Salt Lake Blues
Pink lakes are down south. There’s a red lake on the south-east coast.
Here, in the badlands of salty sands and nothing to hold water on the surface, there’s only the blue salts. Like a cloud of colour. Insubstantial drifts of colour. Blue, the type of blue that comes with summer skies, with warm winds and a tinny in hand, radio blasting out the cricket scores. The sitting-still blue of life.
It’s a lie.
These salt lakes aren’t about life. They take life, suck it down into the sands and send up crystals of blue salt to refract the cold light of winter, the harshness of nothing left to live for; it’s a nothing that’s going nowhere. It’s not a place to stop, to dare, or to stare too long into that bright promise.
It’s where I live.
The blue-lakes district, they call it, marked in black on the maps. But the words leak out. There’s a sign for the blue lakes. And visitors come. The tourists frown, and photographers peer into the distance. They stand near the old railway line and shade their eyes.
“Where are the lakes?” they ask. Every one of them asks it. “Where are the blue lakes?”
What they see through the lens, filtered by red and shaded by colours that daunt the refraction, isn’t what’s there. They don’t see what’s right before their living eyes. They don’t believe, so they don’t see.
“Put that down,” I say, “and see the truth.” It’s a shrug I give, ‘cos they won’t.
They never do. Or they do for a second, but can’t see beyond the haze of their reality.
What is it they don’t see?
The people, old now, wrinkled and frail, the ones who skitter across the salted blues, who dig in the collapsing sand with sharp crystals, crying and calling, digging and falling. “Come home,” they sing, but the children don’t answer. Nothing comes to the call of the ghosts who walked this way, who saw a faster way to a water stop, who dragged children and old people with them in their search for a new life, a richer life, a better life.
The shortest path between two points is never as easy as it appears.
Now, they’re here, with me. Every day they call, they cry, and the blue lakes suck up all the moisture from their pain, and reflect the sky to those who come looking for something that isn’t there, that was never there.
This is no place to be, no place for dreams.