Back on Phillip Island and I finally get to spend precious time with S talking about our research. She has a gift of making the everyday things, which I gloss over as being unimportant, seem relevant. We were comparing blogs, the perceived deficiencies of our own and the things we liked about each other’s. I was judging my own for not being theoretical enough, for being too much about the everyday.
So why have I been taking refuge in the everyday? Maybe it is about documenting my own experiences of being with country in a way that is present, right here. Staying with the experience for as long as I can before I lift out and become detached, reflexive, analytical. On my return from Broome last month M reminded me of Verran’s writing about ethnographers in the flesh and ethnographers in the text. My recent reluctance to be reflexive and analytical has been a ploy to stay in this embodied, fleshy state.
I ask myself, what is it that I want to give voice to through this blog? What needs to be written and acknowledged which may struggle to find its way into my thesis? Myself? My own connections?
My everyday reality has shifted dramatically since leaving Milibinyarri. The birds and ancient Jigal trees that were my companions are gone, except the Double-barred finch which followed me to Darwin. I heard it in an unlikely place, a work-site at the Darwin waterfront, as I arrived after my long drive back from the west coast. So not all gone… Up here in this tree-top house from which I write, in a gully above Tathra beach, a chorus of Bell Miner and Whip birds remind me to keep opening up to what is outside/inside.
I am in a post-fieldwork cloud, waiting for ideas and insights to precipitate and fall to the ground. Listening to the conversations I had with people on country is grounding. Through people’s words and silences I hear their truths resonate through story; this process challenges me though. I need to maintain a trust that narratives will emerge. What I am revealing to myself are the buried expectations of what I might ‘find’ through my research, or what I’d hoped I would ‘find’. The danger of gathering ‘evidence’ to justify a pre-existing idea lingers. Researching with integrity and objectivity when I myself am in it is a tricky business. My body/landscape journals seem so messy. Writings about being with country entangled with other personal experiences. But amid the messiness is a wholeness. I have not dissected and extracted, compartmentalised.