I first came to this place on foot by following a trail, one that I couldn’t really see, but others could. This trail is part of something much older than a cartographer’s impression of a pathway or landscape features (here I go making all of these temporal references too. I am sure that this trail exists in a cosmology where my Western sense of temporality has little bearing). I was held by red and blue landscape, but the colours felt as though they were part of me. I have this visual in my mind of pindan red and aquamarine blue pouring out from my heart to paint the rocks, cliffs, water and sky; deep, rich, vibrant voices translated into something visual. Visual sense can be tricky sometimes, especially when what is around you is so stimulating. Another kind of listening was going on too, not one that I was very conscious of at the time, but a sense of some other kind of conversation. Was it a tuning out of the reasoning mind and a tuning into something visceral and somatic? Before we started Trail F would tell us to close our eyes and try walking through feeling, to find the threads of hard sand amongst the soft on the beach by listening to this feeling. Listening in this sense is metaphoric. So was the reference to reading the country as we were all walking trail. I didn’t get this until later on. Seduced by the visual stimulus I thought reading was all about what I could see with my eyes and knowing about inter-species indicators for food hunting and gathering. The people from this place call this listening through feeling le-an. R, the storyteller for this place, says that is how we read the country, through our le-an. I can look back now at what happened and know, not just in a cognitive sense, that walking the trail became a process of deep somatic learning, and that the challenge and beauty from that experience has been translating and articulating the stories and knowing that my body holds into a form that I and others can understand. There was a particular point on trail when I felt like I became present to where I was. Yet it was more than that, it was a ‘dropping into’ another way of being. The texture of my reality in this place changed. We were playing in the waves at this beach. The tide was outgoing and the sand bank leading into the water was getting steeper and steeper. There is so much relief in splashing around in the waves after a long, exposed beach walk. Shallow dives into the crests of the waves exhilarated me, until I dove too deep. Hitting my head hard on the shallow sandy bottom, I emerged shocked and gasping for air. Looking around I saw F, a friend and nurse, just as the muscles of my neck and shoulders seized to support my spine. One look at my face and she knew I was in trouble. It was a long, slow journey back up the expansive dune system and down into our camp. Walking into the Birrin Birri and Mamagen forest was such a relief, it felt like a healing space. F went to get snake vine from the forest to wrap around my neck and R placed his hand on my neck and shoulders for some time, I don’t know for how long. I fell asleep in a small clearing in the shady forest. Waking into a rawness, it was as though something had been striped back from my perception of being in, or with this place. But I woke up, something in me woke up. So as I write this and re-perform meeting this place for the first time, I realise, this is my waking up place.
Meeting this place for the first time
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