Smiling wistfully, Whitey-Black explains, “When you’ve seen me wobbling about as if I were drugged, it wasn’t grass staggers or sleepy sickness. You’ve come to talk with me and didn’t get a reply!! Well that’s because I was in a state like Jo was on the beach. She didn’t know what had happened to her and was puzzled as much as Gus was.

“I wrote as my suggestion, ‘Let’s go journeying to the island by entering the “earth kingdom”’. Simple eh! These days that world is better known as middle earth – different name, but not the only other name for the same place. Anyway, how I discovered the earth kingdom happened like this. I’m chatting with a friend one day, and right out of the blue he says to me ‘I’m a Shaman. You didn’t know that I guess!’

“We discussed this surprising declaration and the upshot was – before long I’m journeying with his guidance. Now I journey as I wish. It’s when I’m out of my body, but my physical body is still here in the paddock or stall. If you come to talk with me in the instant before I return there seems to be nothing there… then as the journeying me returns I may shake and tremble. It’s not surprising that people comment. It’s quite frightening and takes a bit of getting used to, even when you know what’s happening. Now I reckon this means of getting to the island is fast, and no one else is involved. It could work.”

Stunned silence follows Whitey’s explanation.

Sighing Angeline, plucking a soft down feather from her bottom, releases it from the tip of a high raised wing. Swiisshh… kerrplonkk…

Questions, thoughts, come fast and are many.Winky, Pippin, Jo – indeed all the cats, are particularly curious. “For heaven’s sake, the very idea – it’s so like what I do when I’m reading for people,’ says Gypsy. “I’m off journeying in my mind. Visiting places, individuals, communities – listening, watching the action and seeing the lie of the land. And you mean to tell me there’s a science of journeying! A deliberate exploring and travelling, going and doing in other places. Then back home to a normal physical world.”

“Yep - that’s right Gypsy. It plumbs the mystical and magical, the paranormal. But as my friend who explained it to me said, ‘What many people think of as reality barely touches the surface of the power, mystery and grandeur of the world – and the universe.’ Who knows with certainty? I certainly don’t! The exploration is the thing,” continues Whitey-Black. “We could practice journeying, and we have time to do it.”

A palpable, pulsating hush fills the Great Hall.

Expectation – of something untoward



Perhaps consuming…


In a moment.

The reticent hush is sundered by deep gravely voices of dogs suddenly animated. In a tight circle, bristling canines wax heated in discussion. “I don’t like it, it’s dangerous stuff,” Terror says. “I’m a great wanderer as you know – go for days exploring and don’t need any of this. I say we hire a boat and have it standing ready for us to go to the island.”

“Or,” Scoobie continues, “we could go out there any time we like and wait for them to arrive. Who says we have to go at the last minute?”

“Yeah,” Boss comments, his voice low and intense, “Why bother having a go at this stuff old Whitey reckons he’s explored. He said it himself, ‘Loose unit.’”

“It‘s strange practice and we don’t need it,” growls Blue

Through the stuttering yap, Blue and Boss, standing with legs wide apart and broad chests expanded, weave a slightly awry jigsaw of words:

“I’m for the real thing,“

“A sound workout… “

“action and getting into it. Hit them, heel them,”

“drop the shoulder and charge,”

“and then nip, nip, nip – in fast and out.“

“go for the soft leg, and if we have to be rough,

“They won’t know what they’ve come up against…”

Go for the jugular…” they rant in unison.

A raucous, ominously throaty growl rends the air as every canine joins in, muzzles lifted in a full voice rip. Basil circles and pirouettes, emitting his call to arms, “All at once in every direction – let’s do it… off we go, Magic and mystery, they’re mine.

Basil cries, “What are we waiting for?” as he dashes hither and returns thither. A figure-of-eight turns into a somersault with half pike… the trademark feat of this foxy gymnast.

To Phantaloom, Ginger gives the enigmatic “One who knows” smile. She, with upraised wing, croons a chicken-gathering “Book-book cluck,” bringing the overheated group of dogs slowly down to quietness.

Basil’s tail whips, waiting for the action he absolutely knows is imminent… Finally he shrugs and sits fidgeting, ears drooping and head down.

Whitey-Black continues undaunted, “Some people say it’s dangerous. But I totally trusted my friend, because we’d survived many challenging adventures together. There are no drugs, so how can it be dangerous? I say we learn this method of exploring and travelling. Our experience will be like a dream but a waking one. We will be in control of the adventure. When the task is finished we come home. It’s as easy as that.

“Johnny’s been drumming for me as I’ve practiced with growing confidence, and I’ll talk you through with his help.” Whitey Black continues, “It’s clear that cats are in, and dogs – well we’ll see! Stan what about you goats?”

‘In the mountains we see strange and wonderful things indeed. Awesome power manifest, and air charged with something beyond mortal realms. Billy!’

“We should get into it. Practice until it is second nature. When do we start?” asks Billy?

“Johnny, tell us about this drumming please,” says Ginger.

“WB came to the workshop with a circle of wood and asked if Ben or I could help him hollow it out. Well of course we did,” says Johnny, “and we also found a stout, waxed canvas skin for the drum’s head. With a bone-shaped piece of wood, Whitey Black demonstrated the rhythmic drumming. We experimented a little and have settled on a firm, easy beat. We’ll need more volume for the whole crowd to be involved. What I’d like is an apprentice or two, so I can learn to go journeying too.”

Johnny’s call for volunteers fills the air with wings, trotters, hooves, feet, and paws all scrambling, every youngster keen to try this new interesting thing. Johnny exits, and returns to a rhythmic thrum that grows louder. Entering, he pauses, beating with a firm, intense and moving sound. Everyone feels the power and many close their eyes…

“That settles it,” says Ginger. ‘We’ll all do this drumming. Let’s have the ducklings, chickens and piglets in a group to try it. Calves and lambs too if they’d like.

Whitey explains further, “The percussion sound is the thought-stream we travel on. You enter the lower world kingdom, through any entrance you choose. It should be a place you’re familiar with, and comfortable in imagining yourself entering the earth. I’ve two places that welcome my entry. One is in the sea. The other, right here at home, is a Totara tree which is wise, knowing and of great age. There’s a triangular area rotted at the base where I walk in… It’s as if you’re moving through a flexible membrane. Touch this fabric and it’s like going into a tunnel… and before you know it, there you are coming out in another place.

“Soon you’ll all know the feeling, and see why it’s hard to describe. Experience it and you’ve no worries. You’ll want to explore the place you arrive at wherever that may be the first time. But before we get onto that, I must journey to the island and become familiar with it. When I return we’ll go into our bush and I’ll show you my special totara. You may like to use this one, or choose anywhere that feels right. We’ll practice until we’re ready to journey specifically to Te Motu.

“Now I’m off with Johnny and his apprentices.”