Tag Archives: Country Talking

The Otherside

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).

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Country Over Time

I met Jeanne the first time I walked the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail, she was one of my many teachers on country. Over the past 21 years Jeanne has spent time living on/with country along the coastal dune country north of Broome, documenting the activities of the six seasons though drawings, paintings and stencils. I find Jeanne’s images evocative… When I see her images of country I feel like the essence of country is there, coming out of the image. Jeanne and spoke once about country speaking through us, like some kind of genius spirit coming to visit. I camped at Jeanne’s camp at Milibinyarri just the other day and sat in the shade watching the double-barred finch come and drink from the bowls I had filled with water. What a blessing! Click on the heading Country Over Time to see a catalogue of Jeanne’s most recent artworks which will be exhibited in Sorrento, Victoria over the next month.

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November 10, 2013 · 6:01 am

Walking with country: Being pulled along the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail

The beauty of country in all of its minuteness and subtlety leaps out at me. I feel reeled in, pulled forward, there is no labour in this walking. These images are another portal into being with country when I am in another time and place. Just like every place has a feeling, each image carries with it an imprint of that feeling (le-an). There are significant stories associated with many of these images… they too fill unfurl and be visible over time.

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Washed up, tracked, cracked, shadowed…

This series of images was taken on the beach near Ngunungkurrukun, just at the base of the sandy cliffs. As I sat on the sand amongst the washed up debris I started to see jewels emerge, patterns in the form of what was lying around. I love just sitting in the one place and watching… the ordinary becomes extraordinary. As you can see I became obsessed with the oomung-oomung (hermit crab) tracks. I know that I have posted photos of them before, but I can’t stop following these trails… I love the image of the track that goes over a stick. Nothing stops these little sand dune climbers. Then there were the shadows. I watched these perform on the sand and cliffs and felt myself get drawn into the darkness and cracks. If only I was small, I would have such a new world to explore.

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Old feeling came and paid me a visit

J and I were driving down Manari Road after a day trip to Barred Creek. We’d walked through the bush that day, saw a giant King Brown skin shed on the grass, sheltered from the sun in the caves by the beach and floated in the crystal blue ocean. As we trundled down the road I took in a deep breath and with it an old feeling of being on country. Old feeling? It’s tricky to explain. It was the feeling I used to have being with country before all of the gas stuff started up. Up until this moment I hadn’t even realised that my feelings of being with country had changed.

What was the texture of this old feeling? My heart was full, clear. There was no fear or anxiety. It was a happy feeling. Maybe the feeling had the bright blue and red colours of country streaked through it. My realisation that I hadn’t been feeling this essence for years now was confronting, but it opened up possibilities too. Had I been picking up on collective feelings on country that were punctuated by fear, anxiety, anger, uncertainty because of impending threats to country? If country is living, does country sense this too? I imagined myself swimming in a field of feelings and emotions, all mixed up between people and country. It felt messy. Complicated. Unclear. The old feeling that visited me on that sticky day in the build-up was in complete contrast to what I have just described. I wanted it back. But as soon as the old feeling came to visit me it was gone. It was elusive, I couldn’t hold onto it.

I’m not sure why, but over the past few days I’ve felt compelled to share that story with a few friends. Some of whom questioned whether my memory was triggered by something material in the landscape, or a smell or sound. This possible explanation sounds likely, rational, but it doesn’t feel right. It was a deeply somatic experience, I experienced it with my whole body. It made this old feeling visible as an entity, when previously I had experienced it as a taken for granted way of feeling/being. I probably wouldn’t have thought much about this ‘happening’ except that someone else had a similar experience, in about the same place, at about the same time…

A few weeks after the old feeling visited me I was sitting around a table having a yarn with friends about our feelings on country. I told this family about my unusual journey down Manari Road, when one of them pipped up, “Hey L, you said exactly the same thing on our way back from our fishing trip last week!” We dug a little big deeper into the circumstances around his experience and were both shocked in our realisation that our stories shared so much truth. So what was it that we both felt? Was it the same thing?

My natural tendency is to want to explain why things happen. I want to understand what events mean. I guess I am trying to construct a narrative that gives me a sense of what life is, how we are connected. I sought a possible explanation/story from another friend who is intimately connected with that country. He look puzzled, but said that there is a rock which lives underground and surfaces near that place. Was it the rock calling out to us? Was something in country wanting to remind us to hold that old, happy feeling of being with country? A spirit of country paying us a visit? I have no answers. What happened made me felt good, really good. This came at a time when I wanted, needed to focus on holding a good feeling for country. There was too much talk about Woodside coming onto sacred country and doing bad things.

So I am felt wondering, with the immediate threat of Woodside going into country gone, what will it feel like to be with country when I return in a few weeks time? 

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The story that wrote itself

For months now I have been ignoring a story that has been nagging at me to write it. There were countless reasons why I ignored it… not political enough, not theoretical enough… About a month ago, after listening to the Elizabeth Gilbert TED Talk I finally surrendered to the story (I loved Gilbert’s description of the poet Ruth Stone being chased by her poetry across the fields). This story most definitely has a life of its own, for it pounced out of me and occupied the pages on my screen with such intention and will. What was it that Gilbert was saying about being a conduit for a creative force…? I am not insinuating that this story will be a bestseller or even published, for me it is inconsequential. The thing that I have been relishing ever since I let the story go, is the process of writing the story, or should I say, letting the story write itself. It is my being with the story which I want to write about and make sense of.

Writing was an opportunity to sit with, be with and occupy the story… the places, the people, the moonrises and the heat of the day. Sitting down to write is usually a dualistic experience for me. There is me, then there is the story on the computer screen. Yes the story originates from me, but there is some kind of disconnect that I usually cannot seem to reconcile. For this story, it was as though I had crawled through the lines on the screen, only to emerge in country. I was feeling story as place. It had the hallmarks of the seductive escapism I experience when reading good literature or watching a film. The other world, out there, seemed less appealing to occupy. So I wonder, will I feel another story tugging at my sleeve, asking me to pen it? Or am I a one story pony??? 

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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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