Monthly Archives: March 2013

Waking up to dogs

The more time I spend living at Milibinyarri, the more in love with dogs I become. I never grew up with dogs. Dad is a gardener and never let us have one, mum is a ‘clean freak’ and was equally as resistant. This awakening to the spirit of dogs seems to have happened in parallel to my waking up to birds. It is not as though I never noticed them before, it is my relationship with these beings that has slowly been transformed. Relating to these ones as friends, kin, beings that share an existence in this place, has been quite a revelation for me. I was trawling through photos of my last stay at Milibinyarri and came across these beautiful images. Our group of friends was swimming in the pregnant lagoon late in November last year. Can Betty Blue and Casey feel the spirit of this place too? I am sure that these dogs are much more attuned to the feeling of this place. Maybe I need to spend a day following them around. I’ll learn a lot about how to be with this country.

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I wish I learnt to draw

I drew this image shortly after I saw the Rainbow Serpent in the Sky.

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Elusive Creative Genius

In this TED Talk author Elizabeth Gilbert speaks about the idea of creativity as genius, but not as something that someone can be… More as an elusive entity that can come and visit an artist/writer/other. She goes back to ancient Roman and Greek understandings of genius which describe this as a divine spirit/entity which came to people and helped them to give birth to their work. I love the analogies Gilbert uses in this talk and her story about the American poet Ruth Stone who would tell her stories of hearing poems traveling across the fields towards her. She had to rush to a paper and pen so that she could collect it when it ‘thundered through her.’ Listening to this talk reminds me of an earlier post I wrote [Reef] in which I describe feelings of country speaking through me. And another link… I trace back in memory to the words shared by Yolngu philosopher Maratja. He offers a Yolŋu perspective from north-east Arnhem Land, suggesting that ‘It’s the land which holds the sound, and then after that, we Yolŋu people. What we are talking about, is how that sound emerges’ (as cited in Christie 2010,p. 67). Can our creative energy/genius come to us from country? Is this what I am feeling when I am standing on the beach at Norman Bay facing Mount Oberon, exuberant and brimming full of poetry, song and creative flow? 


Christie, M. 2010, ‘The task of the translator’, International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts Australia, no. 2, pp. 67-74.

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Red Dirt Dreaming

An interesting radio documentary made in the Kimberley which highlights issues relating to mining in the region, the proposal to build the Browse LNG hub at Walmadany and Indigenous prosperity:

Part one to Red Dirt Dreaming

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Always in country

The Red-tailed black cockatoos are out in force at the moment. I saw them crushing Sheoak nuts between their beaks last weekend near the Nightcliff Jetty and again tonight at East Point. You can get quite close to these birds; they’re not flighty like the Double-barred finch. The footpaths are all littered with snipped off sheoak needles and the remnants of this tree-top feast.

Moving around the Darwin suburbs on my bicycle I’ve had a chance to connect with different places… creeks, foreshores, cliffs, monsoon forests and beaches. But I’ve hardly been on my bike since returning to Darwin. I miss it. The freedom, the smells, the birds and the feeling of connecting with where I live in a direct, sensory kind of way. There is a patch of regenerated bush not far from our home, I think a local Landcare group planted it. It is alive with vivid green leaves of different shapes and textures and splashes of colour from all the flowers that are blooming at the moment. Being in this bush evokes something in me. Maybe it’s the possibility of what our gardens could be like in this ‘tropical paradise’. Take away the millions of palms (there must be at least a million in this city) and bring back the grevillias, acacias, pandanas, woollybutts and paperbarks… and then the birds. Being in the city I forget that I am always living in country, until I see pockets of bush, and birds going about their busy-ness. In my conversations with people reference is often made to “getting out of the city” to re-balance and connect with country. I can understand how we can exist in this mindset when the ‘nature’ we see around us is palm trees and bizarre neighborhood parks with lawn and Mahogany trees. These are strange places for me, there is something disconcerting about them. They feel imported. There are places in this city though that make me feel like I can connect with something raw, something that hasn’t been ‘tamed’ too much, places that have the potential to be restorative. Place like East Point, Dripstone Cliffs, Lee Point and Casuarina Coast Reserve. What do these places represent? Let me clarify something though, I am not fantasizing about the notion of an untouched place, quite the opposite. It is place as home, but a home that is of this place.

These places I mentioned are homes; long grassers camp here and the communities of plants and animals dwell here. Do these places also represent some kind of ‘in between space’ as Somerville (2010; 2007) might suggest? But in between what? Urban and bush? Included and excluded? Visible and invisible?

In their book Singing the Coast, Perkins and Somerville (2010) translate the stories of coastal places along the Central Coast of NSW. Tony, a Garby Elder, tells stories about his people being pushed to the fringes of their country, by the occupation of their lands by colonisers. He calls one place in particular, the swampy wetlands around Corindi Lake, ‘No Mans Land’.

‘The idea of No Mans Land was a powerful and ingoing story for the people who settled at Corindi Lake. Neither water nor land, the swamp was the quintessential in-between space where new stories could be born’ (Perkins and Somerville, 2012, p. 7).

People grew up in this place, living off the food in and around the lake, unseen and safe from Welfare Protection Board. But there was an until; people lived in this place until a new material reality came into being and lifestyles changed, connections changed. Then coastal development and pollution transformed this place and degraded its viability as a ‘home’. The threads that may connect Tony’s narratives of place to the stories of this place are not that visible as yet. Writing about the places I feel around me here, I realise that I know very little about them and the many stories they hold. I remind myself, I’m just at the beginning and there are many more rides left in this city/country.

A flock of Rainbow-bee eaters circled above the tree tops at East Point as the sun was setting tonight. I always hear their “krim-krim” calls, but never manage to see them. It’s not until I’ve been away from country for too long, a separation that exists only in my mind-space, that I realise what sustenance it offers me. Being in country, with country and feeling a rhythm that is slow and remembering that I am small.

Image: Double-barred finch at Milibinyarri camp, Nia Emmanouil, Nov 2012.


Somerville, M & Perkins, T 2010, Singing the Coast, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra.

Somerville, M 2007, ‘Postmodern emergence’, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 225-43.

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