Stooping over, I walk under tree-ferns with bison-like beards which arch over pathways. Their beards are rough and filamentary, but tight and trimmed. Fronds umbrella up and out, framing the grey sky like lacy curtains. Way above me, the canopies of Mountain Ash engage in deep conversation with the wind. Scars on these trees show where limbs have been lost. I feel meek and vulnerable walking under these giants on such a windy day. It is not just the trees that I have come to be with on this day; another has called me (back) into the cool temperate rainforest.
The singers are hidden amongst the long, fallen ribbons of bark, they are somewhere down in the gullies beckoning me forth. I cross over deep muddy puddles, past flowing creeks and decomposing fallen trees. Everything in the forest is saturated with water and deep iridescent green. Pulled deeper in as the sun hangs low in the winter sky, I know there is not long before I must retreat to places of light and warmth. Up a rise and the earth dries out. The track twists to somewhere unknown and I sense to halt. A dark grey rock nearby summons me. I sit atop this cool, smooth form and close my eyes. A singer repeats his calls across the track from me and another somewhere behind. Like a creator of all other beings, from its song emerges the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Eastern Whipbird, Laughing Kookaburra, Eastern Rosella and its own songs. From oneness comes many. This bird holds songs and dances, it is an invoker and a weaver of creation.
When I stand from the rock, something has deepened. It is time to descend from this hill and retrace my steps below the swaying canopy. But an invitation to encounter holds me a few moments longer… a male lyrebird jumps onto a tree branch, his brilliant tail festooned below him. Hypnotized by sound, he repeats again and again the songs of the other forest beings and I wish for a feather. Why do I want for this material form? Is the song not enough to make me feel this reality? Turning to walk back I am stopped by something small, fluffy and grey on the track. So unimaginably wispy, it is almost not there. I delicately pick up this grey flank feather and hold it between two fingers. The wind quickly finds it and I watch it dance and swirl before me. Each feathery filament animated and stating its aliveness.
Source: Pizzey and Knight, The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, 9th Ed, Harper Collins Australia, 2012
From the Monash Country Lines Archive:
The Monash Country Lines Archive (MCLA) is a collaborative Monash University project between the Monash Indigenous Centre (MIC), Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Information Technology with a team of Monash researchers, digital animators and post-graduate students from the Monash Indigenous Centre, Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Information Technology. The Monash Country Line Archive demands intellectual engagement in regards to issues associated with how best to construct a living archive that is a decolonised space in which communities are happy to see their material stored. It also provides an exciting place for scholars to work and share knowledge.
The Brolga Dreaming belongs to the Mambaliya-Wawukarriya clan. This story tells of the Brolga coming into Yanyuwa country and creating lagoons, freshwater wells and putting ceremony and song into the country.
© The Yanyuwa People Borroloola, Northern Territory, Australia, 2009.
and dwell in
somewhere inside me.
You ask me,
tell me about your being with this place?
and things shift.
I don’t realise
what my being with
I meet my being with
as the words pass
From life in the
life on the
my being with and I, and we
Image: David Millard.
Traveling up the great chain of being toward the world soul, we may get in touch with things that precede any capability of verbalization, that seem to reach out for contact, that are learning to communicate in a language we can understand - Ralph Abraham
Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright: the Dancing Fairies
Something that has grown as an actor in my research is the word entity; it is a symbol of the more-than-human world, and all of things within, which we are being with when we are walking and dwelling with country. John Law (2004) uses the metaphors ‘impossible, or barely possible, unthinkable or almost unthinkable’ to try to describe slippery entities (but he never actually names them…). I imagine these tricky entities lurking in shadows, whispering to us in our dreams and showing themselves when we least expect them to. But are they really there: perhaps non-physical but autonomous in their existence? Or are they, as Jung suggests, mere projections of our own minds (Sheldrake, McKenna and Abraham 2001)? Does it matter? If we are to imagine an existence without the presence of entities, does it mean that we automatically inherent a disenchanted, mechanistic world? So entrenched is the atomistic and mechanistic view of the world, that it seems unimaginable that past western societies communed with all sorts of entities that now only inhabit our ‘fairy tale’ storybooks. Sheldrake, McKenna and Abraham (2001) question, what if ‘they/we’ (the collective consciousness that continues to perpetuate the modern scientific paradigm) got it wrong?
The eradication of spirit from the visible world has been a project prosecuted with great zeal throughout the rise of modern science. An admission that this project overlooked something as fundamental as a communicating intelligent agency co-present with is on this planet would be more than a dangerous admission of the failure of an intellectual method. It would pretty much seal the bankruptcy of that method (p. 94).
Our Western ancestors and some descendents would call the names of these entities: elves, fairies, sprites, genius and the like, but what about the things that we feel which lack physical form but still feel… sense… yet, grasp to comprehend… What do we name these things?
Walking the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail I see the physical form of country, and slowly I awaken to ‘seeing through feeling’ (Roe and Hoogland 1999), through my liyan, and ‘see’ the country in new light. I am attracted to things that seem to beckon me forth – trees, lagoons, sand dunes, the full moon – but they are tangible. Then there is the feeling in each place, the liyan of that place as Goolarabooloo might say. Is the feeling of each place a memory of the ritual and dwelling that has been performed there one generation after the next? As I write this I think of the ash from fires mounting up and being sucked back into the earth with the rains, then the cycle being repeated again and again. Perhaps the liyan of a place is an entity, a spirit dwelling there, anticipating and recognising us on our return. Sheldrake, McKenna and Abraham (2001) question too whether the morphic resonance (memory) of a place is like a spirit.
A few weeks ago I explored in conversation with a group of women our experiences with non-human entities. We shared stories about our experiences with old trees, stones, and places that called to us. Someone in the conversation brought up the idea that if we allow ourselves to listen to our intuitive sense, we are attracted to entities (trees of whatever they may be). We asked each other, what would it be like to embody attraction as a way of being? When I shared this conversation with another friend amongst tall trees in the tropics, it resonated with her deeply. She told me stories about the places she has been attracted to as a child, which she then journeyed to as an adult. I asked her, did she have a sense that these places had ‘called her’ to be with them so that they could teach her something? I makes me think about all the places I have felt called to, whether they be Gurambai, the creek near to where I live, Wamoon down south, or the lagoon at Ngunungkurrukun; are they pulling me towards them to reveal something, about themselves or about being with? And again I fall back into the words of Kombu Merri woman Mary Graham (2009) ‘the world reveals itself to us and to itself – we don’t “discover” anything,’ (p. 75).