Richard Hunter, Frans Hoogland, Jaqueline Wright from ABC Open, and I have been working on a project which I’d love to share with you all, it’s about Feeling Country. Many thanks to Jacqui for all the hours of pulling it together and to Gabrielle Norden and Sara Retallick for contributing beautiful sounds from Country. Enjoy!
Tag Archives: Walking
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
I’ve just finished reading the article Walking as Spiritual Practice: The Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, written by Sean Slavin. His discussion on the discursive tools (e.g. maps, guidebooks, pamphlets and signage), which pilgrims use along the Camino de Santiago in Spain, prompted me to think about the discursive tools/objects that are employed along the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail. What were the ‘tools’ or ‘objects’ that told stories along the Trail? Had I asked this question a year ago I would have uncovered something very different; up until this year, the key discursive ‘tool’ predominantly used along the Trail was oral storytelling, with the focus being on stories from Bugarregarra – creation/the dreaming. All my past experiences of walking trail were punctuated by the storytelling of Richard Hunter, Goolarabooloo law boss and Storyteller for the Northern Traditions Song Cycle.
Richard retired from the role of storyteller last year, creating space for the younger Goolarabooloo men to step into this role. There were a number of Goolarabooloo men who shared stories with the walkers on Trail this year, but not without a visible reluctance (I think this was more about being shy and lacking confidence, underpinned by a deep respect for Richard’s authority as storyteller and teacher). I guess it is hard to step into someone else’s shoes after they have been doing something for a long time.
As the first walking of the Trail progressed and ended and the next one began shortly after, the storytelling became more scant and the walkers of Trail more hungry… This hunger was visible in the way that people swarmed around interpretive signs at key locations along the Trail and hung off every word when a story about country was being shared in the process of walking. These interpretive signs share local Indigenous knowledge about country, including plants, animals, places and stories from Bugarregarra.
Expectations of stories being shared by Goolarabooloo bubbled to the surface of conversations that Trail walkers were having amongst themselves. It became increasingly evident through the conversations that I had with other walkers that people wanted the country they were walking through to be storied; they wanted to see this country through the lens of Bugarregarra.
At one point, a volunteer on the Trail unearthed a dilapidated box of old Lurujarri Heritage Trail brochures; they were received with great excitement by the walkers who were in the vicinity. Stories told through the brochures were poured over, words recited and then the brochures were filed away safely into journals and notebooks. It is important to note that these pamphlets were barely being held together; they were stained yellow with mildew and were torn along the folds. Miraculously, they had endured two decades worth of wet seasons in the Kimberely.
The other discursive object that we came upon during Trail was a large information board about past Goolarabooloo custodian Paddy Roe. Whilst Paddy’s descendants often make mention of him and the legacy which he created by initiating Trail, this information board (it contains images, a transcript from his obituary and an article in which he speaks about the Trail) gives Paddy a different agency on Trail. Standing at the board in front of his images, I feel a sense that I am having a moment with Paddy himself. It is hard to articulate why this is so.
At the heart of this story about discursive objects and tools are the questions, how do we generate meaning about place and our relationship with place? What role do stories play in the interweaving of people and place?
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.
connected silence, in
conversation with country.
Words as feelings,
passing through the soles of my feet.
Tone changes as we leave
pandanas forest and rise over dunes.
Serge of excited babble as we
onto a stretch of white sandy beach.
Blue, blue, blue
screaming at me…
Hurry up! Dive!
But when we get to the freshwater paperbark,
you tell me
Conversation finds its way into
Black and blue dancers
float under the canopy.
Never touching the ground.