The Emu In The Sky

By Shanelle Fiaalii

Illustrated by Sophia Fiaalii

“Oh Mum, do I have to go?” whined Allira. “It’s going to be so boring!”

“Yes you do! You’re not going to spend your whole school holidays at home. Dad and I have to work. You’re going to your Nan’s house. It’s in the country, with lots of room to run and play. Now go and pack! We’re leaving tomorrow morning.”

Allira stomped off with a scowl on her face, but the next day, that scowl turned to a smile when they pulled up in Nan’s driveway.

“Woah!” Allira exclaimed. “She has cows? And chickens, and, a dog!” she laughed, as Barran, Nan’s dog, ran to her at full speed, jumping up and licking her face.

“He’s happy to see you!” said Nan, giving Allira a hug. “And so am I. I’ll enjoy having your company for the holidays.”

After saying goodbye to Mum, Allira went off to explore. “Barran!” she called. “Where is he, Nan?”

“He’ll be back,” said Nan. “His name means ‘boomerang’ in the Kamilaroi language. That’s the language of our people. I called him that because he loves to explore, but he always comes back.” And just as soon as she said that, there he was, with a big bone in his mouth.

Allira laughed and went off to see the chickens. Nan showed her how to carefully collect the eggs. “You know, when I was a girl, we didn’t collect chicken eggs,” Nan said. “We collected emu eggs. They were much bigger than these are.”

“Emu eggs?” asked Allira. “But how did you know where to find them? You didn’t have emus in a pen like this, did you?”

“No,” said Nan. “We had to go looking for them. But only at certain times of the year. Tonight, I’ll teach you how we knew when it was time to look.”

“Why do I have to wait til tonight?” asked Allira.

“You’ll see!” answered Nan, mysteriously.

That night after dinner, Nan rugged Allira up in warm clothes and took a blanket for them to sit on outside.

“Look up!” said Nan.

“Woah!” exclaimed Allira. I didn’t know there were so many stars in the sky! There must be thousands.”

“Trillions!” said Nan. “The Bible tells us that God knows how many stars are in the sky, and He knows them all by name! Isn’t that something? They’re hard to see with the city lights where you live,” Nan continued. “But out here, with no lights, you can see them so much easier.”

“There’s the Milky Way!” said Allira. “We learnt about it at school.”

“Yes,” said Nan. “But did you know there’s an emu in the Milky Way?”

“What do you mean?” asked Allira.

“Look at the black spaces inside the Milky Way.” Nan pointed. “If you look really hard, you can see the shape of an emu running.” She outlined the shape with her finger.

Allira concentrated really hard, and then she saw it.

“I see it, Nan!” she shouted. There’s the head over there, and the body, and it looks like it has one leg on the ground and one in the air!”

“That’s it!” said Nan. “When we were kids, we would look for the emu in the sky. If it was running, like it is now, it meant that the emus were laying their eggs and we could go looking for them. Those eggs are so big, one of them could feed our whole family! In the middle of the year, the legs of the emu would disappear. That meant the male emus were sitting on the eggs, waiting to hatch baby emus. Later in the year, the emu sits low on the horizon. We would say that it was sitting in a waterhole, and usually at that time of year, the waterholes were full. At the end of summer, when the waterholes were dry, we couldn’t see the emu in the sky anymore, and had to wait until this time of year to see it again. It was good news when we saw it and knew we could collect those eggs again.”

 “I’m glad I got to see it!” said Allira.

“Me too,” said Nan. “You know, there’s another story about people looking at the stars every night and waiting for good news. It’s in the Bible. Do you know what I’m thinking of?”

Allira thought for a minute. “The only one I can think of is the wise men following the star to find Baby Jesus.”

“That’s the one!” said Nan. “I think God used the stars to give good news back then, and He still uses the stars to give good news today.”

“That’s deadly!” said Allira. “Well, since God has made the emu look like it’s running, can we go find some emu eggs?”

Nan laughed. “I think I’m getting a bit old to be looking for emu eggs. But maybe you and Barran can go on an adventure tomorrow and see what you find.”

Allira smiled. This holiday wasn’t going to be boring after all.

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