Monthly Archives: April 2012


We arrived at the beach just south of Narooma in the morning, well, the estuary that leads to the beach (not the one in the picture, I didn’t take my camera). As soon as I stepped out onto the sand I said, ‘This is like gaṉma!’ Our group was there with Uncle Max and his family to perform whale ceremony, on the small patch of sand that was left by the confluence, as the tide came rushing in. The creek was running out, mixing with the salt water from the sea, flotsam on top and lots of bubbling action under the water’s surface. A deep mixing… How apt then that all of us lot from all corners of the world should come to these banks to make and celebrate ways of being and connection. Only days before I had gone back to readings about gaṉma theory and metaphor.

This piece on gaṉama is from Marika (1999, p. 7) in her Wentworth Lecture :
“The water circulates silently underneath, and there are lines of foam circulating across the surface. The swelling and retreating of the tides and the wet season floods can be seen in the two bodies of the water. Water is often taken to represent knowledge in Yolngu philosophy. What we see happening in the school is a process of knowledge production where we have two different cultures, Balanda and Yolngu, working together. Both cultures need to be preserved in a way where each one is preserved and respected.”
Watson-Verran and Chambers (1989) articulate the gaṉma metaphor as ‘… the forces of the streams combine and lead to deeper understanding and truth’ (p. 5). 
I was so happy then to discover that Carol, who I met at the end of this ceremony by this confluence, used gaṉma to help frame her research with Uncle Max (see Meeting country : deep engagement with place and indigenous culture,  
So what possibilities does this metaphor hold for me and my research?

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Filed under Metaphors, Theory


It feels different now, things are changing. A blanket and then an extra one. Feeling like something or someone is missing in that early morning, a lonely cocoon. Wanting to stay in. Being retrospective. We’ve been waiting for the seasons to shift, I knew this in my mind. But my body is translating this now in ways that are bringing felt memories to the surface. A slow bubbling up. I thought this would be a time for renewal, but the grasses are drying. Lushiousness being sucked out of what is green. A drawing out, but what is nourishing? A cocoon is calling. White silk wrapping. The prospect and possibility of emergence into another being. 

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Garfish gone

How do I feel time?
Standing on the bridge and looking down into the water,
Variable tides and scatterings of folk doing things… Throwing nets, casting lines, searching for bait, walking canines, rambling on rocks, resting in the shade.
They were always swimming upstream, these skinny fish with long pointed noses. Silver bodies reflecting sunlight.
Cracks and pops sound out as the tide rushes out, but those silver bodies have gone.
Were they only here for a season? Did someone come and scoop them all up?
What else haven’t I noticed the disappearance or appearance of?
When will I get off the bridge and walk the sand banks, exposed like the bones of this landscape’s body?

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Metaphors and creation

Just came across Wade Davis’ TED Talk on The Worldwide Web of Belief and Ritual as I was searching for his 2009 Massey Lecture: The Wayfinders – Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World.  I heard this lecture on ABC a few summers ago and was captivated be the story that Davis told of Polynesian wayfinders (seafarers) and their intimate knowledge of stars and the Pacific Ocean. Can’t
to find a podcast of this lecture which is disappointing!

Davis is an anthropologist that has spent time with Indigenous cultures around the world and in the talk above speaks about the deep metaphors that peoples live by and use to tell the stories of their creation and life. There is something quite profound about metaphor that keeps tugging at my shirt-sleeve, a constant reminder to pay attention to it and the deeper meaning that resonates beyond literal teachings.

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Going in

Carol joined our group on the Saturday night during our sharing of reflections from our time on Gulaga. It wasn’t until the end of our whale dreaming ceremony on Sunday that we spoke and all of a sudden, the connections and synergies burst into our conversation. She understood what I meant when I spoke of being with as a placemaking. Then finding out about her own work with Uncle Max and Gulaga (see: Birrell, CL 2006, ‘Meeting country : deep engagement with place and indigenous culture’, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Western Sydney, <>) filled me with a sense of kinship to the people who are trying to articulate these connections we feel, but may not know how to tell stories about.
In her essay Slipping beneath the Kimberley skin Carol questions whether non-Indigenous folk can become insiders:
“Elder Bob Randall asks if white Australians could go beyond the conceptual to an experience of an ‘inner eye’ where one could ‘feel our situation, to read people, to talk to country.’ Uncle Max Dulumunmun Harrison speaks of ‘goin’ in [to sacred sites] with whitefellas eyes and comin’ out with blackfellas mind.’ Stanner called it ‘thinking black’.
And I think back to my walk up the mountain…
Almost invisible threads connecting branches to logs. Strings of raindrops and mist hanging…
I’m drawn to different parts of the country; rocks, trees, kookaburras, and then a sound drifts up from the gully below. Crystal clear, the sound of one, two, three different bird calls is close succession. A lyrebird. What is country trying to show me? Clearing my mind of the songs that are on repeat and presencing to take in everything that is happening around me. 
An unlikely entrance into sacred places. A clarity there although we are shrouded in fog. Stillness. Timelessness. Is this some kind of dreaming? I’m losing time, so be here now, be here now. I put shift uncomfortably from foot to foot. I place my hand on Creation Rock. I fall in (and my reasoning mind tells me another story). Later I find out that this happens – being drawn in or pushed out – and what does that mean?
Later that night in our reflections someone says that we are surrounded by sacred sites and don’t even realise it. Surrounded by the sacred… I pause to let this sink in, to realise the meaning of being surrounded by sacredness. Then I think about our friends walk up Mount Erica. Were we supposed to be there? Where is it safe and respectful to be? 
Uncle Max said that we could come back to this place. I don’t know if I can do that without him or his family. Or maybe it would be ok, but not the same.

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Making heart sense of Gulaga

Back from Gulaga and a fleeting visit to the south coast of NSW. So much that has been felt is waiting to burst into my consciousness. My reasoning mind was definitely up to its old ticks – trying to box up and disbelieve things felt and perceived. But affirmation from those who also sense, feel and struggle to articulate this being with country has given me buoyancy… I’m floating…

Speaking with K yesterday about what is at the tip of the metaphoric iceberg – what we perceive – but questioning everything that is below the surface that does not always have a voice or a language to be realised in the mind. But the body knows. Connecting, connecting, connecting… to myself and feeling integrated and whole. I think that this is what I am really trying to do in this work. But the lines of self are getting blurry and I want to learn more about this softening of edges, the bleeding into what surrounds my body. I felt this at the Creation Rock at Gulaga on Saturday, a falling into, a message that not all which appears solid is.

So many ideas to explore which might shed light on and give a language to these experiences – the field that is referred to by Mindell in his exploration of what it is that we are connected to and the space that carries these connections.

And a fortuitous meeting with folk who are asking similar questions: what is it that we are seeking to articulate our connection with? What can traditional owners share with us that might inform this seeking? Knowing that I am just one amongst a sea of people exploring this is heartening.

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Bill took us for a walk

I didn’t really know where we were going, just to the end of the beach to the rocks. Delicious rockpools along the way and it wasn’t long before I was stripping down and jumping in. The joy of cool sea water at the end of summer! Low tide, sun hanging low in the sky… just enough light to have a poke around and get up onto the Cape to watch the Shearwaters fly in. Perfect.

Juicy seaweed and pigface, crystal rockpool windows, squishy sea anemone, clicking, cracking sounds everywhere.  

Lying against the sun soaked granite, drinking in vicariously the heat of the day. Explosions of red lichen on rock pulling me further out. Magnetic.
A glorious disbelief… I live here??? 

Prehistoric? Time warp? Transported to a timeless place where I am just here, being… 

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