I came across a book about walking by Rebecca Solnit. In it she writes:

‘Memory, like the mind, is unimaginable without physical dimensions; to imagine it as a physical place is to make it into a landscape in which its contents are located, and what has location can be approached. That is to say, if memory is imagined as a real space – a place, theatre, library – then the act of remembering is imagined as a real act, that is, as a physical act: as walking… To walk the same route again can mean to think the same thoughts again, as though thoughts and ideas were indeed fixed objects in a landscape one need only know how to travel through. In this way, walking is reading, even when both the walking and the reading are imaginary, and the landscape of the memory becomes a text as stable as that to be found in the garden, labyrinth, or the stations’ (2007, p. 77).

Her writing made me think about how different each walk of the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail was for me. During some walks of the trail I would come to a place in country and be in disbelief that I had completely forgotten about that place until my return. In this way my memory had failed me, but I had a different kind of knowing about each place. It was far more somatic than cognitive. I had a felt memory of dunes, beaches, rocks, bays and camping places. My reading of the country was happening on a different level, maybe a more intuitive and felt one; it’s tricky to describe. It’s as though I had a ‘radar’ that picked up the subtle energy of each place. I guess Goolarabooloo would call this my le-an, my feeling.

Walking is such a sensual act. On the last trail I walked, I asked my friend to stop on these super smooth rocks so that I could take a photograph of his feet with the rocks. We were both obsessed with rubbing our feet on their surface, gazing at luminescent colours of green and red and pink staring up at us. A little further up the coast the sand turned into pebbles at the water’s edge. The water and the rocks created a kind of music as the waves tumbled the pebbles over bigger rocks. There is so much to take in.

So much of my being with country on the trail happens when I am in motion, walking. Sometimes it feels like a meditation, others an encounter with the life that is all around me. The fact that we are walking along a song cycle path adds a whole other dimension to the act of walking. What is it that we are engaging with on an energetic level?

Senge et. al (2004) write about sacred spaces in nature and how people contribute to these sacred spaces, in terms of the intentions that we bring to a place. This really resonated with me… it makes me wonder what is happening, emerging as we (Goolarabooloo and friends) are all walking the song cycle as one mob.

Solnit, R. (2007). Wanderlust: a history of walking. London: Verso Books

Senge, P., Scharmer, C. O., Jaworski, J., & Flowers, B. S. (2004). Presence: exploring Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society. New York: Crown Business


Filed under Walking

2 responses to “Remembering

  1. Ruchira Talukdar

    Fro your reading of Senge did you take away any understanding or knowledge about similarities in the affect between pilgrimages to religious sacred places ( shrines) and visiting natural places of indigenous sacredness?

  2. niaemmanouil

    It’s interesting that you bring this up. Quite a few people have written more broadly about the sacredness of place in reference to genius loci, or spirit of place, and how that spirit has influenced what has happened in each place throughout the ages (e.g. with Indigenous/first people’s occupation and colonial waves of occupation). Maybe there is a presence in country/land/place that makes each site sacred and the practices and celebrations of the sacred just look different depending on who is living on that country. Do the activities and human built forms on a place reflect some kind of essence of the place? I guess that this assumes that places have their own agency which fits with Aboriginal ways of understanding and relating to place/country.

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