My work is so often invisible to me. What was I expecting to see?
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I give him such a verbal and written lashing, so it’s nice to find these words from Descartes which inspire me!
It might seem strange that opinions of weight are found in the works of poets rather than philosophers. The reason is that poets wrote through enthusiasm and imagination; there are in us seeds of knowledge, as of fire in a flint; philosophers extract them by way of reason, but poets strike them out of imagination, and then they shine more bright.
—Descartes (in Applebaum 1995).
There were endless cups of billy tea, guitar, card games and laughs under the corrugated iron roofed outdoor kitchen outside JR and Margie’s place at Milibinyarri. Perched at the top of the hill, you could sit in the shade with a hot cup of tea in hand and look out at the crystal blue ocean from that outdoor kitchen.
I first came to sit atop that hill with JR on my first visit to Broome in 2000. I was walking the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail as part of an RMIT University group and met him and his young family on my arrival at Milibinyari, the Goolarabooloo community’s block out at Coconut Wells.
After walking the Lurujarri Trail with JR and his family that year I stayed on at Milibinyarri and worked on a report about cultural perspectives of burning country with the Goolarabooloo community. I recall my keenness to speak with JR about his perspectives; not a day went by when I wouldn’t ask him if we could sit down and ‘have a chat’ about burning country. His response, ‘Later better maybe,’ became familiar to me and fueled my anxiety about getting the report ‘done’. Little did I realise that every conversation, every story needs to be told in the right place, at the right time.
I was sitting in the shade of the outdoor kitchen on my last day at Milibinyarriwhen JR came up and said that now was a good time to talk. Silly me, I pulled out my notebook and pen, poised and ready to learn (I was young and green and had no idea about just sitting, listening and being with). JR just looked at the contents of my hands and said, ‘You don’t need that stuff.’ Sitting on the edge of his verandah, he bent over and drew in the red pindan, teaching me about fire, about burning country. JR’s storytelling that day was brief and laden with distilled wisdom. Not a word was wasted.
Since then I’ve returned to Broome to spend time visiting JR and his family and their country; sometimes walking and volunteering on the Trail, other times just to visit and spend time fishing, camping and laughing under the corrugated iron roof. As the years have passed the door has always been open and the friendship unconditional. I never felt like a tourist or visitor to Milibinyarri, I was welcomed as a friend. The outdoor kitchen with its corrugated roof no longer stands in that place and much has changed on that country, as have the relationships that bound us together.
JR had a big job, to look after his country and people, but he always had time for a cup of tea and a chat and to teach me a little bit more about being with country and myself.
Gratitude and love.
Last week I went to a screening of Warwick Thorton’s new film The Darkside. This film is an assemblage of true stories from people who have encountered spirits. Each story is a performance of a transcript that was generated through an interview between Thornton and the storyteller. Some stories are performed by actors, others by the storytellers themselves. The Darkside forms part of a bigger storytelling project The Otherside, and is open to contributions from the public. Whilst scanning the stories I came across Whale Dreaming by Jenny Symonds. Jenny’s story holds resonance for me as she too is an Australian woman of Western heritage and has had encounters with spirits in place. In her words, “It was almost like the land was revealing a little bit here and there…”
Her story about Whale Dreaming reminds me of the Rainbow Serpent in the sky story I shared a while back (speaking of which I have been doing some poking around into other blogs and found this post about a Rainbow Feather Cloud – that’s what it looked like… except snakier).
sensing, presencing in
Creating the reality or facade of ‘other’,
protection from the outside?
And what is inside?
What flows in-between?
like the earth. Textured like the earth.
Mirror or seamless continuation?
Allowing sensitivities to be touched.
“There are patterns and connections in our lives that elude us: resonances, fields of force, which go unknown until we tune our minds to the world beyond ourselves. Often it seems to me that life’s surface and the links of cause and effect we imagine ruling us are deceptive, and that deeper systems and symmetries lurk just out of sight: patterns that yearn for us to find them, and align ourselves with them. I believe it is the task of the writer not only to trace the hidden links between places, and between people, but to live in such a way that those links become clearer, and the hidden geometries around us confess themselves”
Rothwell in Wings of a Kite-Hawk (2003, p. xxi)
A million questions…
When we try to articulate an experience though the process of storytelling, how does this affect our view of the world and our relationships with ourselves and other entities? Does it create stronger bonds between ourselves and these other entities which are actors in the story? In essence, does storytelling help us to make our connections visible and thus render them as legitimate/real?
Aside from seeing our connections through story I have been thinking about how the process of storytelling might help us to make important translations, such as going from somatic knowing to cognitive knowing. I found this article on Pre-verbal Knowing which really resonate with me and seems to make some attempt at answering this question.