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?