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).
It has been a while since I last visited Yuin country on the south coast of NSW. I didn’t revisit Gulaga Mountain, but I felt her presence. Not far from there, up the coast a little, a friend and I were talking about stories that people from different cultures might have about the same country/place. We were sitting on his back verandah with a clear view of a point (headland). He then pointed at the point and said something like, “For example, the Yuin Nation might say that the Rainbow Serpent created that headland over there,” then we continued our conversation.
About 15 minutes later, on this very sunny day, his wife ran up from the beach and called out, “Quickly, come and look, your grandson wants you to look at the Rainbow Serpent in the sky!” We both jumped off the verandah and went onto the grass and looked up at the sky. Right there in front of our eyes was a long snake shaped cloud running up and down the sky, with a rainbow right over the top of it and it was directly above the point! We just looked and each other in amazement. The cloud even had the spine of the snake in its formation. I have never seen a cloud like it before. There was no rain and no other rainbows in the sky that we could see, just the one rainbow on the snake cloud.
There are many takes on how one could interpret this happening, for example, coincidence or simple physics and meteorology. But I want to explore the possibility of having a dialogue with country. Is it possible for two non-Indigenous Australian people to be part of this type of dialogue? Regardless of what it meant or could mean, this happening opened up a space for my friend and I to talk about our experiences of feeling and being with country. Again, it is that which words cannot articulate, (a loose sand slipping through fingers kind of feeling) which I am challenged by in trying to write about my own being with country.