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, <http://handle.uws.edu.au:8081/1959.7/20459>) 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.