Introduction to Fifty Tales from Ma’s Watering Hole
By Kaye Linden
Once upon a time, Ma lived in the northwest corner of the continent, in the White Lily Lagoon country on the edge of the Australian wet lands and dry lands. A shamanic doctor by trade, she mentored young apprentices whose bones she had once mended. She journeyed within and without the painted caves, caves once graffitied by islanders from northern seas. One day, explorers forced Ma’s people from their lands, and those who could not escape, perished.
Ma, the main character in these tales, is ninety-nine years old, with the power to ride across lightning in her trusty yellow jeep. She’s not superwoman, but she’s known as a super shaman. She lives in a Sydney neighborhood among fellow refugees, and owns a ramshackle café, a “watering hole” for lost sheep and a gathering place for the neighborhood. A ghetto of sorts, “Ma’s Watering Hole” becomes the center of a town within a great city, a place where thirsty followers can drink a frosty beer on a hot evening and share a colorful tale.
Each evening, neighbors and strangers tell their stories of “lightning gods who jump from sunny skies,” of city girls who ignore tribal warnings, of floods receding, fires raging, and of old women, like Ma, who fool others with their “far-away eyes, stained teeth and chewing tobacco lips.”
I grew up in Australia. I remember picnics beside lost water holes, crocodile- infested waters, fire-blackened forests, the fallout of burning blue gum cinders, the sweet scent of eucalyptus trees in the evening, vistas across red canyon lands, ancient serpent images carved into rocks, and hot summer days surfing on beaches that reached into forever. I cannot go back to the places I knew as a child because they have changed, as I have. Family and friends are now gone.
This collection was born from a yearning for my home country, its people, its strange creatures and its restless earth. I embrace the land in my imagination and share with you a taste of the creative madness that was born from this great nostalgia, from the Ma within me.
I invite you to enjoy these odd characters and colorful tales—the gift of a collection of stories born from the vision of one Australian’s native dreaming. Now, step inside and visit the neighbors, hear their voices, and share a beer or two or three.