nomadology heading undergrowth-typeface (1K)
gathaka

Return home

 
from Hounslow now through europe postwar to Cornwall then - constructions in history and mythology
Phones repaired, unlocked and sold here say numerous LED signs
Pawn shops with jewellery abound
I think of reading Londonstani and the stolen phone industry these shops points to. Everyone has one now. Everyone needs to support the habit.
KFC for brief sensation of affluence
A mix of the Subcontinent, Eastern Europe and African people and languages
Echoes from a fading empires and new Europes open borders
Im surrounded by languages I dont understand on the island where most of my genes spent most of the past few millennia but in that scale even my language is a recent arrival. I reach back to the stone circles and graves that 5000 years of forgetting has cleared the space for me to create a mythology of my own editing if not making. Forgotten rituals synchronising us with season and place but what has been built over the past few hundred years in Hounslow has only been synchronised with the economy and all I see is people scrambling up the crumbling walls of empire. The view that awaits those who rech the top does not interest me.
Hounslow is an affordable place for recent arrivals
The Irish were here before the Indians, fleeing Africa, they came 40 years ago
Now they come to escape the poverty left in communisms wake
Streets of rubbish and decay and smashed bottles
Drinking lads in the park
3 Bobbies in hats and disposable gloves search 3 SE Asian boys
all six of them look like foreigners as the subcontinent boys play cricket
The Union Jack claims a few grimy shop fronts for the nation
What will happen as things get tighter and fear breathes more life into the nationalism that shelters the disempowered from contemplating their place within society.
The Euro cup is on, last time I was here it was the world cup; Soccer players are such melodramatic princesses the European nations battle it out along now familiar national lines. These lines have danced so much even in my own lifetime and yet they also run deep beyond view in the distant past. The English press tut tuts the shows of aggressive nationalism in the former eastern block countries with Nazi salutes and monkey noises when black men near the ball. No reports of English soccer hoodlums as yet.
Our Polish neighbour says they are a small minority giving the rest a bad name. Who is right? So much conflicting information and we filter it with our own prejudice.
I look through my eyes that structure what I see with my favourite dimensions
Self-empowerment issues
Insecurity issues
Identity issues
Desire and fear driven behaviour
Authoritarian characters submitting or dominating
A talk back show responds to a recent study showing black men nearly 40 times more likely to be stopped by police, Asians something like eight, than white men. A black man talks of when he was younger he would nick anything if it was not bolted down and that while unemployed white men are happy to sit at home and live a welfare impoverished passive life black and Asian men still feel the responsibility to support their families. That is his lived experience and I can accommodate it. A lot of affirmation of police prejudice but a counter narrative that it has improved as the (all male) callers say it was worse when they were younger but maybe that is because they are no longer the target younger demographic. One bloke says things improved when he tinted his windows I wondered of he sold window tinting
A few days later the news comes though that Rodney King has drowned in a swimming pool
I have just finished Tony Judt Postware a history of Europe since 1945 published in 2005. It flowed through almost 100 years at an engaging pace exploring the ebb and flow of history as Eastern and Western Europe took their own path out of the wreckage of the two world wars to eventually reconverge into the European we see today: A diverse mix of nations with commonalities and differences. A cosmopolitan elite in the high paid sectors such as finance working and playing across the continent and a class anchored in their own local cultural and geographic with little awareness beyond sport of their neighbours. The two acceptations being the English with their relative affluence that enable them to travel but remain insular and ignorant of cultures they scorn from within their cultural prism and the low payed workers of centres like London escaping the poverty of their homelands.
How a people collectively remember their history shapes the character of their nation. Myth making is more an editing and emphasising process than a creative one. Occasional fabrications are required when truths are not available for manipulation. What is happening to media ownership in Australia? Who is telling the stories for us and for what ends?
A significant part of what happened after the Second World War was how the devastated communities dealt with the reproductions of the dark and weak sides they had shown. Denial and obsession with moving forward seems to have been the order of the day in the west. Surviving repression was fashionable in the east. The French capitulation and subsequent collaboration under Vichy was pretty much the model with varying themes across east and west Europe alike. The Holocaust of the Jews and other minorities was not just the Nazi death camps but also the neighbours who had informed to gain favour. It was not just the Jews either but most regions had groups persecuting one another. The Jews were the universal other; little surprise some were raised by their parents in complete ignorance of their heritage in Eastern Europe. Extermination and irradiation of the other was not without precedent and happened too easily in Kosovo. The pre Christian cultures irradiation was pretty much a complete success with the last touches being the state sanctioned burning of heretics. How many cultures and languages were lost in the last couple of centauries? How many more will we lose?
The Poms were a spectacle flocking to the spectacle of their queens jubilee. I guess it brings them together and gives a sense of continuity and security in what are indeed troubled times. The Olympics is the next big event in London and media speculation of celebrating the old English village as the roots of the nation seem strange in this multicultural end of town.
Not just the poor, but also the middle class in Greece are in food lines as it falls apart. That we live in physical reality not financial abstraction is bitting hard on the arses of those who had their head in the sand. When they look up do they see the cause of their pain? The rise of nationalism and politics of fear across the globe suggests not.
It is complex and people are in a rush and want the simple answer. Does anybody else wonder about a link between wanting everything in black and white in politics and history and autism? Some studies in neuroscience on brain plasticity have found a link and proposed a reasonable mechanism between white noise and autism. There is certainly a lot more white noise in our modern cities than the old ones. The low flying air traffic over Hounslow to and from Heathrow pass every few minutes above the loft window in our attic room.

The wind blew hard in Cornwall as our travels must have been something of a pilgrimage to the Neolithic sights. Stones circles, graves and standing stones aligned with the cycles of sun moon and season. Landscape and geology spoke to me as it does of the slow arc of time. It is reassuring and healing. Rebirth on the winter solstice as the sun rises after the longest night to shed light on a place where the ashes of the dead awaited. Back home in the top the local culture did not build monuments but wove the fabric of being into the season cycles of the plants and animals to ground our being in our physical reality.
Another of my favourite cultural comparisons or contrasts: The cycle of time be it pagan, eastern or indigenous compared to the line time of the Abraham traditions. Cycles and production lines: when the culture of beginning and end has come to its end may we be part of sustainable cycles that again become the predominant mode of being.
Glastonbury was a little like Byron Bay with its alternative aesthetic obsession. It is the site of Mythic Avalon, once a Tor surrounded by a lake, now drained and cultivated with the Tor topped by a Christian construction. Was there once a stone circle? We were not there long enough to find people who went beyond the surface but one place, White spring, made into a subterranean pagan temple had a feeling of sacred beyond the Christian era buildings that reminded me only of politics and power. As the cool waters flowed past deities of goddess and deer shaman I could imagine a culture woven harmoniously into its landscape and seasons.
The last stop on this Neolithic pilgrimage way waylands smithy. -Wayland being derived through Saxon myth and then Norse to the god or elvan worker of metals. It is a burren facing south. A little investigation finds interpretations (explanation, deduction or speculation?) suggesting that the cup mark holes I have seen all over the place are star constellations and orientation linking to more sophisticated astronomical mythologies and astronomical navigation and regional delineation. A lifetime could be spent exploring the details and the possibilities of what once was, what still is and what will be
My imagination has been well fed and has turned to dreamings of what might be back home at Lakewood

men an tol

trethevy quoit

glastonbury tor (once was Avalon)

merry maidens

 
a place outside of time needing protection
Finding the place

I have found a place that takes me outside of time
As my waking self I walk in my dreams
The farmer in me plants native bush food trees and waters them
The nomad in me wanders the bush in search of the seasons offerings
I eat native fruits in a wonderland
i sit in a cool cave surounded by greens

I was asked if I had German linage
I guess yes… distantly through Saxony
Intellectually through Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Mann, Hess…
I went out with an Austrian for 3 years…
But the strongest old world culture I identify with is Celtic
So I know what it means to eat the fruits in this fairy land
Allow it to sustain you and you become it and can never leave
Wander you may
But you wander from yourself

A search for green plum on my bike from tree to tree
(Latin name: buchanania obovata or in Yolngu Yaku: munydjutj)
The first day of holidays with an early morning coffee under my belt
In search of breakfast
Deeper I wander into unknown open woodlands
Not many green plums
What I find is divine
Down a hill and the bush opens out into grassland and Lophostemon lactifluus
Occasional Pandanus and tee trees
This place looks like it holds water
Another swamp?
I go on excited by the prospect of the unknown
A green wall stands in the distance where I expected to see the woodlands dissolving the horizon
A tropical rainforest
Various trees tower above and Livistona benthamii burst into various stages of being
Awestruck wanders find the red bush apple
Black plumbs cover the ground beneath their shading canopy
Enough for a light breakfast
A small escarpment encircles the upstream side of the rainforest
A few figs on what is most likely rock figs (maybe small banyans)
Then the jackpot – a bountiful cluster fig
Eat my fill and fill a handkerchief to share later

Looking from outside of time

No water flows yet
But falls and swimming holes await real rain
Caves undercut the ironstone pan
In places it collapses and what was the dry open woodland on thin soils falls and becomes damp rainforest, cool and shaded
Greater soil capacity beneath the ironstone pan holds the moisture that sustains the rainforest community over the dry season
A glance further back in time sees the rainforest community and water falls at work eating upstream into the open woodland.
The opposite is happening downstream
As the rainforest cuts its way upstream the rainforest gully widens further from the source
The other end of the community gets less water early and late in the wet season
At the downstream boundary a battle rages with invasive grasslands
They wield fire to conquer the land
The shade and the moisture hold the grass and its fire at bay but as the waters become scarce the grassland advances
So over time this community, like a giant organism, moves and creates its own homeostatic environment.
Some of the giant trees are over 100 years old
Giant Ents who have forgotten what fire is
But the enemy is at the gates
One ancient giant lays fallen, burnt amidst new invaders
Mission and Gamba Grass
They burn hotter than Spear Grass and are thus more voracious invaders
It is chewing away the tail of the rainforest faster than the head is growing
Will the community be still here when a new dynamic equilibrium is established?
Will little pocket communities like this be able to move fast enough if climate change makes this little catchment a little dryer?

Here now

Green plumb is a woodland species not found in rainforest and a few walks above the escarpment in search of them are hard work in the approaching midday build up heat. It was so cool in the rainforest the woodland heat surprises me. I return to the cool beneath the canopy. This place is a sanctuary.


The mission grass is invading from all sides.
Most advances have been made from the flanks where it has climbed down the escarpment and established a base camp up to 50 meters wide in places.
Did the spear grass ever get this far?
The rainforest community would not be 100 meters wide
It asks for help to keep out the fire and to keep it alive

Who is responsible for this land?
This is not a general question to prompt some nebulous waffle
Specifically, who is responsible for this land?
I have no idea if it is private or public.
i have research to do... or should i just start work regardless?
I travel forward and backwards in time to test the different courses of action
There is a choice:
A mission or gamba grass waste land (for their heat eventually kills even the woodland trees where spear grass used to spare them)
Or a healthy rainforest community bountiful in fruit delights advancing from one fire break to another like trench warfare.

The freedom of it being someone else’s responsibility – talk and not act - or acknowledge that I have eaten its fruit and am indebted… again the gift of purpose.
 
raki
Our conditioning is a ladder
As we journey through experience, reflection, and learning we climb it
A ladder going down in to us which is up
We climb our awareness through it
We climb it all the way to the essence of our being
Romantic love, gurrutu, family, connections, positions, belongings…
Our being flows through these
through the raki (spelling?)

raki is a yolngu concept that literally means string
it is also used in reference to the gurrutu (kinship) system
connections…
 
The cicadas song
[ file under: Home ]

A lazy Sunday
As they should be
Friends around for dinner Saturday and staying the night…
The cicadas have been singing for a few weeks now
We have had a few storms but not much to get excited about yet
Yet to experience the sublime this season…
amidst the extreme energy in the middle of a low lightning storm.
It will come
Things are growing in anticipation of the breaking of the yearly drought
Leaves have exploded or buds are swelling depending on the species or the reserves of individuals….
I often sit in the pool…
Hmm a beer or a G&T or a scotch on ice…
Or just another glass of cold water with a hint of lemon or lime…
Tough life I reflect
The sedentary life leads to more of life’s energy going to fighting the forces of entropy
The eternal accumulation of mess and chaos
Sometimes I relax into it and descend into the sloth that can accumulate around you.
Dishes always done and hygiene taken care of, of course!
I just hauled in a whole bunch of old steel from Jack’s (steal) that will either go into a water tower to reduce my energy use (header tank filled from bore rather than another booster pump)… or maybe a studio amidst the trees looking over the water in the wet…
No time frame. The steel will sit where it is over the wet…
The pool paving is done
Only my bedroom left to paint…

I write little these days
Much more energy put into doing it rather than reflecting on it in a written form…
And when the creative urge comes I am more likely to pick the acoustic bass guitar up and start singing… old song from months ago or new one from now…
But time still moves on
When you write about something you put it down on paper outside of you and can leave it as you move with time
You may return to it from time to time if there is an editing process.
Stuff you put into songs that you continue to sing stays with you and is much closer
More accumulation
More identity
more connections

Perhaps less alone
How often was writing coming from some depth where there is no one else but you, or not even you, and you needed to put it down on paper to share it… in some other place and time…
Now we play music together
Much less alone now

We have played a few gigs of sorts
A couple of parties – one over at Harney Beach and the second at Lari’s in Larrakeyah where we got shut down by the cops after three songs at 3 am…
The next one is going to be more defined
We have been jamming for months now
Got a steady guitarist (Levin), drummer (Jack) and singer and bass (Rod)…
‘The Groupie Funkers’
Just added some keys and voice (Bec)
Eamon will soon be back...
All far more accomplished musicians then me….
Done a little recording…
Got a few things together that kind of sound nice or give you something or are just real fun!

So it is a party on the new moon

‘Groupie Funken in the Doo’
10th November
If you read this and come – you are welcome

Life has been much more full than just this…

Projects:
(other than groupie funkers)

Pete and I drove 1000ks in the troopy with 6 chickens and built a movable chicken dome to really kick start the homeland permaculture program. Smoked my troopie at the same time for my little brother while out there. (he travelled in it a lot). A mad week. We had a great time out there. For me it was very exciting because it was bringing my childhood to meet me now. Pete with so many shared life stories and my Yolngu family with such strong connections. Pete is now my uncle (ngapipi) I can marry his daughters however… A week of getting closer to people and places.

Part of grant ap for arts project out there June / July. Should be fun.

Work work work…
Managing the revolution duties o.k.
Cool stuff happening.

The neighbours still yell and fight sometimes…

The cicadas still sing thier song, loudest just after sunset
my ears ring into the night

evening sun 20 october

 
a story for white kids
Life and Death in Rurrangala

I went to the funeral for my little brother for two weeks. He was twenty when he died. Too young. We don’t say his name now. He was the lead singer and bass player in the Yirrkala award winning band ‘Wild Honey’ and one of the first four graduates from grade 12 with university qualifications from a bilingual, aboriginal, community school.

His grandfather on his mother’s side (Ngathi) was one of the strongest men in knowledge while he lived. His Ngandi (mother) (or in white man’s way of saying it ‘mother’s sister’ or ‘auntie on mothers side’) was the principal of the school.

My little brother was working across Arnhem Land as a music tutor before he died. He was one of those people with love for everyone and who everyone loved. His death created ripples across all of Arnhem Land from Yirrkala to Oenpelli.

He died down in Adelaide during heart surgery on Sunday the 29th of April 2007. He was in surgery for 9 hours before they came out and told us we had lost him. We had travelled all the way from Darwin and he had come from Yirrkala in the hope that he might live. I was with another one of our Ngandis.

He had rheumatic fever as a baby. He had a tissue (pig) valve put in his heart when he was 15. My little brother was tired a lot because his heart had to work too hard to get the blood around the body. We didn’t know that was why he was tired all the time. By the time he came to hospital in Nhulunbuy it was getting late. By the time he was medi-evacuated to Darwin Hospital it was almost too late. We almost lost him in Darwin. There are no facilities for heart surgery in Darwin despite the number if indigenous resident of the Northern Territory with heart problem. He flew to Adelaide and we nearly lost him during the flight. We clung to hope. He made it into surgery. He didn’t make it out. We lost him.

Our philosophy is sophisticated. We use lots of metaphors and like Socrates we never used to lock our knowledge into writing. The fabric of our universe is the Gurrutu system (kinship) and some people can see similarities with quantum physics and relativity. We took his spirit home through ceremony. We sang songs about turtles and dolphins diving out of and into the water. We sang songs about the osprey diving into and out of water. Out of and into the water is like waking up and going to sleep, like living then dying. Carl Jung would understand this.

Then we sung my little brother to where we were going to bury him; a beautiful, peaceful place, our mother country. It has soft sandy ground and no sharp seeds if you know where to walk. You can walk through the bush bare foot if you want. The bush is full of food; fruit and kangaroo and fish are in the river. The river is beautiful. It comes out of a sacred spring in a forbidden jungle and then flows gently over waterfalls and through pools you can swim in. We call this water the water of knowledge. It is another metaphor; different waters come together and mix up, they can form fertile places like the meeting of fresh and salt water or turbulent and dangerous waters with undercurrents that can sweep you away. Water, knowledge, spirit… The water at Rurrangala is safe, there are no crocodiles. It is so nice to swim in the river when it is hot and sweaty. It is a wonderful place to grow up and find yourself.

We just had a new house built. It is one of the best designed houses in the homelands. It was organised and payed for by the Laynapuy Homeland Association, which is run by Yolngu people. It has two big verandas for sitting on in the wet season. It has a kitchen with plenty of storage and one of only a few really good wood fire ovens with a cook top in Arnhem Land. We have one of the first flushing toilets in the homelands. Do you have a public toilet in your town? Maybe the government thinks that there are not enough people in the homelands to spend the money on them. We have solar hot water – that is a first! We have a generator for power so we can have the lights on or watch DVD or videos when we have enough fuel for the generator… and enough money for the fuel… and when the generator is working. There is no television reception.

There are ‘cypress pine’ trees that flavour the air with their aroma. We burn the wood on campfires and it keeps the mozzies away. It stains the pots with this thick flaky black stuff.

It is a very gentle place just like my little brother was. Hundreds of people came for the funeral. Some stayed here for months. Some will stay for longer. Death realigns our lives when we love one another. We learn at ceremony like you learn at school. We learn who we are and how to live. They mark us absent from school when we go to ceremony for a few weeks and the school looses teachers because of poor attendance.

Lots of clans got involved singing and dancing him home. We dug the hole, put him in and filled it by hand ourselves. We cried. In the last dance we speared the turtle. It took a while to get him, we had to paddle up to the shelter and we saw the turtle. It came in and out of the water. We backed up and paddled forward a few times, concentrating real hard on getting that turtle. He came to the surface again and we paddled forward and got him with the harpoon. Then we smoked ourselves and burnt the shelter where the body had been in the freezer.

Some family brought some turtle eggs and we ate them. Life goes on in a cycle and we are all part of it. We share it with our families.

water of life

Rainy Days at Rurrangala

 
Battle Cry
The spirit withers under the cold light of rationalism
It is carved up by Occam’s Razor and excluded
Or at best neatly packaged and filed under psychology
But language is only ever symbols
And once again metaphor provides the most powerful
I am a warrior after all
Just as the loving father kisses his wife, his daughter and his son before going out to battle, perhaps for the last time;
He puts on his war paint
He takes a secret token of protection
He puts on his armour
He takes up his weapons
And goes out to kill another man and womans’s son
Does the Father talk to his daughter about killing men?
I have three weeks more holiday and in that time I think I might be flat out doing something about this assault on aboriginal identity. I launch myself onto the battle field of politics wielding my powers of reason and capacity for love.

Does the warrior talk to his enemy about his love for his children?
What would happen if he did?
Do they put down their arms and cry for their foolishness and leave the battleground as brothers?
Does the enemy simply laugh at him and cut off his head?
I am not going to fuck around expecting arseholes to learn how to love
(although if I catch a glimpse of their compassion I will feed it all the knowledge I can)
How can we fight these economic rationalists?
They hold the field, the high ground, they have the numbers and a fair bit of control over the language.
We have more courage and conviction
We fight for more than just ourselves
We fight for more than just this life
Like the troublador riding out against a dragon crying ‘amor!’
We leave the places where we know love and safety,
with amor engraved on our rationalist sword.
Every strike we scream “where is the love in your model for society?
Where are the human things that give real happiness?
Don’t give me that shit about economic growth and material wealth;
When anyone stops and actually thinks about what makes them happy they know that is bullshit.
Don’t need to listen to a Beatles song to know it.
We need food and shelter but most of all we need love!
Your model lacks this and is worth nothing for it is built on the shifting sands of the mind alone.
‘show me someone with an intellectual commitment and I don’t know where he is next week, show me someone with an emotional commitment I know he is always there’ said Utah Philips
Your model is easily manipulates and is made for slave masters to adjust when controlling the shifting sentiment of the slaves.
We are not slaves
We are free thinking and living humans
We know who we are and where we belong
‘You ain’t the boss of me’ sings stu
You have no human heart
You are a passing idea
A transient distraction
A poisonous conviction…”
 
Full Ceremony, Full Circle
The rain has not stopped here since I arrived
very strange but not unheard of weather
cold
melancholy
I feel like I am at a funeral…
The solar panels on the bore have not enough energy to fill the tank so we have to go to the river and fill jerry cans…
I just wrote that last line with my little brother Rranga
He came in and jumped on me so I pinned him down and tickled him as big brothers do… he is very ticklish… and not that small.
He is 15 and used to be in my class… a brief English reading and writing lesson… he struggled with reading the sentence… his literacy is not that good.
He had a dream about the brother who’s funeral this is
And in that dream our brother told Rranga not to burry the bass guitar with the coffin but to keep it and he will teach Ranga…
it was a good dream and I am glad that the guitar will not be buried

It is night and the day has been spent mostly waiting for the rain to stop
No open bungle (dancing ceremony) today… just a little manikay (song) from a veranda
Once it was dark more sacred ceremony took place while the body was moved from the coffin to the cooler… as close family we sat in the dark on the veranda (all lights in the small homeland were turned off and children made quiet while it happened)
A few more quiet tears
I spent some time digging the grave with the young men as songs floated down from the veranda… I recognised some – the seagull.., but I was not asking for explanation… they would have told a story possibly relevant to the digging of the grave.
The day passed gently
People looking for someone with Kava or smokes…
I stopped smoking for a few days but started smoking again when hanging out with Gokiri… my beautiful ngandi, no new stories there.
I spent time with family
A lot of love
Play with and tease the middle size kids
Nurse the little ones
Collect fire wood
Spend time with the different clans
Talk about the serious new moves by the Howard government to further undermine Yolngu identity under the guise of a response to the ‘child and sexual abuse in communities’ report. (which was more than adequately exposed in the Collins review 11 years ago – it is a move to get the racist vote again in the lead up to the election children overboard again) I read and explained the press release…

Back to the Ceremony
Dancing
Self consciousness slowly dissolves
Reappears briefly when a new dance means new movement to learn
Then dissolves again
The songs sung by my fathers I have only just met
My songs
Again expression through metaphors of water and air
seagull
Queen fish
Driftwood
Gathaka – oyster catcher – my name
Clouds
A pattern is forming
Symbols are starting to make sense
The journey of the spirit is becoming tangible

Earlier we flew in and then danced the body from the airstrip to the ceremony ground
Spear held long above my head by the arms now feeling the fatigue of the surfing debacle
We danced simply and beat the bilma rhythm the metal ends of the spear with the handle end of the galpu
The first eruption of grief as the women threw themselves in the sand and hit their heads with pots
All my mums so distraught
PJ crying beneath his sun glasses as he carried the coffin
We danced the stingray
Numi, PJ’s mum, also danced but included hitting her head with a knife

Now it is getting dark
The Djapu sing and dance and I find myself not participating for a moment
The djapu are my mari clan
Maternal grandmother
My backbone
I will dance with them tomorrow’

I brought film and sound equipment
The ceremony has been declared open for documentation
The filming is a mixture of success and debacle
There was not one working video in the school
The one I got from the homelands school turns out to have no sound
But I also got a mini disc recorder so the hellish job of matching pictures and sounds awaits.
My little sister, Yilki, the one who gave the speech, is familiar with using a camera and has really taken to the job of filming (and recording sound)
The time after ceremony is spent with family clambering around the little camera screen watching the dancing with out sound or listening to the song out of sync… it is a shame I do not have software and firewire cables that would allow me to capture and edit with them here and now.

Inward journey of the mind:

Reflections on what happens to our identity when we transcend our conditioning
Triggered by juxtaposition of the very different journeys we are on
Beneath my dissolution into all this ceremonial and political spheres of concern my desires still run strong.
Not strong enough to overthrow my intellect… or my focus on other things
‘my spirit is being strangled by reason’ I wrote once while living here and experiencing the tensions
How the monastic existence, the denial of our basic desires has been the secret to harnessing the power that western culture (at least) has used in shaping the world according to mind
Out of Eden
But more than that

I flirt with beautiful yolngu women, a few my wives, most not
Share smokes
Mostly my beautiful ngandi (mother)
But flirt is all so far
Sitting around the bucket drinking kava from coconut cups through the night
Low key with a little humour and stories
I Am yet to drag a yolngu woman into the bushes yolngu style…
Not what I am here for

I have plunged deep into this ceremony
‘I am learning’ I said when receiving a compliment on my bungle djama (ceremonial / dance work)
‘yaka learning gathu, nhe merengini’ (not learning son, you already know)
I felt my brother’s spirit returning when we danced the seagull dance around the community in single file
Then the women started wailing
They felt it too

I reflected on the change in my life when I got here
The hedonistic adventures in the few years before
Then I came here and was very careful to conform to the culture
Conservative culture
Skin laws
Then I fell in love with my mother (beautiful Ngandi)
But mostly I remained in a form of shyness that comes from not understanding peoples’ expectations and not wanting to offend / upset…
My beautiful ngandi turned out to be a very messy drunk
And I was torn in several directions at once…

I had a long deep conversation with Nalwarri, the eldest mother and principal,
She confirmed my understanding about the significance of water in waking and sleeping
In a belief as the return of spirits in new forms
We then talked about what is happening to identity here
How the boys, my brother’s friends, are participating in ceremony when they normally did not.
How the love between them is stronger than the old kinship ties
Individualism
Now they grow up in friendship groups as much, if not more, than isolated family groups…
Self determined context
Choose your own mates
I told the story about Tristan and isolt.
Romantic love is bigger than god
We find our own truths now
Science (among so many things) would never have come to be without this evolution in our consciousness…
With evolution comes extinction
In information held in minds as much as in genes
Cultures as much as species
Except we can test thoughts with our imagination and reason to see what they might become before we release them
Once done there is no going back

The old symbols extinguishing self can still work
In moments
We dance
transcend
Just like moments looking into a lovers eyes
But physical, spiritual and economic systems need to align
Here it does not and that is one of the causative issues… here… and everywhere

I drove in to Nhulunbuy & Yirrkala on Friday morning with my beautiful ngandi

For a while I thought it was to be just the two of us
Time alone with someone of the opposite sex rarely happens here
And it did not
One of my sisters also came
‘bamarru’ is the term for such companions to keep you safe from gossip as much as real danger
She mentioned buying some rum, banned in homelands… I wonder if she did? I gently let her know I did not want to be part of it.
Yet if drunk alone we would dissolve into each other for sure
We continue to not break out of well set patterns of behaviour
She sat in the back as we drove out through the community but chose to sit beside me in the front as we drove through town for all there to see.

We came into radio reception in time to here one of the ‘elders’ (as he was introduced) speak about the current government thrust to repeal the land rights laws and force their vision on aboriginal culture.
He spoke strongly about it not being a partnership and not being consulted
I was not that impressed… but he can be a self serving politician
There are so few people in this world who seem capable of rising above self interest for long if at all…
He did not talk about identity
There was an invitation to contribute text messages to the debate
I pulled over. In reception. To the complaints of my ngandi for not getting to the shops sooner (only once, but this debate seems beyond most yolngu) and texted something like:
Govt agenda: undermine yongu identity. Continue to push in western individualism and economic rationalism. Collins report already revealed sex abuse 11 years ago. This is strategy to get racist vote in next fed election.
It was read out and last bit used in later discussion…

I am very serious about contributing to evolution of our culture
More important than my own personal desire?
What would be the consequences of a little debauchery on the side?
I would loose some respect amidst yolngu
There have been plenty of figures using fine rhetoric as a sexual lubricant…
Desire not love
For their own ends
And there is the conditioning stuff
I can probably transcend my own
In moments
But I have to live and work with the consequences of other people’s conditioning also…

Leon arrives and my thoughts were interrupted
His meeting went well in Darwin. Minister to sign off agreement and yolngu have maintained control. Make or break situation has ended in make. 31 members came to the school council meeting where most schools would be lucky to get 10… a strong unanimous message was sent saying we want to keep control of our school and our students’ education…
Leon has flu and stays behind
I load up with family and groceries and head back out for another 3 hours of intense concentration. Driving into the sunset that turns to dark is hard to see through…

Further thoughts on the road
It is dry now but the pot holes are killers
Last time we came across a troopy that had rolled
Today another car slid of the road on the way from here without damage or injury
So it is a meditation with the occasional thrill of not being able to go around serious potholes in time and holding the troopy steady as it jumps and bumps through… any attempt to change direction in such moments would result in spinning out and in the case of troopies usually rolling.
Old thoughts really being recast into a few new words
The problem with economic rationalism and individualism is that buried in its values system is the need for the individuals to always want more
Economic growth
Progress…
But there isn’t any more
Only so many atoms on the planet
Only so much energy from the sun
selfish consumers maximising their ‘utility’
I hated the micro-economics subjects I did as part of my agricultural science degree but at least I know how the bastards think
Only so many positions of privilege amidst those doing it hard to stay alive and be themselves
Only this experience of being
Only the smiles on peoples faces
Only the love we share
There can always be more of that
‘never too young and never to old
To learn more about love’
A song lyric I have had for a while now waiting for the rest of the song

Back on Friday Night

Things have been testy here since I got back today
Getting tired from the relentless ceremonial work
Resenting the ‘late comers’ who hold up the program and generally come out of vanity and not love.
Funerals often culminate in big fight out here
We would rather they did not
The politics is complicated
The arguments deep
People fighting for identity
For the ceremonial patterns and outcomes to fit their agenda
My Mari, waka, a strong homelands man (who focuses locally) sings of clouds going away in response to my uncles violent grandstanding.
The cloud being him leaving in disgust
These arguments should be had though song and resolved long before the spears come out.
I don’t think my uncle, whos temper outburst have unsettled things, could get the yidarki and bilma (didgeridoo and clap stick) players to support him in the song even if he could sing
He has not other means
How often could violence be avoided by people being able to articulate themselves and communicate effectively?

Saturday

A decision has been made
Fuck the late comers
We go on without them
Without the participation of some clans
Jo and I must go on Monday
I told this to Waka (Mari who in charge) and he said ‘ma I will take that into consideration’
Our full participation is much respected
It will finish Sunday
I won’t miss the end
I will have one stick and throw whatever smokes I have left on me into the grave as we fill it with the soil we dug out
I get stabs of pain
Moments of living memory
An expression or a gesture
More dancing
The extreme dance of the snake
Stabbing the ground violently in one spot encircled by dancers
Men slowly rolling in the sand as a grub
Two dances come together and we take turns joining the other
The ground shakes with stamping feet
More people arrive
I have met so many people
Leant so much
My head spins

Sunday

Sitting with stu by the river in the morning of the last day of the funeral
I slept the night in the shelter with the coffin of my brother

In sacred ceremony
Lights off
Different claps sticks like boomerangs played and rattled at both ends
Powerful
Powerful
Powerful stuff
We approach and backed off
Approached and backed off
The deep voice ‘hmm a hmm’ and stamping from the feet I have previously listened to in silence in the dark
Pacifying songs for the spirit that often put the women to sleep
We took his body from the freezer
Stiff and cold
Light
I could not see him through the frozen condensation on the plastic bag
Just make out a few details of the material of the suit they put him in
We manoeuvred him gently in the confined space
Put him in the coffin and screwed on the lid
My hand remained cold from his frozen body for long after

I awoke, my galpu was missing
With Garamatji, my Ngapapi who came with me on the broom trip, I drove 40 minutes back to Yarringya, the place of his song, to get sand.
Stopped at Yilpra for more smokes and returned to Rurrangalla
The sand was to be buried with the coffin
I looked everywhere for the galpu
My last clear memory of it was sitting beside me at the campfire
I was fairly certain I had put it beside my bedroll in the shelter with the body of my brother
I eventually found it hanging above where I had slept
I’m sure I did not put it there…

Stu got here
We went to the river
Talked about cypress trees
The sweet smell of the place
The gentleness of the place
The soft sand underfoot
The absence of plant species with prickles and deadly seeds
The beautiful river
‘wawa, when you come you will see a beautiful river’ my brother told me over the phone when he was staying out here to dry out and settle down.
The water was flat and full of clouds and sky and trees
Reflections
Bird songs
The minor? I don’t know what they were
Little birds hopping in all of the tress
The place is alive
The water comes tenderly out from amongst the water plants that look a little like a cross between pandanus and mother in laws tongue
Just upstream is a sacred spring in a forbidden rainforest
My little brother once took me to the edge of it
‘water of knowledge’ is another of his songs – that one might be lost
This is where deep knowledge comes from
Flowing out of the ground and shaping the land
The gentleness of this place is the gentleness of him
And if we look after this place it will always be here
This is my ngandi (mother) place
That makes me the djunggawa (caretaker)
The cypress pine is favoured for burning
The smoke has a strong smell
The pots have a thick black crust from it
The mozzies hate it
‘yeah, staying out here is one big cypress pine smoke trip’ I joked with stu
I think I might come back next holidays
Fix the troopy and drive it out
Load up with garden stuff and build a chicken dome…

Monday

Now I sit in Gove hospital with my foot in a bucket of cold water
The funeral is over
I don’t smoke anymore
I stink of campfire cypress smoke
It is over
He is buried
He is home
After all the ceremony
All the dancing
The approach and delivery of flowers by different clans
The ngarli (tobacco) dance a similar offering
The coffin went in the ground
I carried it in with the other boys
PJ among them
One last cry with him
Heads buried resting on the coffin for a long time
As the coffin came out of the shelter the women’s grief reached it’s climax
In the build up we watched the women closely and removed with duress instruments of self harm. A brick, a spear, most commonly 2 litre powdered milk tins… used to smash your own head with. A few tins slipt past security and had to be removed once the grief erupted. I remember once seeing a women covered in the blood streaming from her head at one of these funerals. An old lady, my mari, the youngest daughter of the famous warrior wongu emerged with a knife hitting herself on the head. I took it from her and held her while she cried. Some women threw themselves hard in the sand (sort of hard – they have the technique throwing themselves dramatically but not too bad). Surrounded by tears. Nalwarri threw herself a few times before someone held her. Where possible the women manage themselves. I went and held her and got another of my little brothers to sit in the sand with us.
With song and dance we took the coffin to the grave and carried it in
There we remained for a long time
No one could see us as they all stood back a little
Perhaps two or three hundred people?
PJ remained even longer, I stayed with him for a while thinking I would help him come back… I left him to do it in his own time and space… he did.
The band played an acoustic version of Yaringya, his songs, as everyone took handfuls of the sand and threw it in. we cried. I held my beautiful ngandi and we cried together.
Then came the work
We dug the grave by hand and now had to fill it
I worked in a trance like state as hard and as long as I could
A brief rest and then into it again
Until it was done
All the time there was relevant manikay (song)
Then my last cigarette
I gave the short end to my little brother

Home
Humpty doo
I already miss my yolngu family
My foot on fire
Well that is how it feels
It was
Covered in burning plastic
I stepped in it running to put out a pile of cloths that had caught fire
The burning of the shelter spread a little further than planned…
Apparently you leave a burn like this (dressed and covered) 24 hours before assessing the severity…
I can feel it so at least it is not 3rd degree…big blister beneath the callus
It really hurts…

Tuesday – recovery and minor injuries

Darwin hospital again
A minor injury to tend to
Full circle
This is where it started
I lost my little brother during this cycle
He was deep in my heart and loosing him tore my heart out with him
The ceremony has put my heart back in my chest with him still intact there
With the thoughts of him peacefully at rest at rurrangalla
With the feelings of him living peacefully in me
‘yaka thinking now’ I was told by a number of people on Monday morning once it was over. ‘nhe merengini?’ (you understand?)
‘I am thinking about food, I am hungry’ I told them to let them know I knew. Let him go and get on with life.
With knowledge of death come knowledge of life
I have learnt so much though this journey and the gifts of existence go on…

Sometimes we go onto the battle field together
Sometimes we go alone
We do what we have to do
Focused
Djambatj is the yolngu word it
The eagle is djambatj for the fish
The hunter, with spear, is djambatj for the fish
Me, in that last dance, with the harpoon, djambatj for the turtle

My little brother was one of those rare people who could love everyone
Who could bring everyone together on one side
In his 20 years he change a lot of peoples lives for the better
And those changes will go on and into the mix of this continents culture over many years to come

The funeral song cycle started with the turtle coming in and out of the waves
Water
The unconsciousness
Then it ended in spearing the turtle
The same dance of the boat had brought all to the shelter to deliver gifts of flowers and tobacco
An exchange
After the ceremony there was to be a feast of turtle eggs
Life goes on
I missed the turtle eggs as I had to be taken to the hospital
I will eat turtle eggs next holiday when The Troopy is to be smoked
I will also have my next smoke by the grave

Burning the shelter where the body rested for two weeks

turtle hunt

approaching lipalipa (canoe)

Gathaka - oyster catcher

clouds

Ya... Yarriny'ya

Triumphant Beachcombers with scored Boat

 
Surfing and Songlines
Surfing

We dived in off the rocks at shady beach, Yirrkala, where once I was washed up
Back then I had been caught in the current and swept onto them
Separated from my board and trying the best I could to hit the rocks as softly as I possible as I body surfed head first over them.
I had cuts all over but nothing too serious.
Something like that can take your edge off as fear of a repeat temper your courage
Maybe that was the last time I went out here
I don’t remember.
But I found myself united with my board and wearing nothing but the shorts I flew in on and some wetsuit boots carefully walking to the ledge
The weather is mad here. Rain, cold (in NT terms) and strong winds
Holding rocks as the white water surged over them Stu and I found a spot where a bit of a jump would have us a little clear
Oh well, this is it, once more over the brink…
It was hectic the moment I hit the water

Paddling like made into the oncoming white water
Trying to escape the land that had been perfectly safe a few moments before
We had to cut out at an angle to get a little distance from the rocks
Hard work for arms that have not done this all year
Paddling, paddling, paddling…
Forwards between the waves
Swept back as white water surges over and I ineffectually try to duck-dive through them
Paddling, paddling, paddling.
Making progress out and realising that the waves are kind of big
Getting tired
“Stay right advised Stu
I’m sure the waves have really picked up
Nice looking barrels breaking over shallow water full of rocks
Paddling, paddling, paddling.
Very slow progress but eventually I was just making it over the waves before they broke
A clear break line could be seen
To the left was sure destruction of waves throwing me onto the rocks
Tho the right was some promise of peace and recovery
The arms were tired and the current was strong
A current sweeping me back into danger
Stu was fine, regular surfs having him with the strength to negotiate it
I just needed to rest so I would have the extra strength for those quick few strokes to get onto a wave
I sat on the board for the first time and surveyed the swell
Gradually edge into the take of zone
No good
Too weak
Got to get back out right and recover
Paddling, paddling, paddling
Hugging the edge of the danger zone
Getting weaker
A real fear begins to grow in me… I may not have the strength to get out of this situation.
Paddling, paddling, paddling
Every ounce of strength being searched for in the arms
Getting sucked closer to the edge.
I don’t know if I can do this
I look around for another way out
Stu has caught a wave and disappeared
No rescue options… and that would be plain embarrassing…
‘I will help you Wawa, we can do this together’
My gutha. Marrgupmi
My little brother
We paddled and paddled and paddled
Eventually we were out in the clear
I stopped and cried salty tears into salty water
‘yaka gutha marrgupmi’ over and over
I made it back
Salvaged some pride catching the last few meters of swell to the beach
I sat on the beach exhausted and though about my little brother
Though about going out into the swell doing what was to be done and then making it back.
He is making it back

Songline

I walked back into the community, leaving stu out with another surfer.
The was manikay (song) waiting for me.
Djarrayang instructed me on taking my Galpu with me
To hold it with pride for all to see… not subtly out of sight as I had been
And I walked with a duay (brother in law) to where the rurrugungu were singing
My gathu (son/daughter) songs
On the surface my connections to the songs was mari/guthera
But the deeper connection was as my gathu
The whole time I was given smokes and kave by so many yolngu keen to share with me.
First was the song of turtle with the beak
And then the green turtle.
In a specific place just off from Yirrkala on the opposite side of the point to where I had just tried to drown myself
Both my gutha’s gathu (son) totems
Both coming up for air and diving back under
Three times
Water as the unconsciousness
Then it was the dolphin, also jumping from the water to breathe and then back in
The dolphin and the coming totems are ours
I sat banging a dodgy stick on my impressive Galpu looking out to the darkening sky over the waters being sung about
The women danced
Then next it was the song of the osprey
The eagle that dives under the water
And then came the stick floating in the tide
This way and that undecided which way to go
Then cam the seagull after which my brother named my troopy
Then it was the lipalipa (canoe) paddling to Bremmer island.
South Bremmer island is Rurragingu but also Djambapingu (our clan)
Then in song a coconut washed up on the beach
I remembered at another ceremony, perhaps for a sister, my Ngapipi (uncle on mother’s side) telling me of someone trying to sleep and being disturbed by a wasp and rolling over in their sleep. The bilma (clap sticks) reversing their pattern at the moment of the roll over. The same song then for logs floating in the water, then a coconut and even a coke bottle… just to make the point that is was about that rolling over.
In and out of the water, Waking and sleeping, Consciousness and unconsciousness, Life and death, birth and rebirth…
I was not told and could not detect any confirmation about the rolling over this time
Then in the song we are walking along the beach looking for shade
Then sitting down in the shade
Then a well earned sleep…

Another leg of the journey home little brother
We paddle together with and against the currents of this world
 
Memorial Speech
I shook like a leaf as i delivered this speech at my little brothers memorial service.
Witiana, my mari, put is hand onm my sholder half way through 'are you alright guthera? look stand still.' he pointed to my trembling legs... 'yo, meinmuk mari (its ok) it is just i am so full of feeling and im trying to wrap them up in words to give to you but i cant fully say what i feel'... i went on
these are my notes, pretty much as i said it with a few variations. somehow i spoke slowly and clearly. it was like walking though honey as people in the crowd cried...

one amazing thing that came out of this ceremony was my 16 year old yolngu sister who gave a speach in english to the crowd of several hundred yolngu and ngapaki. the significance of the confidence to do this can not be overstated. As Leon said, not one of the current leaders in yirrkala would have had the courage to do what she did at her age... anyway... the speech...

I would like to talk about my brother
Narraku Gutha (mothers language)
Rrarku Gutha (fathers language)
Margupmi
The young man who adopted me into the Yolngu universe that has given me so much
I remember the day he adopted me
The sparkle in his eye as he quietly spoke
I didn’t know you all back then when I first arrived
But he made me welcome
Adopted me into my wonderful family
And then my learning began
He took me hunting
He looked after me during ceremonies
Quietly and gently guiding me through an unknown world
He gave me my name
He named my car
Walking with me the first time we went to Yarringya
The red cliffs
My little brother said to me, ‘when the sun goes down you can see the octopus’
And you can
beautiful
Playing his guitar on the veranda of the blue house at Rurranalla, here on this stage…
Laughing together when we teased Ngandi or our Guthas
He had a beautiful spirit and he shared it with all of us
And we will miss him terribly
He could see the beauty and love and humour around him and turn it into song
Yarringa
Basketball
Yakka humbug
Leitju dirramu true

There is a strong current here
A yaitj current
A current that makes us selfish and only care about today
Some of the bad things that flow from Ngapaki culture
The drink that erodes the strength of the spirit of our young people
The confusion that comes from the conflict of yolngu and ngapaki values
Rough turbulent waters
Young people just want to be normal and they conform to what is normal around them, to what everyone else is doing
Some of our young people are swept away in that current and drown
Some get swept along for a while but find the strength to get out
My gutha, with the constant support and love of our family, had the strength to swim against the current
He was one of the first four graduates from the CEC
The first graduates from a bilingual school
Graduates who are being taught to be strong men and women of knowledge in both cultures.
It was not easy
Some days the kids were swept up in the current and no learning happened at school
But they always came back and stuck at it
I remember when the deadlines were close how hard my little brother worked
Long days writing in the djapana room.
He would go home exhausted and be back the next day
Where did that strength come from?
My gutha used to talk about our Ngathi’s vision for the future
Paddling the canoe together to where Yolngu are in control of their lives with strong yolngu identities
It took all of us together to get these young men and women to graduate
And that is only the beginning of a long journey together
For those who have graduated and those yet to come
My Gutha is an example for the younger ones to follow
The learning
The music
The love for others

My heart breaks when I think of what happened to my Gutha
I want to live in a different world
A world where this did not happen
It is too late for my gutha but there are so many more young people
So many more generations to come
My little brother showed what is possible
He planted seeds of hope in all of us
We need to make those seeds grow into a better world together

Not only yolngu but all of Australia need these children to grow up strong
To grow into yolngu wisdom and share it to shape all of Australian culture
To be empowered with knowledge, learning and eventually wisdom
To understand what is happening and how to work together to shape the world into the one that those old men dreamed of
That we all should dream of
There is nothing more important than that
And we should remember it every day
And the memory of my little brother will keep me strong in that dream for the rest of my life
We all need to work very hard to paddle against the current
But together we can do this
There are a lot of jobs to be done
There is work for everyone
For my little brother
For everyone who was, is and will be
Marrgupmi gutha marrgupmi
 
Smoking Ceremony
I write as much to purge myself of something as to express the beauty of something
Ok probably more
So it is a little ironic to write about the smoking ceremony
Because it did what it was designed to do
Out poured the grief leaving me with a gentle sadness
Walking the streets of Yirrkala at night with my Galpu (wooomera) from family to family but mostly sitting with PJ, my little brother’s best mate
‘guddi, I have lost my shadow’ he said to me as we sat about the fire in the early hours after the ceremony

I arrived in the morning and took my brothers cloths to his empty house
The street was blocked off with logs on 44 gallon drums
I met some people in silence
Some in tears
Some avoided me
The day passed
As the sun set people congregated at the house and the singing started
A ngapipi made sure I was well covered in galpan (clay)
It was the reddish brown clay that looks less ridicules than the white clay on my white skin
Singing went on as gradually more people arrived
The full ceremony would not start until all the necessary participants were here
I was Mirripiri because I had travelled so close to my brother to his end
I had seen his dead body
Gently touched his dead forehead
Being mirripiri means no one could eat food I had touched
They also could not smoke my cigarettes
Going to the shops and buying food to some meant having someone collect it and carry it for me.
I sat with the men and even sang a little
Played bilma
Met new family from Elcho island and established relations
Eventually the song cycles had us to the stage where we would go in and smoke the house
We danced up in stages
Singers and dancers resting and little details like the position of each other bneing worked out
It was dark
One of my malo’s (fathers) passed me a couple of torches
I passed one to stuie
They were beautifully made
Stringy bark carefully prised apart at the ends to make a readily flammable fur of fibres and bound together with natural bush fibres.
We danced up the stairs onto the veranda where we were instructed
‘nina, nina’ – ‘sit sit’
The sing got more intense and urgent around us
Stuie was next to me with a torch
PJ was also there
Some women and girls. Some of them were our waku’s
We held the torches together in the centre of the circle we made
Still the song and bilma got more intence around us
The torches were lit together and we rose and danced with urgency
A brother in law held the burning torch between his teeth twisting his head in the rigid motion flowing through us all
Still the urgency remained and as we entered the house smoking every corner of every room
People yelling direction
The song going on
The smoke alarm bleeping and stating the obvious
The smoke was thick through the house
The eyes were hurting until the point where we had to get out and breath

I emerged into the night air blinking my eyes clear of smoke and a few gentle tears
Was that it?
'You have to go back in and have a shower' a mari said
I took off my shirt and put the phone and mp3 player in the pocket and gave it to stu
Dancing back in to more song
Of course stu came as well and had stashed my shirt
‘nina, nina’
Again we sat in a circle
Stu to my right, PJ to his right and Jamie (PJ’s brother and the man who first got the message from us in Adelaide) to my left
The singing went on
I joined. Holding the long notes that always preceed something
Intuition guiding me to sing the right thing at the right time
Intuition always gets me through these ceremonies
PJ was also guiding me as once my little brother might have
A signal with the eyes when to let go of a note
Then it started
I don’t know where from
The song went on and a tidal wave of grief swept through us and I have never experienced such an outpouring of grief
A deluge of unhindered weeping pouring out of all of our beings
We held each other
First Jamie and I
Then PJ, stuie and I huddled together
And cried
And cried
And cried
Gradually my consciousness emerged to see my crying slightly abate and then observe stuie and PJ crying next to me.
I plunged back in with them and we gripped at each others arms and backs like men drowning trying to hold ourselves togehter in an ocean of turbulent sorrow
My nose and eyes ran like a tap
Then we were soaked from above
All this time the song had continued and now waters poured over us and mixed with our tears
Time? No idea
Eventually it abated
We rose and danced out of the house
Usually participating in dance and allowing myself to the swept into ceremony this time it was a total possession and my whole body danced with energy and passion back down the stairs until at last
Exhausted
People started saying ‘ma, billen’
It is finished
A Mari came and told me I was cleansed now, finished, I did not need any more.
PJ and Stu had some more smoking to go through in the music room
My little brother's clothes that I brought back were collected from the house and danced up to the funeral ground to wait for his body
I was left feeling a strong gentleness and focus
I carefully told the story of my journey to Adelaide to a few yolngu
Starting to feel out how to make it clear this was preventable without someone getting the blame…
My little brother walked with me as I moved around the streets carrying my gulpu (woomera) at night.
I found myself moving through the yolngu world with new confidence
My galpu was my authority to speak
All traces of being an outsider vanished for the moment
All the responsibilities and authority that come to me at the position I was adopted into
Narra Gathaka Guyula
Gamarrang
Narraku baparu Djambapingu
Yol Nhe?
 
Nomadic vs Sedentary focus of mind
Just some thoughts on the effect of travel and not travel on how we think and write:

I remember Tim saying how a little section of a ‘inside the whale’ by George Orwell I pasted had cut a bit. It was about the experience of living life as an exile vs living a full existence where you belong on writing. The exile writes about life in cafes and the resident has the ‘normal’ experience of life to draw on and share.

There is another dichotomy that occurs to me. Naturally it is only one element and in shades of grey. I read Tim’s exploration of China as he sensitively explores the ideas and experience of being there and contextualises it in space and time. He is pitched out of himself and he is hidden under a few layers of objectivity in his writing. He has been on the road moving through new environments and experiences constantly drawing him in wonder beyond himself.

I have been predominantly geographically sedentary for the best part of half a decade. Travel through the yolngu universe at first pitched me out but now, as increasingly I feel part of that universe, it turns me back onto reflection of self in this new context. Perhaps it is an effect exacerbated by the explicit subjectivity of the yolngu universe
But as I start to articulate the smoking ceremony and experiences of the yolngu community as it passes through the memorial service and later when we get to the funeral ceremony, I find it is my experiences on the surface of the writing and the deeper currents of what is happening somewhat buried.

This troubles me regarding the emergence of ego. I already worry about my ongoing ‘successful’ journey into the power structure of the educational system. It would be very easy to be consumed as I am told I am ‘doing well’ and very much needed; when I am congratulated on speeches to the NT principals conference or at my little brothers memorial service. Power is fire; I play with fire and it is fire that has shaped the ecology here; sometimes we control it, sometimes it consumes all.

Is it the strong personal feelings of loss and pain that turns me on myself in reflection or is it vanity fed by flattery?

Is it the prolonged time in one place that eventually provides the inescapable recognition of yourself in all that is around you?

Maybe it is being in love that brings me back to myself – a beautiful way to arrive and immediately depart into rapture.

Ego problem solved.

Inward and outward journeys to eternity eh?

See you there buddy.
 
I Can No Longer Say My Brother’s Name
Thursday - Fear

I’m in a scary place again
Last time I was her I lay in solitude and faced down death alone in bed
I was wheeled past this room watching ceiling tiles on my way to the high dependency unit
Internal injuries and broken bones
I faced it with no call for god’s help
Just an affirmation of existence by travelling to Tasmanian high lands in my mind
Ready to either wake up or not
This time I am in perfect health
It is not me
And I don’t know where to turn for help
My Gutha (younger brother) coughed up blood the moment I saw him
He was in the cardiac care unit when I got here
Now he has been transferred to the intensive care unit
His heart has packed it in
He is weak
On oxygen
In pain
My Gutha adopted me when I got to Yirrkala
He is my brother
He is 20
I held him as they tried to find his artery
And he stiffened in pain
All to no avail
They couldn’t find it
His blood pressure is so low because his heart is not working
He is brave and stuck it out
I told him that I give him my strength
I talk about Yarringya, our mother county
The bloke kept trying… I had left while they performed the operation
When I came to check if it was finished My Gutha signalled me to come in
The nurse was looking stressed as she stood by
The bloke, maybe a doctor, was determined to do it, he made two more painful attempts and I asked if they could give us five minutes. I felt like he should lay off and give My Gutha time to recover…
‘It has to be done’ a more senior nurse informed me but within seconds it has been overridden… he is being transferred and I am vaguely told in medical terms what is happening. It makes little sense despite my biological science degree level of knowledge… what chance have Yolngu got with rudimentary English of understanding. I understand the low blood pressure in terms of the dysfunctioning heart valve… but what is the blood doing in his lungs… a chance of TB… something about the tissue on the surface of the heart that remained un answered because another nurse came with something else to do…
He was transferred into intensive care for some other procedure and they could insert the catheter while he was unconscious.
There seemed to be some urgency about the nurses
There where about fives graphs on the machine monitoring him
What do they say about My Gutha
Heart rate, respiration, blood pressure… he had wanted to go to the toilet and the staff had been reticent to unplug him for even a moment… there had been some attempt to plug him into remote but again they decided not to do this for fear of moving him.. The nurse in charge of the operation was brief and promised she would fully inform us as soon as she could
He was wheeled away and I was told to wait in the waiting room and I could return when they had performed whatever they had to perform
With hand signals I told him I would wait nearby and return to his side soon. I would wait for him.
And the fucking program in the waiting room as I wait is about flight TWA800; the plane crash off America that killed two hundred something people. Parents talking about their dead children… for fucksake… I don’t even have a TV at home and here I am being inflicted with these people being milked for their grief by a crap melodramatic reconstruction. I am sitting with our Mari (maternal grandmother). She is the right person to be with him. A mother cannot be too involved in serious sickness. A younger brother must also be at a certain distance. I am an older brother and a lot of responsibility can rest on me. I will have to understand as much as I can and decide how to censor it as I report back to family in Yirrkala.
My Mari tells me to tell everyone that he is alright and it will be OK. I am also to tell Ngandi 1 everything with a positive spin.
I’m waiting here for news
How is he?
They promised to come and tell us what is going on… but they are busy…
It is the not knowing that carries the worst fears
Just like 4 years ago lying in pain waiting for exploratory surgery.
Knowing people die of internal injuries and not knowing if I was to be one of them
I just wanted to go under
Then wake up and know… or never wake up again… just take this pain and unknown fear away… no hope of self delusion through conventional religion… just an awareness of psychology and quantum physics and a intimate love of the Tasmanian highlands and specific places…
And now, again waiting in fear of the unknown for someone else
I understand some of his belief system and see the resonance with my quantum view
But somehow it falls between the cracks under the shadow of death
I can face my own destruction in peace
But I can’t face the destruction of those I love the same way…
We have a few visits to tell us we have not been forgotten and as soon as there is a chance some one will come and explain

The doctor in charge comes. I said she was the head nurse before but it was head doctor…
She starts in the deep end:
‘he is in a bit of trouble. His heart is not good
The stuff about the valve not working is restated
The heart is over working to compensate… this is putting the blood pressure way up in his lungs… as that half of the heart has a functioning valve.
It is pushing fluid and blood into the lung
The valve is fucked
They will fly him to Adelaide for surgery ASAP – flight availability and stability of his condition permitting
She says his heart is also in bad shape
‘worn out from overwork?’ I clarify
She nods
He has been put under a general aesthetic and will be kept there for the time being
Resting
He is on breathing apparatus
Anything to make it easier on his heart
I step back into my inner scientist and understand
We go and see him
The doctor observes that things are a little better, more stable
His eyes are a little open but he is unconscious
I gently touch his head
There are tubes and wires coming off all over the place
A big tube comes out his mouth
A beautiful African nurse attends to him
I touch his forehead and tell him I will be back soon
Later I regret not simply saying that I am here with him
There is hope and there is great danger
Stable but the heart is not good… even with a new valve?
Does he need a new heart?
The one he has is so full of love and understanding of beauty
It comes out in song and seduction of women
I don’t care to calculator the odds of survival
The mathematician in me is not that strong
But the scientist is content with the understanding I have and I find a little peace fortified from the great unknown stalking my brother
Time will tell
It will give all and take all
He has given so much
But I still want more for him
My Gutha Marrgami (My Gutha you beautiful being)
Narraku wawa (my brother)
Buku Djarak (awesome dude)
Letcho dhirrimu (good man)
Yuwalk (true)
Marrgami (you beautiful being)

Friday - Despair

I called our Mari in the morning from school
She had not gone in to talk to the doctors
Just hanging around outside the hospital
Maybe she was scared about what she might find out
I told her to go and ask the doctors what was happening
‘Some things are best unknown’ is not really one of my sayings
But then I have confidence in my own courage
I called her around two and my courage failed
She wouldn’t tell me anything except that I had to come to the hospital now
In my mind that meant only one thing
I left school early, dropped Tim in Palmerston
And cried my way through traffic
Yaka gutha (no my little brother)
Yaka gutha (no my little brother)
Yaka nhe muchi (don’t you go)
Yaka (no)
Yaka (no)
Galki…. (wait)
My mind wandered to funeral arrangements and how best to cope and support the family. I try to drag it back and berate myself for giving up hope before I know for sure.
I fell into a pit of despair on the inside and alone
I got myself together by the time I got to the hospital
Mari was outside and despondent
She offered nothing
I had to go inside and find out for myself
He was alive
Just
Only just
He had been declining through the day and the doctors did not think he would make it far beyond the coming night. His heart was just sloshing blood back and fourth. They had put him on breathing apparatus and dialysis and drugs to concentrate blood flow to vital organs in attempt to give his heart a break. But Darwin does not have the facilities to operate on hearts. They had told our Mari that he would probably die. She had smiled and said she understood but shown nothing. The doctors were not sure she had got the message. The only message she was capable of passing on was he was resting and everything was OK… her despondence and tears told me what she really knew. The doctors told me.
I had to get Ngandi 1, our mother, to come out.
One of her sisters was coming and she wanted to stay in Yirrkala
‘You have to come Amala, he might not make it’ I insisted
‘biangu ruppia waku’ (no money my child)
‘That is OK, I can pay for it but you have to come’
‘yaka, I don’t want to come, get waku to come, here talk to her’
‘Can I tell her everything’ I asked, always worried about who can be told what through the kinship system.
The phone was passed over.
‘waku, he is probably going to die tonight or tomorrow, Nandi has to come’
The phone was passed back to her.
‘Ngandi, you have to come tonight’ I insisted
‘Urgent?’
‘Yes Ngandi, you have to come tonight’
‘Ma…’ (agreement for action)
And so it was organised
Time became blurred
I put in an order with Jack to bring some scotch
He texted from the waiting room
I lost it when I saw him
‘we are losing him…’
A hug and a couple of straight scotches had me back on my feet
Then Beck and Todd also came and gave me their strength
I had called Lyndon and Jess and Lyndon called and we shared our disbelief and grief
In and out and sitting with My Gutha talking about places in as much Yongu language as I could muster
I had Pizza at Jacks and returned to find Mari in tears
No new news just overwhelmed
A reaffirmation of lost hope as despair consumed us
I seem to be able to keep it together when others around are failing
I remember staying out the vigil with my grandma over ten years ago as the rest of my family ran out of strength and I held her hand alone in the hospital late at night beside her bed as she slipt away. In tears I talked to her about our family and all her great grandchildren. I made it to the funeral where I surrendered to tears as my brother spoke of our love for her. I am going to need that strength again.
Leon calls back after I had messaged him through the day. After 30 years of marriage into yolngu family and working as the Yirrkala principal and as my brother in kinship terms he is the best person to turn to for advice.
‘what is the story how is your Gutha?’ he asks
‘he is fucked, his heart has packed it in’
We talk about the difficulties of communication and the denial that yolngu in charge of information often hide in. He assures me that my bluntness with Ngandi 1 and Waku (the waku I spoke with who is also Leon’s wife) was the best thing as it shares the responsibility. I feel much less alone in my responsibilities after talking to him. There is a gathering tide of support.
A text from Norell tells me that the music is starting. Shane Howard and Neil Murray at the Humpty Doo pub. I had motivated a bunch of people from school to go and now I would miss it. I text back that she should ask them to play a song for a 20 year old song man who might not make it through the night.
I picked up Ngandi 1 and Mapangu from the airport and talked with them lightly.
Tina, one of my gallays (wives – or right skin at least), was on the flight. She had a bruised eye, apparently she has been hanging out in the long grass drinking with one of my Malo’s (father’s) she should be with one of my brothers! Shame; she is a trained team teacher who should be keeping it together. So other stories of Yirrkala distract as we drive to the hospital and wait outside.
I get a text from Norell that they dedicated ‘My Island Home’ to him and that it was beautiful. I tell our mothers and they are happy.
Eventually I invite them to go up and we go and see him and have the story of ‘we are doing our best but we are loosing him’ reiterated. They pray. Momu (Binggitj) declares that god is the only doctor. All is grim as I take my leave around midnight for a little sleep at Beck & Todd’s.

Saturday – Hope

I wake to the phone at 3:30am. It is Jo from Sydney who taught with me in Yirrkala and loves My Gutha like all of us. I tell her where things are at. I can’t sleep anymore and have a strong feeling to return to the hospital. I feel stronger and somewhere a little hope survives. I get up, eat toast, make and drink coffee, shower and return to set up a vigil beside him.
He has stabilised a little through the night. I sit with him and can tell that I am always with him rather than I will be back. I sit and carry out some mindless spelling editing on my book before going out and sleeping on the waiting room couch for a few hours. I control my dreams to see his heart in its poor state; I see the valve not closing, stiff and out of shape, and imagine reaching out to it and pushing into shape so it is working just a little better to push a little more blood around his body.
At 7 I shake off the little sleep that sat about me and returned to him
He has improved enough for them to attempt to fly him
Only half a chance of surviving the flight and less than half of that again of surviving the surgery…
20% chance of survival was the figure they came up with
I told them after yesterday’s despair that we could take it
Like love, hope is not a quantity determined by mathematics
It exists or it does not
They both can be a little harmful when they attach us to the unreal and take us from this world but generally it is best when we cultivate it and spread it through the world. Into the terrible vacuum in my heart created by Friday’s despair expanded the seed of hope to sustain me.
I rushed over and told Ngandi 1, Ngandi 2 and Mari
They all but cheered and danced and thanked god
I try to temper the good news with the danger but they are only interested in the hope.
Ngandi 1 almost gave me a little rebuke for the atheism she knows I keep to my self
It is not really atheism… it is just I don’t use Christian, or any religions’, language
He is to fly around midday and someone is to go with him. Mari does not have the strength and Ngandi 2, our ngandi, is to go.
I wonder if it should be me to bridge the language and communication gap
I go home for a nap and Stu calls from Yirrkala more stories and connections. As I return to the hospital I get a message from Aimee in Byron. The story spreads across the country. She emphasis that she is worried about me also as she understands the burden of being a barmarru (companion). She also asked who was going and I told her and also said I was wondering about going myself. She gave me the message I needed and after I finished talking to her I went and suggested to Ngandi 1 that I could go.
I rang my Principal and he gave me the all clear for a week.
I am swept along by the forces of the world but feel in the right place doing the right thing.
Make all the arrangements and find a flight at 3am
Ngandi 2 will fly at midday Sunday
Alice, a nurse also adopted into the same family, came to visit
Her fear and grief expresses itself as rage at the lack of money for public education regarding Rheumatic Fever. The cause of My Gutha’s initial heart failure and that of many other indigenous Australian. Diabetes gets all the press and funding. All this could have been prevented long ago with a little education and it is a story that has repeated itself so many times with young indigenous people. I don’t really want to hear about the big picture and only care about what My Gutha needs now and not what is in the past and beyond our control… there lies the hopeless despair of the victim mentality. She says they need a bigger public image and I momentarily think of ringing Flora at the NT news. It is a powerful story and its currency would put it close to or on the front page. The story of My Gutha and his music and hopes in the current peril due to poor funding and strategic spending of our health system… but the family would not want it in the papers. Outside as Alice talks with Ngandi 1, I hint at the idea and get confirmation of my inclination from Ngandi 1.
The med-vac team arrive and get My Gutha ready to fly
Somehow I distract myself briefly with writing a party invitation to the bright eyed gentle nurse tending to My Gutha. How these goddesses of healing touched me when I was in the high dependency unit with a morphine button in my hand.
I eventually get hope after organising Tim to take Ngandi 1 and Mari to my place.
Text messages and phone calls keep coming in and giving me strength, love and support. I snatch a few more hours sleep before Tim drops me to the airport.
I rang Flinders and they had no record of him. Had he not arrived? This thought never really got hold and I rang Darwin and they rang flinders and after considerable time I was put through to the nurse at his side. He was stable. He had made it.
The flight was spent restlessly sleeping across the three seats and dreaming of a healing retreat. There was a room full of the bright colours I have painted my house and the baths were large and at two levels, tiled around the edges and in between. The dream swirled around and the baths became filled and resembled a harem. My Gutha and I would have fun there.

Sunday – Waiting

Charged with coffee I found My Gutha in the intensive care unit at flinders medical centre at. The same scene. The same machines. The same tubes and wires.
Just me and my brother until tonight.
Sitting with him talking about country
Holding his hand
It was cold but I warmed it up
The flight had destabilised him but he had stabilised again
The doctors talked down the chances
He is at the sick end of where they are prepared to operate
But I remember Friday’s despair and clutch the hope
Doctors come and I have to make a decision
Tissue or metal valve?
That is why it is me here
I understand the explanation
Tissue valve will need replacing in another 5 to 10 years and the monthly penicillin shot he had not been taking
Metal valve will last for ever but he must take a wolfram tablet each day and undergo monthly check ups.
It seems clear to me that the tissue valve is best given the probilbility of occasional non compliance
I consult Leon and Ngandi 1 and tell them what I think
They agree
He is to go under at 11am
There is a delay for half an hour because there had been a mix up and he had been admitted with his names reversed. The blood has been prepared for the wrong name and apparently a simple swap won’t do. This also explains why there was no record of him when I rang.
I sit with him
I am privy to the doctors conference and they explain things to me in detail when I reveal my biological science training.
There are two hurdles
First is the heart valve replacement
Second is the risk of permanent damage to the pulmonary capillaries due to the excessive high blood pressure in his lungs. It is 125 when it should be 25.
I have long talks with the surgeons
I sign paperwork
They tell me they will do their best
I thank them and tell them that their best will be good enough
I kiss him on the forehead and tell him I am with him
I will always be with him
The doctors are all busy and I excuse myself
It will be at least four hours
He goes into surgery and I catch a taxi to the hotel and check in
The text messages of love hope and strengths continue to flow
I wake and turn on the TV to find a documentary on Lisa Gerrard
Her sublime beauty gives me strength as I down a few scotches and return
He is still in surgery
No news is good news I repeat like a mantra
I wait
I wait
I wait
Ngandi arrives and it is such a relief to be no longer alone
We wait and we wait and we wait
7 O’clock
8 O’clock
9 O’clock…
9 hours in surgery
We go out periodically for Ngarli
A phone call to Lyndon and we talk of what a strong leader he will be after this
Around 9 the nurse comes with a snippet of news
No news is good news
He has used a lot of blood
Another Ngarli and as we
We plan to pray when we get back inside
As we return a woman tell us the doctor was looking for us
We quicken our pace through the hospital labyrinth
Tense and searching for optimism
I find some
We buzz through and the nurse comes out
She directs us to the interview room and as we go in she makes eye contact and the subtlest shake of the head drain my hope away once again
She leaves us
We hold hands and pray
We fall silent
We wait
The doctor comes
‘bad news I’m afraid…’ followed by a long heavily accented technical dialog that almost allowed me to become confused about the out come
First the valve replacement
Then the capillary problem that was predicted
It must have been going on for a long time
6 months even
Something about an autopsy
Police coming and official identification of the body
Maybe a coronial enquiry because he had been in the hospital less than 24 hours
They had to go back in because the blood pressure problem had not been relived and the heart had failed
He had passed away
He was dead
He had passed away at 9:20pm Sunday 29th April, 2007
My little brother was dead
His songs sing in my head
But he is dead
We had come so far and failed
Ngandi sat silent
Yes we would come in and see the body
Yes we had somewhere to stay
The nurse had tears in her eyes
Can you give us a little time
Yothu marrgami moaned Ngandi
Gutha Marrgami moaned I
Tears gently fell
They still do
The nurse came back
We went and saw him
Unplugged all but a tube from his nose
We cried
We left
Next we must make a phone call
The police came and interviewed me
I gave them the story form Nhulunbuy to here
I confirmed it was my brother
Ngandi sat in the chair in silent grief
Slowly we walked to another bay to make the phone call
3 numbers we tried but no one answered
Silently we left
The nurse showed us the way out
I walked behind Ngandi 2 and the nurse and let the flow of tears increase for a while
Gutha marrgami
Yaka gutha yaka
This is not real
The taxi driver craps on cheerfully about something and takes a while to sense that we simply cannot join him in his good nature
We check in and begin a long ordeal trying to get in touch with an appropriate male in Yirrkala.
Why the fuck do they not answer the phones
They knew this was happening
Do none want to be the one to receive the news
Around and around we go to no avail
We have to ring another Ngandi. First Ngandi 2 makes up some story about asking my Mari for money.
I snuck a few straight scotches down in my room as I got food or phone numbers
Then I do and equally poor job of asking for Michael about some clothes I will buy him… I talk to Waku with the story… they are all down at 12 Gurrumurru with no phones…
I end the call
I am in the middle of texting Leon a request for more Yirrkala male numbers when Ngandi 2’s phone rings. Jamie. She tells him. It is done. Grief has been dropped into Yirrkala like an atomic bomb.
I ignore a text message from Jo
Ngandi 2 tells me I can tell the Ngapakji (white people) now
I tell Leon. He has shared this burden throughout
We struggle for words like two Aussie blokes with hearts too big for our stereotypes
All is done for the night. The men will know tonight
The women will be told in the morning through Manikay (song)
I leave Ngandi in her room and go and pass out to a restless sleep of dreams I don’t remember
I turned the phone off

Monday – Grief

Grief slows time
I have felt it before
As if you do not want to go forward in time when someone you love is no longer coming with you. As if the viscosity of time has increased and instead of our consciousness naturally slipping through it drags and slows and requires extra effort to just keep the second hand ticking.
The slowing does not help because they are not here now
Only in memory
I wake and turn the phone on
Ngandi 2 had only just called from her room asking me to call back
Phone calls and small arrangements
Contacting people and sharing the grief
talking to all the young Yirrkala men I can
‘Time to be a strong man and stay with your families and look after them
Don’t go out drinking’
Organising flight changes back and fourth
Payments for the hotel
Recharging the phone
A walk alone through some parklands
It is a sunny day and large Eucalypts tower above
Smooth white bark with subtle folds like elephants skin
The smell of a peppermint gum
Noisy minors singing in a family group
Crossing roads with heavy traffic
A corridor of pine trees with soft needled underfoot and the unmistakable smell of a pine forest
Smoking ngarli again
Horrible taste in the mouth and smell on the fingers
Do I do it because it makes me feel closer to my gutha?
I resolve to look after my health
We get on a bus and head into town to buy black material for the funeral shroud
An old east European emigrant starts talking to me
He doesn’t listen much
But he is lonely and keen to share his stories
I fade in and out of concentration as he talks of Tasmania where he spent many years
Adelaide is full of young Africans
Stunning black women pushing prams
And we float about the place through Lincraft and food courts carrying backpacks and suitcases
Ngandi 2 would love to buy stuff but she has no money and is too polite to do more than hint… my finances are fucked by all these flights and hotels and taxis
Still, I wish now that I had bought her shoes
I looked it up on the Myer directory
But then got distracted by my stomach
One more taxi to the airport and time drags on between cigarettes and ceremony arrangements
In moments the tears come but it is not real yet
I will find a time to let it all out, perhaps under the tristonia tree at home
Alice wants to make a big story about it and I text her that I will help but she must get the appropriate yolngu approval first
Again I consult Leon and his advice is what I had thought to do
Handball it to Barraywa
I want to talk to Ngandi 1, she has been told now but does not want to come to the phone
I want to tell her that I didn’t stop believing until the doctors came and told us we had lost him… or at least before the nurse told me with a look.
Mari has a possible broken wrist from the grieving when she heard the story
After the nurse had shaken her head and before the doctor told us the story I had surveyed the interview room for dangers if Ngandi 2’s grieving had turned to her throwing herself on the ground. I should have know she would be strong enough to keep it together… for now
We are on the flight home at last and Ngandi 2 has slept the whole way
My boss has been very supportive and when I rang to ask for Friday off also to fly to Yirrkala for initial ceremony to cleanse he told me to do whatever I needed to do and he would support me. I rang Leon next and he said he had spoken to the NT hierarchy to make sure I was looked after.
Throughout this whole ordeal I have felt so supported by so many
It is rare I let myself ask for help but every time I have asked for a little I have receive so much. We will get through this together and turn it to something positive I am sure.
It is going to hurt and there is always going to be a hole in the universe.
But we will send him home and find our way back to happiness through the coming ceremony
Ya Yarringya
Ngandi wanga
Marrgami
Marrgami gutha marrgami
 
In fear of Jeff Clarke. The Land and a Recipe
[ file under: Politics ]

31/1/07

It was just announced that Jeff Clarke, former ATSIC commissioner, was convicted in the Civil Court for leading a pack rape of a woman in 1971 when he was 18.

She said she ‘understood that (and why) the Criminal Court would not pursue the issue’ and she also said that ‘she had got her power back’
This is important
She has got her power back
She also said it was about vindication and not about the money.
As if you can put a price on human dignity anyway
The jury determined that it really happened
She had told the truth
He had lied

His response was to say that the finding was the greatest injustice in the history of the court in this country.
He sounded like he meant it
This is what some will hear between the lines
“The court is taking away my culture; it is saying I can’t rape one of our women. C’mon boys, we can still do that. They can’t take that away from us…”
It sounds good to some of the boys who are going a little bit the wrong way
Getting a little bit lost in the long grass
A bit of a drink
A bit of forget about the problems and follow this drink
A bit of forget about ceremony and that serious stuff, we are allowed to have a good time…
Forget about kinship and sleep with any woman…
Any skin…
It feels good
Even if she doesn’t want it but is too drunk to do otherwise
Even if she is someone else’s wife…
When is the next one? Common boys lets have a good time…

It was never like that
Wrong woman is rape

That bastard Clarke is just recruiting red necks, not people who are here to look after country.

You do the wrong thing
Then You say sorry and you mean it
You can always come back
If You don’t say sorry
Or you say sorry and don’t mean it
We don’t trust you

You can’t do it unless you know exactly where you come from
You can’t say sorry if you are not always true
Unless you know what responsibilities are yours and that you will be true to them
These responsibilities are yours because of where you are born and what you have said and done.
You will live and die for those responsibilities

i.e. You are a Man in society
if you are not this then you are still a boy at play

that is what this is really about
Manhood. What is it now?

A man looks after his country and all his responsibilities
A boy worries about how good he looks and what makes him happy
A man does not sleep with the wrong woman
Wrong skin
If a woman does not want to sleep with you, she is the wrong woman.

Jeff Clarke demonstrates the point well
He is dangerous
He will garner support from the long grass and encourage them to go on drinking and raping and women will go on accepting that as how it always is…

Give women their power back
You can trust them
They know how to love


The sun sets as I write
The crickets sing
And I dance to Dead Can Dance
And start to feel a lot better than I did when I started writing this
The recovery of this land from clearing, fire and weeds is going well.
The raking and burning of the huge infestation of mission grass seed has worked beautifully.
Where last year the mission grass completely defeated the native spear grass and took over, this year spear grass is in control. The rake picked up all the fluffy mission grass seeds and left the spear grass seeds behind. Total spear grass domination in some places.
Heaps of young trees have emerged where once they used to get mown off
A whole community of edible fruit and seed trees is evolving
The return of fertile bush goes on

I go and play Bass guitar in the dark with the crickets
And anything else listening in the swamp
Much later
Human behaviour
Bjork
Much better

Time to cook
Tortellini with pine nuts and big chunks of fetta and pesto
A few fried mushrooms
A little garlic
I’d forgotten I knew how to cook
The wok is either corroded or it was not washed last time
It was used and only rinsed
Some time since Eric got here
Nothing a good wash won’t fix
Hmm a little sesame oil?
Not enough to cook the pine nuts lest the taste takes over
Need a little butter
Be generous
Cook it slow
Gentle with the pine nuts
Would be tempted to put in sour cream at the end if I had any
Mushrooms in
Start tasting from now on…
Then fetta
Pasta cooking meanwhile (insert at top ‘put water on to boil and add pasta when it reaches boil’)
garlic chopped fine and added very late
add all pesto sauce
(I didn’t make it because there was no fresh basil in the garden – The bloody chickens ate the whole lot while I was away! Maybe I will serve with a few eggs to get some basil back)
Pasta into sauce
Shave on some parmesan cheese
Grind in some pepper
Finished
 
Spear Grass Psychology
The grass is always greener
The grass is tall and green here now
Taller than me and greener than me where the chicken coup was and where they left their shit…
It is a great photo
Spear grass in tall healthy circles where it was watered and shat on over the dry season
Bursting out of the waist high field of spear grass…
Waiting for the flood
The waters are rising through the tea tree swamp towards the grass land
The grass will drown
And if not it will die of drought over the dry season
But either way the end is nigh
Is the grass scared about dying?
You bet it is
That is why it is bursting into seed because it has only got this season, this life and if it leaves its run too late it will drown before releasing the next generation with enough so they too can burst into life in the next season
But it is also hanging onto life for as long as it can
Get the absolutely most out in you time
If it is fertile land and the growing season is long and plentiful then you have hit the big time and, in time, sow as many seeds as you can
So you don’t bloom too soon… soaking up life and potential…
the timing is important – too early means too little and all gone for nothing if you are too late…
The grass will all know when the time comes… none will be too late
Over a period of a few weeks an entire species population will throw their hopes and will into time
Not like us where we see pregnant young girls and IVF fertilised crones past used by dates…
When the grass’s time comes it all dries up and plants dry out and use their bodies to encourage fire that will kill all the trees and keep the grassland dominant… and the whole system looses precious elements and organic mater and the soil grows tired…. But a tree that discourages fire gets a foothold and a forest grows… nutrients are accumulated… but no more grass fodder for grazing… and the whole system has changed and there are fewer big animals but more birds and little animals and lots of fruiting trees, all very tasty but never a lot of everything…
Life; one thing always turning into another trying to stay the same at the core but adapting the edges to fit into the changing environment…
These changes tend to fuck up if done to quickly
Extinction occurs when adaptation happens too slow
And so it is with our lives
As we go from youthful play and growth
To parenting and nurturing another’s life
Another’s life is more important than your own… there you go – no need for further religion - love has kicked in
But we are not an annual like the spear grass that dies in the moment of releasing their seeds
The grass has nothing more to bequest than some genetic codes and a whole bunch of carbohydrates and proteins to make life out of….
It takes a little more than that to release human life and ideas into a fully creative and joyful, perennial, life
So, once done, in a way, if not for further opportunities, you are as dead as last years grass
But we go on growing and changing every moment of our existence
And to not have both lives… to only have one of them… is to have neither.

Well, I figure the grass has a few more weeks to keep growing before it has to flower. It will probably make twice my height in rings around where the chicken dome was by then.
There is no spear grass growing where the chickens actually were, shit too acid? Ate all the seed? Don’t know - but another, possible native, prostrate grass is growing there.
I continue to wage war on the mission grass… I feel like I am winning.
I’m finding and planting more indigenous food trees
Currently eating sand paper figs…

Once the spear grass flowers
I will probably have figured out what to let bloom in this life…
 
Ironwood
[ file under: Ecology ]

My first knowing experience of an iron wood tree was on my journey up the east coast half a decade ago – a 300 year old giant towering out of the forest. It wasn’t as big as an E. regnans back in Tassie but it was big and had something special about it. I probably hugged it when no one was looking and there is a photo looking up its trunk in my East Coast Road Trip album. Rough bark as broad as the field of view at the bottom of the picture and it dispersing into braches and leaves near the top.

The next time I really remember noticing them is here in Darwin… and I didn’t really pay particular attention until I got out here and noticed how many were on this block of land. Not the same species as the east coat; smaller with their leaves more accessible to know.

The first I probably heard of them was earlier mentions of the hardness of the wood and it durability in structures. Economic function.

Strider took me for a walk around his place in the solar village at some time last year on a number of occasions. I forget on which particular walk he pointed out the fallen ironbark and the sleeper or double sleeper length distance between the stump and what was left of the tree. They were all taken for the making of the railway many years ago. Was there a reference point to regrowth and how old that size tree correlated to regarding the known time of the railway… maybe.

Today we walked on the verges of the swamp as a storm brewed and occasionally rumbled in the distance. First there was the Blackwood tree. Dead now from old age but in its time the leaves it dropped sterilised the ground for grass. A few younger blackwoods and other tree species are making a start. The grass watches from beyond the leaf litter as the blackwoods carry out the front line of invasion by a different plant community. The barren area created by the leaves exceeded the diameter of the canopy of the tree and was greater to the south indicating the predominance of northerly winds when the leaves were dropped over the years. There were other trees. Different species with slightly different stories. Food sources and birds being attracted to eat and shit in the same place… black plumbs sprouting in a clump as if they were put there in an emu terd… seed dispersal… greater diversity of productivity… so many edible fruits up here. What great models for social change.

Does anyone know much about the story of enclosure of the commons in Brittan and the pivotal role of geese in the undermining commoner empowerment? Some old saying or folk song says something like:

"They hang the man and flog the woman,
Who steals the goose from off the Common;
But let the greater criminal loose
Who steals the Common from the goose"

(quote taken from - http://www.jubileeresearch.org/opinion/radical_economics_sept_01.htm )

Sounds a bit like the ‘shoot all the buffalo and we kill the Indian’ approach. The Story I heard was about where once only the older, large geese were taken, some noble feasting on the eve of enclosure, declared the young tender ones far superior and the market forces did the rest. Read the link for a comparison between enclosure and the current economic forces at work on debt laden counties…

Just pondering ecological knowledge and its interaction with politics, power and identity.

What does it take for survival and successful colonisation of one plant community by another? Lots of little things but you can bet a community is working hard together to pull it off. Everything has its role.

We know about eucalypts and grass introducing fire to invade rainforest. I wrote an essay in first year university about the succession of communities from grassland to wet sclerophyll to rainforest depending on fire frequency. Some areas up in the NT are grassland, some open woodland, some jungle… with all the fires we had in Tassie I wonder if there is a public discussion about how each piece of public land is to be managed… is it to be burnt regularly avoid the destructive wildfires and maintain it as open woodland / grasslands (the land most appropriate for this in most places has been turned into pasture) or do we take the long shot and try and keep the fires out until succession turns it into rainforest… the last Eucalypts die after 300 years. Do we still suffer the delusion we are not part of the natural systems here and that we have management options? I think fire the management issue, with it’s long history of human involvement and the hiccups in the last two hundred years due to the dominant culture’s ignorance, is a very powerful educational tool to ensure kids grow up seeing society imbedded in landscape, humans imbedded in nature…

An interesting observation is that a lot of the swamp trees may need drought years to establish. In the wet years the young seedlings drown. I have a few black plumbs in pots waiting for the retreat of the yet to arrive floodwaters before I plant them.

The iron bark seeds predominantly come up together and are all eaten by snails. The really late ones to germinate escape the snails but don’t establish enough before the dry sets in. Now there is an interesting engine for evolution! I guess if an iron bark lives 300 years and produces a lot of seed then it doesn’t need a very high success rate.

‘That’s an interesting model for being’ I pondered ‘no future in the Mainstream’
Strider laughed. “No, no future in the mainstream, you better believe it’

It is just a gentle drizzle as I write this
Thunder rumbles ponderously high above
Not that exciting flash-crack close by and roar of rain on the roof
Only mild pressure changes coming across from the west and not the monsoon burst.
At least the temperature fell from 35 to 27.5 Degrees as the rain arrived.
I’m drinking Nifty’s home brew on the veranda as the light fades.
Nifty left the bottle when he and a mate came round, along with a few more Darwin crew, for a part ‘welcome back Rod’ and part ‘fare well Eric’ on my first night back.
It is not that great but it is good to have some local produce.
I’m eating some coated peanuts Eric left in the fridge
God knows where the peanuts come from
They tasted ok at first but now I’m sick of them.
Still going on the beer, getting used to it.
 
Inside The Machine
I read Saskia’s posting on the G20 and started a comment but the rambles set in and here we are. I often feel the main function of these protests is to strengthen the resolve of those involved. A little bravado to flaunt in front of those in power, an aesthetic more often inspired from a desire to offend those who offend us rather than express the beauty we want to see amplified in the world.
What enlisted the mainstream support that enlisted the Hawke Government to stop the Franklin River Dam? The images of protestors on the river or stunning beauty that snuck onto the screens with them?
Such is the nature of our culture that power concentrates through networks of selfish consumers. The same individualism that allows a powerful individual or institution to continue to selfishly expand also allows us to think we can not conform to our societies’ rules and try and tear it down and build our own utopia…
Who is right?
Who’s will prevails?
Does dancing in the streets increase the influence of the values we are trying to amplify? Does it take minds and spirits away from the values we disdain? Does reasoned argument ever open a locked door?
I protested more when I was less happy in myself
Or maybe it is just because I was less busy then
I remember talking to my old principal over a beer four years ago before leaving to go out to Yirrkala. I think I was reflecting on a friend who was struggling with his teaching – continually banging his head up against a wall. I said something about ‘choosing the battles you can win’ he looked straight at me and said ‘that’s exactly it mate’.
If you are interested in effecting a tangible change being able to identify these battles is absolutely essential. If being radical for the sake of being radical is what is of interest this skill is unnecessary.
In youth I became a scientist with visions of better technologies alleviating the suffering of African famines… I enjoyed science for its own sake also but with the loss of naivety I realised it was politics and the collective knowledge or ignorance and so teaching became a solution I thought worth exploring. Years go by and experiences accumulate and I now think that more important than knowledge and the ability to rationally contextualise that knowledge are the values that all this is contextualised by… that is where the battlefield lies. We can’t win by negation; it has to be by making our dreams more beautiful. But beauty and subjectivity and all that… chickens and eggs and values and beauty…

Abolishment of the G20?
Influence it?
From outside? Yeah right… the peasants are revolting – crush them.
A revolution and change of little more than the faces?
From inside.
What do we want in there – some compassion right?
It is easy to criticise from amidst the rioting masses with clever words that make us look better people than them… righteous in the eyes of those around us, but this leave us safe from the burden of responsibility that comes with power.

A little reflection on going right inside to make those changes and a few reminders to myself
It will kill you
The free spirit you were at those protests will be put in chains
You will have to do things that hurt some people
You will find yourself in conflict with those you are still trying to help
Your friends will save you and keep you human
Sunsets will still be beautiful
Some people who complain most about the injustices of the system don’t stand the test of integrity. “Arseholes pretend to be nice people; nice people do not pretend to be arseholes” Scared small creatures – they bully the creatures smaller than them. You will have the responsibility of managing insecure people such as these who, at the first sign of danger, brand you as ‘part of the system’ and lack the humanity to treat you as a fellow being. They go on the attack.
The pressure of conforming to expectation comes as much from those who claim to want change as from established powers.
My old mate Nietzsche warned me years ago ‘when you fight with monsters take care not to become one’
Don’t forget what you set out to do,
Try keep the shape shifting on the surface.
It is at times stressful but so far so good and I am creating things that move the whole thing a little in the right direction.
 
Pedagogy of time… with a sidetrack on will
The kids would sit in my office after some offensive act
The persecution of a weaker student
Verbal or physical
The abuse of a teacher
The persistent disruption of a class
Theft…
First there would be the investigation… did the offence take place
Honesty was rewarded with leniency
Recalcitrant denials and lies, proven by careful gathering of cross referenced evidence evoked greater wrath.
The honesty was a good step for it enabled us to enter into a dialog
A dissection of cause and effect
An examination of the values involved
The values of the institution in which they must, for now, survive
The reason for those values
The importance of respect – earned and shown
The survival skills needed for later life
Workplace or broader community
Was the student really thinking about this?
Were they participating or was this lip service?
For first time offences, if not too serious deprivation of another’s liberty, this dialog was enough… but if you repeat the mistake too easily… we resort to Pavlov styled conditioning and inflict unpleasant consequences.
An essay on the topic
Scab duty in the yard
Lesson by lesson behaviour monitoring
Or that age old cross cultural consequence for those that threaten the social order – exile
Exclusion in the form of suspension…

One major impediment to progress is ‘the victim mentality’
All actions are immediately justified in terms of external environment
The victim identifies the external stimulus as the ultimate cause of their actions and takes no responsibility for their choices in the scenario
True, some situations evoke empathy, sympathy
But sympathy is little more than pain relief when it does not empower the victim
Often enforced by parents who appear incapable of perceiving their child’s wrongs in the outside world – a mirror of their own relationship with the world – they sentence their children to be prisoners of their circumstance
From students, used to rhetorical argument and justification, statements are fired in defence but rarely these words are built from a consistent position, purely emotive responses facing up against an, at times ruthless, dialectic deconstruction of their positions. They are left confronted with their own contradiction and little choice but to concede their error… right lets move on and don’t do it again… do you call me an intellectual bully or a teacher?

There are some things I am prepared not to tolerate.

But the construction of a rational path from where the kids are to where I think they should go takes time and with some it would be a waste of energy… some will not be touched with reason in what time there is available and so… ding, ding – start salivating… or more like there is the flash of light – cower in expectation of the electric shock. Reasons are still given but it will be the fear of immediate consequence that change the behaviour. We are going to be looking at how you behave in every lesson.

But back to the experience of time
So often the kids have done something that was stupid and they know it
Why?
No answer
Or ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’
Time and cause and effect
Life in the moment unconcerned about other moments
The juvenile state of innocence
Loss of innocence
The maturing process must incorporate a development of the conception, and thus experience, of time
Without it cause and effect do not exist, each moment a single point of emotional experience independent of proceeding and following moments.
And that is what I see in some kids, some all the time
Ah yes, the same old mystical theme
Experience of life in the moment
Is it or is it not an experience of eternity?
Duality and non-duality of space and time
The fruit of knowledge dragging us out of Eden
The fortunate learn how to move in and out at will
Will? – Lets talk about that and its origin, perhaps even it relationship to the victim mentality, slave morality, another day… the incompatibility of (individual) will with non-duality…
None of this rejection of the fruits of this life!
These are not thoughts of a member of a pessimistic religion, east or west.
That fire WILL never be put out – although it may be taken from some.

The experience and knowledge of time
How is it learned?
A knowledge of different timescales might help; geological can bee seen in the landscape and is very accessible, cosmic blows the mind, historical married to the life cycle of an ancient tree in north America – ‘this was a seedling while the pyramids were being built’, the life cycle of bacteria, a mayfly who only lives as an adult for a few hours… is there a culture that does not convey a conception of time through their mythology?
What of that conception?
Cyclic or linier…

Empathy and compassion
Those emotional states that forge links between different points in space and time
Sympathy makes rationality a uniting and not divisive force
Take us back to Eden
With a knowledge of time

There are a lot of holes here
Do you remember what has taught you about time?
 
The Jester God
I went for a walk in the bush near my house the other day and came across this crazy guy. A classic Territorian I thought as he approached; kangaroo held by the tail over his right shoulder, riffle in his left hand, old akubra hat moulded to his head and a beard that was starting to go grey. I said G’day and introduced myself. He put down his kangaroo and lent of his riffle. This is what he said:
“I am the jester god
I am the god that first murmured ‘let there be light’
Then all that happened for an eternity was my laughter
And that laughter was the universe
And that universe was in darkness
And so then
In the next moment
Which was also eternity
I said ‘let there be a light switch’
And that switch remained in darkness until a creature was created to flick that switch
And that creature was humanity
Was human consciousness
And that creature was the very jester god himself
The god that created matter before energy, then, discovering quantum physics, realised that it was out of energy that matter was created, or even that matter is just a special kind of energy
And that these ripple through the very fabric of space time which is inseparable
And that we all are of the same clothe
And we are all that jester god
And that the cosmic joke of being is all ours to laugh with
And so I became the god of dance
And we all danced together and were that god
So I became the god of knowledge and words and slowly we all learnt those words and became that god
And on I, that god, searched to be the only god of something for a while
Trends and fashions and alternative ways of being
But soon I would be joined by all and be no more and no less than others
On he searched creating a whole mythology
A whole Parthenon in his wake
And of course it was a ‘He’
And this god finally looked into himself
To find his own god
And that god was ego
And it told him to search on
To find new gods to be
New realms to rule over
New kingdoms to build
More lands to conquer
More ways to be special
More knowledge to master
More postings than verb
New cultures to lead
For greatness is found in the individual…
But he told that god to get fucked
For he was tired of these silly games
And he fell in love with a beautiful woman
And she taught him what it is to be part of something special
And now I must take this kangaroo to my family
Have a good life”
He slapped me on the back
Laughed loudly
Pick up his kangaroo
And wandered down a faint path chuckling to himself
The trees seemed to laugh with him
And the dead kangaroo seemed to be smiling as it swayed slightly with his walk
 
A question about language and culture
Can we ever fully belong in this place when we speak the English language?
A language that does not even come from the place that bares its name
A language that is a bastardised mix of the various conquerors of the British Isles
The Germanic Angles and Saxons
The Nordic Viking influences
The Normans
And of course the Romans and their Latin
I know examples of words with all these roots
I know none of Gaelic influence
They must exist but such is my ignorance…
The same words in the same language can mean different things to different people so the degree to which concepts from one language and culture do not line up neatly with another cannot be overstated.
So English, a language and culture already out of place, out of Eden, has been grafted here.
No, not grafted
A cutting shoved into the ground with no roots at all
Kept alive with synthesised hormones and nutrients from the old mother lands of Europe and the Middle East in the form of her myths and stories
For a plant to be healthy in the soil the roots rely very heavily on symbiotic relationships with soil fungi and bacteria
Our culture, particularly our urban culture, is a hydroponics set up while the soil beneath the plastic dies and becomes sterile
The language and culture of this land dies in those places
We still use local water… although this is becoming salty and running out lately
Roots and language occasionally break through the plastic and find nourishment in places and words such as ‘billabong’
Some of us begin to grow roots
Language evolves with culture
But ours, anchored to the past in written word and custodians holding dictionaries and grammatical rules, moves very slowly
Thankfully a mystical tradition does exist in our language and culture and we are able to move beyond it. But it is also part of our tradition that very few take this path.
Thankfully there are places in this country where the language of the land is still spoken
Its culture still lives
Its concepts that weave humans into landscape sliver through the metaphors of aboriginal languages and wait for us to come to them
To sit down and listen
And learn
And dance
And be
Long time
We belong long time
Listen to us brother
Be patient
It take long time
On the chain gang the convict and the black man look each other in the eye and share a silent pact
‘Whatever happens, keep your spirit alive’
Their vision blurs with tears as they realise they are not alone in this place
 
Convicts through the smoke
The thick limb of the Tristonia curls beneath me then, twisting and sprawling, it bends towards the sky and dissolves into the leaves and finally into the air that suspends a hovering dragonfly and carries the calls of countless birds from all parts of the woodland and tea tree swamp.
A starting point
Right now where Ngatha is hunting Ta-ta lizards again
A place to return to after the journey I plan to take us on into our past and ourselves

I enjoy telling stories to some French backpackers who occasionally stay with me
Stories of Yirrkala and Yolngu culture
Stories of Sarah Island’s death pacts amidst the convicts and the famous cannibalistic journey so well captured in the Weddings Parties Anything song ‘A Tale They Wont Believe’
The French girls talked of the protest spirit in French culture
A culture that staged a revolution
And the girls reflected on the rarity of such a spirit here in Australia
Yeah, we have protests but no city here has been blockaded by angry farmers as Paris was a few years back.
What world drove those convicts to such acts of desperation?
What hell was created for them that so needed escaping?
Tours of Port Arthur and Sarah Island provide clues
References to the driving ‘correctional’ philosophy which seemed to basically consist of completely breaking the spirits of these people or driving them insane or to death if they would not break
And on these broken, malleable clean slates write the values and characteristics of a new nation.
This nation

I have just finished reading Richard Flanagan’s ‘Gould’s book of fish’
A wonderful novel that I hope finds you at the right time as it did me
Is it a historical or purely fictitious novel some may ask
Sarah Island at it’s centre
Or some fantasised version of it at least
A story told through a character honestly confessing his fraudulent nature
What is real and what is not in the characters life dissolves before you can even ponder the reality of the character
and yet it is as real as anything is in this life
and at times it beautifully parodies the lunacy of contemporary elements of Tasmanian society as it still stumbles over itself looking to the other side of the world for identity.
And you read not so much about the world in that place and time
But the dreams and fantasies and delusions its occupants sustained themselves in
For how many of us do our hearts live more in our dreams than our day to day lives?
And which tells the story of who we really are?
What is art if not an expression of some incite into what it is to be?
And what does it matter if these incites are communicated through fact or fiction?
Found in the painting of the eye of a fish or a beautifully crafted novel that holds the spirit of the painter
So I have spent some time in that world of late
The world of stones and suffering and the destruction of spirit visited on the convict
Be it justified or not
How this must echo down the generations
Just as the post traumatic stress echoes down from the massacres not that long ago in Arnhem Land
Did they know what they were doing?
These authors of our culture
The men of power back in the ‘old country’
Smarting from the loss of America to the puritans who turned their tea into the water in Boston
Did they want to fashion a culture built of such broken spirits that none would dare make a fuss on the chain gang
Would raise a tone of insolence lest his suffering be further increased
What of these men
The ones who showed themselves subservant enough to be set free
To build a life where the last thing they wanted was more trouble
Where the sight of authority brought out acceptance
Albeit a veneer over the armour of indifference
As long as they got their weekend
Their little moments of relative freedom
A life free of the cat and nine tails
And from the father to the son the mistrust of the trouble maker was past
‘Shut up or you will get us all in trouble’ they whisper down the line
They all cower down together as the scythe passes overhead to remove the tall poppies
This breeding regime soon has uniform crops in the field
And the occasional abnormality is either eliminated or put to some other use
Today I have been ripping the weed ‘mission grass’ out of the ground
How appropriate its name
My property is inundated with it; its seeds lie thick on the ground where it all got away from me due to the lack of a lawn mower
A much simpler problem to concern myself with as I hide from my Tasmanian past here at the opposite end of the continent
Here in the NT where I have fallen in love with a culture
Become part of a culture
That must have much in common with the one my ancestors exterminated for the sake of their greed.
Yet the problems are one and the same
Mission grass and misplaced cultural values
I think Flanagan brave to know and feel Tasmanian history and people as he does and remain living within its shores
But perhaps he knows he will find the same story everywhere for certainly it is part of the one story that counts more than any other.
The story of what happens when fear conquers love and when it does not
He is an optimist and the hope of love can get us through the darkness that is our history
We perhaps blamed the British or ‘the system’ for this history which is a nightmare from which not only Joyce is trying to awake.
For are we not descendants of the sealers who raped the black women?
Of the black men who sold their women for a smoke?
Every convict who ratted on a ‘mate’ to save his own miserable skin
Was it not us that wrought this evil that we try so hard to blame on ‘The System’
It was not a ‘system’ that cleared the land of its habitats and culture and loving families so that it could profit from sheep
It was humans not much different from you and me
Sure we can characterise ‘the system’ as some parasitic disease on our creative souls, some collective vampire, some machine preying on the ignorant…
But that is a smoke screen
And through it I fire this bullet
Tell me if it finds its mark

We are weak
We are susceptible to acting out of self interest and vanity no matter how fine our words.
Sometimes our need to be loved does not move us to offer love but to offer bribes or blackmail
Am I beautiful?
Am I desirable?
Am I powerful?
Am I better than the others?
It is not ‘the system’ but us and when we cry out against it’s evils we perpetuate the cowardice of the broken convict in the dirt with no longer the courage to look another in the eye. For when that eye contact happens the human is seen in the other - the uniform loses its potence and the perpetrator feels the responsibility for their actions. In that moment ‘just doing my job’ does not cut it. The convict then most likely suffers the punishment for the guilt he inflicted.
The broken convict knows not to look up and mutely do as he is told
The powerless victim in us all…

The smoke clears and I find I have shot myself
For, like every other on the planet I am potentially an author of my society
A part of the machine
Culture
I eat its food
I burn its fuel
I teach its children
I have spent time in the desert, sitting under trees, sleeping in caves…
‘best be on the side of the landscape for time is on her side and time conquers all’ says a character in my book
Say I
I am nothing out there where I am told those things
Which is the whole point
But it would be cowardice to stay. With knowledge comes power comes responsibility
Ngatha gently licks my foot
The Ta-ta lizards have escaped this time
Life and death and its cycles and whirlpools and eddies go on
Right and wrong are not so clear cut
And as for good and evil… read Nietzsche
The breeze carries the smell of smoke emanating from the old washing machine centre that I use to burn the invading mission grass seeds as part of my contribution to the overall ecology of the place
Ahead I have four weeks holiday which includes a tour with ‘Neo’ through Arnhem Land communities and then time with my Yolngu Family
Then I will return to begin my new role as Senior Teacher in the junior school and my dive into the educational system’s power structure will have begun with earnest…
 
Black Politics
There is a flush of media interest in the dysfunction of Aboriginal communities at the moment
Typically shallow in the main
The right wing response typically simplistic and arrogant
Will something come of it?
The child abuse and violence is unacceptable – yes
More police, law and order…break the cycle of abuse… well yeah
That will look like something is being done
And we can go on blaming the blackfellas for their dysfunction…
And yes, we will be open minded and perhaps acknowledge that it was the coming of the white man that precipitated this… but it is their inherent weakness that has landed them in this position… and it is only by becoming as good as the next white man that they can get out…
Oh dear. Have we learnt so little?
What are the media images?
The squalor in the communities
Unwashed kitchens and children in the dirt with poorly fed dogs
Homeless wandering the streets of Darwin with the label of ‘itinerant’ hanging about their necks
They have been waiting for the white itinerants to leave for a long time
Much better they hide their dysfunction behind clean walls and mowed lawns where we don’t see it
Where we white folk hide and one in four of us need to use antidepressants when the distractions of our materialism and individualism fail to hide the emptiness within the shells of our existence.
I remember the bar scene in the movie ‘Cry Freedom’ where one of Steve Biko’s contemporise tells the well meaning ‘liberal’ journalist what he thinks of the invitation to equality.
An equality where the black man sits at the table beside the white man and is as good as any other. The exact dialog escapes me but, while Biko dances with a beautiful woman to African music in the background the journalist is told that ‘black consciousness’ is about sitting at an African table and eating African food in African ways and being equal on their own terms.
Assimilation is out of favour in name only
It still runs deeply in the psyche of many who have political power in the white world
We do not try and force it as openly as in the days of stolen generations
We are not so up front as to take children away from their parents and try and indoctrinate them with our values these days
But the only path out of poverty we offer is voluntary assimilation
And if they don’t take it
Don’t take the slightly easier paths to tertiary education we offer
It is their fault
As if it is an option in a house crammed with unemployed adults and ill nourished children
Ask the Irish and Scottish who remember how they fought to maintain their language and culture in the face of English imperialism… and there in the British Isles, invader and invaded were not that different. Tartan and Gaelic were illegal once in Scotland, the Celts snuck what they could of their culture into Christianity before going under.
The economic power is in English
Back here and now our indigenous people cling to what they have left… even if it is the clan conflicts finding expression in gangs in Wadeye
It is about identity
And at the moment any government support is conditional on aboriginal people assuming the identities we want them to
Can you blame them for not taking it up?
 
Snapshot taken on 20 May 2006
Plovers I did not know were there suddenly make a racket in response to the mating call of windows as I boot my computer up on my lap on my veranda
An empty coffee mug sits beside and being a Saturday I have a little more leisure through which to ease into things.
The espresso machine delivers me a veranda latte each morning
Ngatha runs about excitedly on the scent of last nights visitors
We catch a glimpse of a kangaroo bounding through the drying spear grass of the open woodland and he is off to investigate
On return he picks up one of his favourite toys, the inner tube of a bike tire, and prances around with it.
He is a great hunter
Frogs, lizards and insects are killed daily
There are at least 2 geckoes cruising the walls without tails
At the moment he is quietly watching two pigeons potter about on the grass, most likely devising a strategy
Wow! Close one - he charged and bounced and missed by inches.
He is a dingo after all. I allow him to follow his nature as it is part of the ecology here these days.
He is an affectionate little fella who occasionally is waiting at the gate upon my return from school and greets me with much excitement.
He is always up for a game of chasings and will draw me into it whenever he can
Otherwise he sits on the veranda chair next to me and watches the day unfold or accepts that all is well and tucks his nose under his tail and sleeps
He is also a little too fond of my clothes on the line at the moment

I don’t know what the previous owners were thinking
They had planted palms pretty much all the way around the lawn that surrounds the house to create the feel of a suburban garden.
I dug and hauled out the golden canes and a coconut with my troopy in 4WD last weekend
Now my west veranda opens to a vista of the grassland, woodland, lake and paperbark swamp
I rise before the sun and watch it move from the tops of the trees to the grass as the raising of a night curtain.
Countless bird species sing about their plans for the day
Yesterday an egret was patrolling the shallow waters
Black cockatoos often fly over or briefly land in the trees
As do the white ones and numerous galahs
Forest, Azure and Sacred kingfishers come and go
The Blue-winged Kookaburras make a racket most mornings
Magpie gees and ibis pass over morning and night but I am yet to see them land here
A family of Radjah Shelducks grew up here over the past month
Last weekend while I sipped a beer in the shade of the little freshwater mangrove glade, sitting on the ground and up to my neck in cool refreshing water after the heavy work of removing the palms, the family, now reduced to two parents and two feathered young came out of the paperbark and swam past me unnoticed a few meters away. I had been watching the dragon flies play and one had just been plucked from the air by a Rainbow Bee-eater. A few tiny birds, not finches, possibly a weebill or greygone had been pottering about, a Forest Kingfisher had passed through and a school of little fish had swum about me, a few of the gums (possibly Eucalyptus miniata) are in flower and the number and variety of honey eaters, friarbirds and minors is surprising.
Red winged parrots, Northern Rosellas, Red-collared Lorikeets and Varied Lorikeets come and go in pairs or small noisy flocks.
Sometimes chased by magpie larks
Last weekend I went to investigate a strange clicking noise on the east veranda
It was a magpie lark and pied butcher bird doing battle and clicking their beaks at one another as the magpie lark swooped at the Butcher Bird.
The calls of the Butcher Birds are also a common backdrop.

I have got to know a character called Stider over the past few weeks. He has had a long varied life lived on his own terms since the early 70’s. he would be in his 60’s. Strider has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the local ecology and after a few walks about my block with him I have started to get my head around some of the scientific names of the species here. (Names have always been my weakness as much us understanding the story of interactions has been my strength). He gave me notes a few weeks after the first visit on what he saw and what he recommended as management strategies (dealing with weeds, helping the ecological succession and also notes on fire ecology and management) His ideas a mix on those from literature and his own, they are refreshing and certainly make a lot of sense even where they contradict ‘conventional wisdom’. A walk with him reveals an amazing diversity of tree species that produce edible fruits. Managed correctly, this appears to be, despite the soil, very productive land.

This is a magic place to be
To come home to
It is hard to leave
A writers festival and social life call in Darwin
But I am content here
Maybe this afternoon after I fix the sprinkler system to work with the new, palmless western side.
Nomad no more?
Tim assures me it does not matter the dimensions through which we explore
But my roots grow deeper

The Principal called me into his office during the week and told me he wanted me to stay the year and would dearly love me to work there next year as he tries to get an academic stream through the middle years up and going. Yes we could probably negotiate part time… the school is undergoing a ‘visioning process’ where he puts in place his vision and tries to convince us that it was our ideas. I think I have drawn him into a genuine dialog in which he has said such things as ‘you just have to teach them to love money’ ‘I’m an unashamed capitalist’ and ‘society does not benefit from producing happy little communists’. So last night found me up late writing my next response. I think I have made it palatable for him.

Most exciting in life at the moment is the potential for developing the essential oil stuff out at Yirrkala. I wagged school Thursday before last to attend one day of a symposium at CDU entitled ‘when culture collides with the tropics’. I had been attracted by one of the presentations being on intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples use of bush medicines. I spoke to the Dean of the school of environment and he put me onto someone who got excited to learn about both my background and connection in the community. I have a meeting with him next week to talk about grants. Further to this the day after the conference I was thinking about how I must get back in touch with the right yolngu woman to keep that side of the project developing when who do you think walks into ‘The Groove Café’ where I was watching Jacks jazz band ‘Jigsaw’? it was the first time we had really spoken about it directly and her response was how much longer do you need to teach for and that she better get some money for me… WOW – I better grab this and run with it!

I feed the chickens and refill their water. They are nearly old enough to start laying and now the water has retreated from the planned site of the dry season garden it is almost time to move their dome back down there. There is the beginnings of a pond in the centre of what will be six circular gardens around which the dome will be rotated. (all circle garden beds and pond 4 meters across) The pond filled the day it was dug because at that stage the water table was a few cm below ground level. Then after the cyclone rain the water level came to a foot above ground and luckily the chickens were tucked safely away from the winds inside the shed. The waters have been retreating at around a cm or less a day. A few days ago it had returned to ground level at the garden site, a bit below the waste at the bottom of the block. At night I go and scout out the calling cane toads though the tea trees– I got 6 on Thursday mostly sitting on fallen logs.

This morning was a surprise – the water has fallen maybe 10cm in the past couple of days – the majority of the pond is empty and the bladderworts I had transplanted there are high and dry. Eventually this pond will be dug twice as deep, where you hit bedrock, sealed and receive the grey water after going through a few bathtubs of sand and then algae.

I noticed that it was when the water started dropping, before the cyclone, that the yellow flowers with petals edged like feathers of a waterlily, probably related to buttercups came out. This morning discovered an explosion of yellow delicate flowers beneath the tea tree siting above glass smooth water. Photo – click.

I sat by the pond after a brief spell of digging to prolong its life before the Dry takes hold and a Red-browed Pardalote joined me chirping its three part call that I had often heard but until now failed to see the source close up. The little bird moved from grass stalk to low tree branch to the star picket marking the centre if the circular garden and pond several times, always watching me, always singing before deciding that it was safe to dive down onto the edge of the pond an catch a few insects.

Another moment’s pause on the veranda sees two straw necked ibis slowly circle the open water over the grass and land in a gum tree to further survey the area before coming down into the water to hunt… it all comes if you wait and remain observant.
 
Inside the Whale - (Orwell on Miller)
Excerpt from an essay by George Orwell called ‘Inside the Whale’ talking about the Henry Miller’s Novel ‘Tropic of Cancer’. Something to consider.

‘But what kind of experience? What kind of human beings? Miller is writing about the man in the street, and it is incidentally rather a pity that it should be a street full of brothels. That is the penalty of leaving your native land. It means transferring your roots into shallower soil. Exile is probably more damaging to a novelist than a painter or even a poet, because its effect is to take him out of contact with working life and narrow down his range to the street, the café, the church, the brothel and the studio. On the whole, in Miller’s books you are reading about people living in expatriate life, people drinking, talking, meditating, and fornicating, not about people working, marrying, and bringing up children; a pity, because he would have described the one set of activities a well as the other…

he goes on to compare writers of the 20's with those of the 30's in the context of the changing social and political climate. his thoughts still have something to offer today so i recommend it to those interested.
 
The Long Haul
The journey from Hobart to wilderness takes you through the whole spectrum
The city streets of the CBD walled alternately with majesty and banality
Original sandstone buildings predated in this European nation by only a few in Sydney are in stark contrast with the ugly concrete constructions of some building boom in the 50’s
Around the roundabout and up the Brooker highway through the less prosperous northern suburbs of weatherboard and plastic brick cladding
The song ‘little boxes’ by Pete Segger still comes to my mind as it has done these past three decades when I drive through this place
Influence of affirmation?
We follow the Derwent from salt water to fresh and the suburbs give way to pasture
This does not happen where it used to, the city continues to slowly devour the farmland, just as the farmland once devoured the forests
“I know how the Abo’s feel” is the line that stood out in ‘The Castle’
Selfish creatures we are
How we must first feel hurt and loss to understand another’s
As farmers loose their lands and the lives that goes with it to salinity, erosion, climate change and collapsing markets they become more effective, practical conservationists than most of us.
Revegetating
Trying to build a sustainable system that works and still includes them in it

Around New Norfolk we pass through the hop fields that my ancestors once established in the rich flood plains of the Upper Derwent
Beer
How many of the ‘good things’ in life can be traced back to Agriculture and the settled life it both necessitated and made possible
The first log truck passed going the other way, a little on our side of the road as it negotiated one of the millions of corners in Tasmania
One of my sister’s friends was turned into a vegetable by one somewhere around here about 25 years ago
This one missed us and continued on to a mill somewhere
Perhaps pulp for toilet paper
Perhaps timber for one of the new houses invading lands around Hobart
Materials to build a house
A new home
Full of love and hope
Other times it will frame fear anger and despair
The whole spectrum of suburban human experience humming to itself on the banks of the flooded valley that is now the Derwent Estuary
The materials, the hydro energy, come from the wilderness in Tasmania
So does the spirit
I feel weak as we turn away from the Derwent Valley up one of its tributaries
Now the farmland is punctuated with forestry plantations
Sometimes Eucalypt
Sometimes Pine
The pine plantation around Maydena is being harvested
What do they think as they look out from their fibro houses with rusty rooves at the hills around them becoming scared wastelands?
They see the jobs that keep them alive
That give them a sliver of hope for their children’s future
Plantations are just farms on a longer timescale
Here they hate greens with the passion of anyone defending their homes and ways of life against an uninvited stranger who they do not understand.
Pampered middle class kids or feral drop outs who have never done a hard days work, don’t have kids to support and think the place should be a museum for those who can afford leisure to visit…

The second log truck we pass makes me cry
For the logs?
For the entire ecosystem destroyed?
For a future devoured rather than conceived by the present?
For the mangled history of this place that brings us all to this moment?
A logger died in an accident in the forest during the week
A young father
I thought how sad it was for his family
I did not cry
Perhaps if I went to the funeral and witnessed the sorrow I may have felt more
I have seen so much tragic death first hand these past two years
I guess if I had seen the body hauled out all limp and crushed from beneath the tree I would have felt as least as much as when the log truck passed with its tree-corpses
Hitler was a vegetarian and conservationist
Loved dogs and planted trees
Someone once said “when you treat animals like humans you are not far from treating humans like animals”

The road climbs to a higher altitude and the plantations give way to state forests
A piss by the side of the road finds a complete ecology of a thousand shades of green
A peer deeper finds not mystery with the lifting of the veil but more clear felled wastelands
We pushed on to somewhere more safe
More sacred
On past flooded Pedder
Beautiful in my eyes that never beheld what was destroyed in creating it
We offer the timber industry new lives with smaller scale, genuinely selective logging leading to high skill value adding
Like the old Pedder, we are still killing the loggers as they are
They do not see the new life we offer in return
You threaten to kill someone and they are likely to fight to the death
New quartzite beaches have formed around the new water level of Pedder
I have heard the old beaches are still intact beneath sediment
Potential recovery remains even if never expressed

I love people
Why the discrepancy between the emotions for the man and for the tree?
Identity
I have spent much time weaving myself into the same fabric that the tree comes from
The man’s life is more strange to me than the Yolngu of East Arnhem Land
But so much for my mystical rhetoric of non-discriminatory consecutiveness
We get out of the car and finish the hot coffee from the thermos
The roads go no further
I put a new pack on my back and old boots upon my feet
From the car park we plunged into a short burst of tea tree and young rainforest and then out onto button grass plains
The feet marched beneath me
The quartzite gravel grinded and crunched
The wooden duck boarding clomp, clomp, clomped
And mud lips sucked at the boots slurp, slurp, slurp
Little pools with explosions of purple bladder wort flowers filled my awareness
I thought of their little traps beneath the soil devouring water insects
Patterns in the landscape revealed themselves
Changes in foliage colour and predominant species along drainage lines
The tree line and snow line rise and fall according to exposure
The wind whispers
A journey to the then unknown Western Arthurs became a day of meditative walking with a load on the back washing it all away
It ended on the bank of a crystal clear stream drinking Kava with my oldest friend Pete
We marvelled at the spotted qual passing by on the other side of the water before retiring tired legs
Early morning rise
Fresh coffee
A 750 meter climb to look out over the South West
A first glimpse of Port Davie
Surrounded by ancient pre-cambium rock formation rising out of the cushion plants
Showing their age with intricate folding like the wrinkles on an elders face
Rock creatures overseeing time
Indifferent to our cultures trivial, inconsequential murmurs in the universe
At the highest point we stop and seep in
The wind around whispers the secret of time
Eventually we retrace our steps
All the way back into the temporal world of Hobart
Now I finish this months later at Annaburroo Billabong looking out over the water
Ngatha, my dog, sleeps next to me dreaming of the wallaby he just caught and ate and burried
A gentle breeze blows through the trees and whispers the same thing about time
The peace I first knew in the Tasmanian Highlands gently rises to my surface
The dance goes on back inside of time
And today I know I will not be too weak when the music starts again
 
wonder
I am still a believer in the ideas of Vygotsky
We are social learners
We grow into a community of knowledge through language
The relationship that exists between the learner and the guardian of the knowledge is of utmost importance for the exchange
Synthesis and Evaluation come later
One of the hardest things in the classroom is to find those things that both student and teacher are interested in
When this connection is rarely found how often does it lye within the curriculum
How many teachers find the content they learnt 30 years ago still fresh and interesting?

So some teachers switch off and become that great danger to education
The teacher who has stopped learning
The teacher who does it on autopilot
The dead intellect and imagination
Unintentionally infecting the students with their disinterest

Or there is the teacher who finds the interest in the dynamic of teaching
In the ever changing dynamic of a community of developing minds and identities
Their interest drives them bellow the surface of their pedagogy
What is it that learners need…
And the elements of the ‘life long learner’ and ‘essential learnings’ are ‘uncovered’
Very interesting to the teacher
Totally off the radar of student interest

What do the students need to get?
What is it at the core?
Peel back a few more layers beyond your framework of elements that make up an active learner
What do you find?
Nothing if you have lost it
Or if you still have it
A SENSE OF WONDER
And that is what we want the kids to catch
That’s what we want to infect their minds and spirits with
How do we do that
What is the vector?
What is the medium?
What gets it across?
That moment when both student and teacher are genuinely interested in the same thing
The teacher welcoming the student into the knowledge
Or both discovering it together
The teacher runs ahead excitedly, strong with all the extra learning, calling back to the student to hurry up, ‘we are almost there!’
The student plodding along as fast as she can, the teacher still in sight, strange things around that make no sense but she knows where the teacher is searching and she wants to know what is around this corner too!!!!!
Perhaps the teacher knows where they are going together but the first step was to find the kids in the wilderness and then how do we get to where we want to go? The teacher genuinely does not know. The teacher is lost but has the confidence and skills to find the way to where they have to go. Not around the next corner but I think it is this direction. They are in the great unknown together. They are alive.
That is the education that Golding was dreaming of as the woman ‘education’ showed those children the dawn
To know beauty
To know truth
Plato said truth is beauty but I liked how James Joyce put it:
Beauty is to the senses and truth is to the intellect
In harmony
Resonance
That is where we need to take students
Plug them into that eternal source of spirit
Call it sense of wonder
Wonder at the beauty all around
The harmony
The resonance
The moments when you get there with students are rare
I remember early days teaching when I came out of a class feeling like I had been dancing with every one of those kids minds
Wow
Those lessons are rare
That’s when the kids invest the trust in you
That they do in fact have to also do the hard yards of learning this shit that is not that interesting to each of us
Because it will help us survive next time we are out there racing through the unknown ready for the next discovery…
I just had my first series of lessons with my two year ten classes
Simple really
The journey from surfing stories to students figuring out how a rainbow works
Wave theory stuff
I still find it kind of cool
So just telling the stories was all that was needed
And every kid was there with me
Even the poor buggers who came in determined to ignore everything found themselves understanding it
What was the secret?
In part, as I said, I still find the connections from a point break to rainbow cool
But I am also energised by my own opening up of a world as carry out a literature searches to investigate the world of essential oils from the perspective of an Agricultural Scientist, and Agronomist, a plant biochemist, and using those skills at last somewhere I see the point. Community project developments in Yirrkala with a whole bunch of people who I know and love.
So the teacher needs an energy source
The teacher needs dreams and wonder too.
Without it a curriculum framework is a bunch of empty words.
 
Bureaucratic Disease
Well
a wage slave
a mortgage
land for sale anyone?
working for money
I did get back to Yirrkala for a graduation ceremony
i was overwhelmed with love
and filled with ideas
but also the exposure to the inhumanity of our education system and its management
so a couple of blerbs fall out about that...

It is sad to watch a terminal disease move through a population and drive it to extinction
All the hopes and dreams and potential
All the seeds that could have grown to maturity and produce more seed
Growth
Creative life
Journeys into unknown knowledge’s
But when these creative ecologies are invaded by a disease for which they have no defence the decline is sometimes slow but always painful
And so it is with our culture’s education institutions
I read a William Golding collection of essays the other day
‘The Hot Gates’
1960ish
in one - ‘On The Crest of a Wave’ he ponders the future of the novel and is not optimistic
he describes a H.G. Wellian image of a beautiful girl and boy being shown the dawn by a woman
a woman called education
and that is what it should be like
but now she hold instruments of precise measurement
and does not look in the direction she is sending her children
for education has become training
and all learning is directed to outcomes and skills
I have always received strange looks when I have raised the issue of the importance of inspiring a sense of wonder ..
‘Oh yes well that is covered in the esseNTial learnings curriculumhumdrambullshit!’
What the fuck do they know about cultivating a sense of wonder when their’s is long dead
Its just power games and paying off the mortgage
They are dead
They have been killed by the disease
What is it exactly?
Can we isolate the pathogen?
Golding was looking at it
Training instead of education
But if you have the disease you are blind to it
It is so normal you have forgotten there was ever another way
A way to live when you were young and fresh and the world was new and full of amazing discoveries
Well, that world has not changed since then
But training will never reveal it
What is the disease?
The bureaucratic disease
Cane toads of education culture
Seeping down slowly from the civil service
Yes minister
Into the colonial departments
Where once the line of defence against this disease was the school gate
And principles would stand for humanity and wonder
And the occasional human made it into carpet land undercover
Is there one in there now
Is that who is writing this?
Is there a mole in the system again?
Swimming against the tide
Where once the principles would shield their teachers who had a living spirit
Cherish them as the only hope the school had
The only hope the kids had of getting help, here in the school, into growing into a human who appreciates beauty and loves humanity….
Now the front line defenders against the bean counters have caught the disease
Even passed it further down the line to many of the senior teachers
The first symptom is an insatiable desire for documentation
Documentation that the correct procedure has been followed
Then you know the spirit is dead
Procedure
Do it as it was done before
Follow this formula
Look you can even use these machines to make something that looks new
Hey that means you can teach the correct procedure to follow to achieve creativity right?
You can get a job at the end of it…
No you dickheads, creativity come when you jump into life with the honesty to admit you have no idea about and it does stuff to you that you could never have known before
When is the last the last time you did something like that?
It has been a long relentless haul to spread the disease
Years of living in an environment where the selection process for finding leaders has been who can present the documentations
who can be bothered putting time into the mind numbing work of changing the formats and educational language to describe exactly the same thing as they have ever done
no time for the face to face teachers to continue to feed their own sense of wonder
to rush into the class excited about some new knowledge they have just discovered and rise to the challenge of communicating this knowledge to the kids…
and with it a raw passion for learning
the kids know this
and if you are excited enough about what you want to get across you will get it across to most kids
you will get it across to anyone who does not have the disease
the disease of bureaucracy
where does that fit into the curriculum?
Hmm why are you teaching that?
A sense of wonder… well yes that is in the curriculum framework somewhere. A yes life long learner… but cant you achieve those outcomes with content that is in the curriculum? No sorry, that is not your subject area…
And so the disease gets hold
The teachers themselves find themselves in an environment that survival felicitates the conformation to cumbersome procedures
Elegant in a flow diagram
Sexy with the clean precise utopia it promises
Where a computer tells you exactly what level a kids is at and what outcomes you need to teach it
Hell
Soon we won’t even have to be in the same room as the awful smelly creatures
Soon we won’t have to face our own social shortcomings and inabilities to understand our fellow human being
Soon we will have everything codified into procedures and wont need any personnel skills at all
Preforming monkeys
Soon even the bean counters who escaped the face to face contact of actually teaching kids because they could not hack it
Because the kids saw through them and their procedures and saw that they were weak and kids being the wild animals that they are tore them to pieces
but it is OK
The teacher got his own back
The kid lost
The kid ended up on detention
The kid ended up on drug
The kid ended up on the streets
The kid ended up in jail
The kid ended up dead
The kid never had anyone show him the joy of learning
The teachers got a job and mortgage and wife and kids and dog and a lawn mower and gets pissed on the weekend and keeps telling himself he is better than them
Even if he got picked on in class as a kid
Even if he was a nerd who wanted to be an engineer but wasn’t smart enough and ended up a teacher but its OK because he has still got his ambition
He will show them
They might not like him but they will have to pretend to because he has got POWER
He wields his weapons of paperwork
Hundreds like him
Men and women
Are clambering over each other kissing the arse of the system
A system designed to select for them
Pretending they give a shit about kids
Backstabbing each other
And those ‘other’ teachers who just don’t work hard and are not keeping up with the new exciting direction education is going
Who deep down frighten them because they seem to act like they know something else
And never take these important things seriously
And say cryptic things that make no sense in the literal context of the conversation like
‘it all just ripples on the surface’
surface of what?
‘surface of eternity you dickheads! If you hadn’t stopped learning and growing so long ago you would have found out too…’
but sadly the trend is undeniable
the disease is spreading
passion in education is dying
education is dead
long live training
catch my disease…
 
Funky Chicken in the Chicken Coup
I learnt something the other day
at least i think i did
i did
but maybe it aint true
but right now it is
i learnt it the best way possible
half told
half figured it out for myself
Gin and tonic has quinone in it
the malaria drug
no wonder it is the drink of the tropics
g and t's
that’s what i learnt / figured out
i have sort of had three since i got home after a few beers at the pub with a fellow teacher called Shmitzzy and a mate of his
i say sort of three because i am on my fourth and the second half of the third ended up diluted into the pool. I had a bug on my finger and while encouraging him to walk up my finger onto the pool wall my drink went under oh well there is another one i let my glass float away it had a heavy bottom so balanced perfectly on the verge of being submerged if i created ripples too large i forgot about it and it sunk somewhere
the 'pool' is actually jack and tim's inflatable (wouldn't in-flatable mean you cant flate / float it?) pool and it is only half a meter deep at the moment but a clear glass is hard to find at the bottom of a pool. I dredged with my leg checking out the water boat men swimming around. The pool has only been here since Friday, Jack sent it out in preparation for the party jack makes everything happen his belief in the good side of humanity will save us all even the water boat men how did they get here and be so big?
then oh my fucking god who put that fish in here?
how did it get so big?
it was as big as my hand lying in the shadows neither of us moved how the fuck?
it still did not move
i reached out to it
very funny guys
made of plastic
you had to wait before i had had a few drinks didn't you...
Bob Dylan and Neil Young have been singing to me constantly I listen to the lyric '...i want to sleep with pocahauntas...' and think back to Yirrkala.
I have been there Neil, did you sleep with her?
one of her incarnations?
what would happen to you if you really knew how she felt in the morning on fields of green?
perhaps it is best left to our imagination is it?
oh well
the place is magic
this place
9 acres of tropical woodland
4 acres of that are paperbarks waiting for the late wet season flood of a large wetland to engulf it fantastic irrigation set up lush gardens of palms and so many plants to identify i spent the afternoons of my first week constructing a four meter diameter chicken coup in the shape of a dome a pivotal part of my evolving permaculture garden the structure is done but it awaits cross bracing and bird wire it was my mate Tim, former Taminmin teacher and singer from Neo, 31st birthday but we missed his 30th so this was it on friday night teachers and their new partners rocked up and the Neo Crew Tim gave me a joint for his birthday oh well, here we go everybody get on board we are going on adventure and hopefully we make it back by Monday morning in time to pretend something like normality for these other than normal kids...
the crew assembled itself
first joe and Lianne from admin at school John, the pommy maths teacher who in many ways reminds me to dave Pammenter, a good man who i spent time with last time i was here and am happy to once again be sharing geography with then tim and jackie who works with him in the special needs class he takes then Norell (who's 50th birthday party ended in that car crash that nearly killed me) and her new Man Sambo she had to mention that helen (just ending a marriage when i left, now
divorced) would be here after wild sex with her new partner they came a younger bloke who looked like he was alive 'G'day mate how are you going'... curse you norell! why did you have to put that visual into my head!
Jack and Anja and Amon came, annaleise and Hatty came.
Dave and the chjick he met on the south coast, alex, came a big big big thunder storm came "any one want to do a journey of the block?" i asked a crew assembled we headed out just like the tour i conducted at the beginning of what became the infamous 'humpty doo spa party'
except this time there was lightning
and it really was my place
big fucking lightning
bang crack smash flash oh my fucking god we are out here now!
it was coming down all around us
'Stay Low, Stay low we might just get out alive, FUCK'
dancing across the sky so close above us in intense lines and general illumination i heard the wood splinter as it hit hundreds of meters away and a tree exploded bang bang fucking bang your whole body jolts then everybody with you gasps this is close! has it ever been this close?
bang
fuck
flashcrack!
'we would have to be very special' (to be struck by lightning) cried Jo
Tim stood with arms to the sky 'take me if you want me'
we were not taken, there is work for all of us to do
me clowning at the tour guide who had lost his nerve and was expecting to die... but insisting we stay a little longer
crack!
my shoulder felt it! it was warm for the rest of the night
anja had her hand on the house and felt it buzz along her arm to her shoulder maybe it explored the option of going through her but decided that the metal cladding would be easier...
twice we ventured into this madness
we shared the experience
but nothing will fully express it
writers, painters, musicians, photographers, animators, film makers, fools us all not one of us capable of really communicating to you what it was like to be there except - BIG fucking big bang stuff
my spare room was born 'you can do anything you want in there' i proclaimed while providing a permanent marker it now has our collective expression of the night words and drawings just a beginning it will feed us all for some time yet Jack, who slept in there with Anja, had to clarify with me the next morning that 'anything, was in fact anything'
hmm
lightning and humility
the night rolled on
the taminmin crew headed off
amon and I made a full circuit of the block, cut through the bush for the first time with the respect that is required to venture somewhere that may choose to kill you we made it back dave sang about jack's cat 'Irony'
given to him by his ex-girlfriend called Cat who had beat up a puppy the night was firing along i turned into some greek guy telling the story of the lightning thinking it was a song the song turned to the skinny dipping in the pool i did a belly smacker and then the pool was officially opened and bodies piled in and turned it into a naked whirl pool of fun and sillyness Both alex and Jackie did not swim although Jackie did fetch a drink when asked by someone i invited them to join. Alex was 'comfortable here' so i told her not to move for anything.
Jackie told us of fairies with fiber optic cables she had seen in trees in the morning. The sweet, crazy chick does not even have drugs... i am not even sure if i saw her drink! tim's eyes even popped as she told the story as easy as you please... funny how admitting your insanity is so much more acceptable when you have taken drugs. I happened to lament in the morning my lack of a washing machine and the next thing i know my pile of washing is packed into a bag and whisper off to her place to be returned washed, dried and folded... fucking hell!
I hit the sack around two or three but at four Luke rocked up after spending $70 on a taxi to get here after work so i got up and Tim Luke and I smoked more and walked the block and caught up on the past year and I sang them the 'I wanna get in your pants’ song to explain my emotional journey.
Luke is a great bloke, the only other person my age who seems to have had an exposure to Joseph Campbell and understands the function of Mythology in a culture like i do. we have great conversations and understand each other. it is good to be back in the same town as him. He is a powerful man but thankfully seems to have no interest in using those powers for anything more than subtle suggestion.
Jack and Anja are too close to really catch up with at a party, you cant start there, but there is something there that goes beyond the three years we have known each other. They go at about the same pace as i do. a rare compatibility. I shared some photos with Anja, although there are more. I share construction plans with Jack. They stayed a little longer and we dreamed a little together, painted a Neo Banner for thursday night and just hung out at the pace we really like... not the pace we keep when partying en mass Saturday Morning the painting in the free for all room continued the bathing continued dave and I did our thing photos were to be taken in the Chicken Coup naturally given the ongoing humour surrounding belief if pyramid structures to achieve all manner of things from refrigeration to force field to keep chickens in and dingoes out...
dave and I marched a congo line
'we are going to a photo shoot'
'we are going to a photo shoot'
which became
'we have been to a photo shoot'
'we have been to a photo shoot'
then
'going chicken in a chicken coup'
'going chicken in a chicken coup'
and a several part harmony evolved with various solos and six of us dancing like chickens and circling inside the coup... part of the inspiration came from my time dancing at ceremony these past years going funky in a chicken coup going funky in a chicken coup (chicken coup yeah) going funky in a chicken coup going funky in a chicken coup (chicken coup yeah) going funky in a chicken coup then we all became chickens bawwwwwwwk bawk baaaaaawwwwwwwk! bawk bawk bawk!
a chicken drama unfolded
eating
clucking
pottering around
the first egg way laid
celebrated
trodden on
smashed
tragedy!
oh well
we are only chickens - we forgot it
there will be another
bawk!
back to the dance
funky chicken in a chicken coup (chicken coup yeah) funky chicken in a chicken coup...
it was recorded on video
'Best show i've seen for a year' surmised Luke the sprinkler system was turned on and we danced in it I sat in the wet long flattened grass and marvelled at the spectacle of happy people around me we looked at the various sprinkler heads throwing water all around the place 'what a great setup!'
one came into focus
it dawned in me
oops
a boot was open
the sprinkler was working flat out with the car backed right up to it "shit, sorry! there is nothing i can do about this but laugh but whoever's boot that is, it is filling with water"
Analiesse and Hatty!
Hatties car
honest
this is not some get even with the bloke who is with the chick i was sort of on with while out of town but not showing enough commitment to because i did not have it at the time sort of thing because i really liked the girl because you would be mad not to but fuck it would be perfect if it was a planned act of vengeance and isn't it funny and sorry i have to laugh about it i actually really like you both and the pair of you as a pair which is really rare for a judgmental bastard like me and i know you also see the funny side of it which is why i love you both... and lets just pause and have another laugh! Sorry!
and so the party unfolded and evolved on saturday and we eventually drove out to Litchfield we swam and soaked and drank and chilled and got massaged by pounding wet season waters and climbed rock faces out of the water and fell back in or made it to the top and tim and amon scaled Florence falls 17 meters up and plunged back down where once i had done but either lacked the need or courage this time and the sun set and tim and i got lost going home coming to a crossing two meters deep 'Do you reckon we should try Tim?'
'Rod! two meters is taller than Me!"
so we drove back and ate and drank a little more at my house at midnight and the next morning Jack anja and I cooked a fine breakfast and painted a fine banner for the Neo gig Next thursday on a new bed sheet i had bought which turned out to be two banners because it was folded over and then back into darwin and the Movie 'Tickets' which i highly recommend and then back out to fetch Amon's car which had broken down on saturday night as he made his way home and we towed it back into town with the only dodgy cheap synthetic rope that we could find on a sunday night so we plated it 4 ropes thick by sort of dancing and twisting on the side of the Stuart Highway.
Sun set as i headed out alone towards the full moon and humpty Doo on sunday night and it nice to be home.
and then Monday afternoon after a day of all mon teaching I had a few beers with Smitzy and his biking Mate Andrew and they told crazy stories of adventures on bikes about the place. of a truck load with bricks that slowly wound up and overtook shmitzy and a mate on a highway. well it overtook Shmitzy but his mate flattened it and refused to accept the indignity of being overtaken by such a truck - both disappearing into the distance until smitzy started passing things on the side of the road.. a gas bottle. a towel. some jocks... and there is his mate stomping on smouldering jocks and swearing and the truck long gone... his bag had been pushed down at the high speed to be held against the exhaust until it caught fire and his mate had looked into the rear vision mirror to see smoke and thought his engine had shat it self but hang on she is still going alright, oh the bag FUCK the gas bottle... stories of crashes and near crashes and stories for stories sake and laughing together and understanding each other and living and here we all are
this is all sounding rather non nomadic
kind of sense of place like
there are a few fragments from travels past still looking for the time to come together
there are still the levels that Levin spoke of to explore
what do you reckon?
 
walking, thinking, swiming, feeling
The sand grains were popping in and out of my awareness beside me like quantum particles
As I walked I carried my shadow along the beach and the free grains, blown by the warm northerly winds and bouncing across the sedate wet sand, would be suspended in sunlight against the shadowed backdrop.
Popping in and out of my awareness
In and out of existence in my universe
Beside me my brother walks
10 years my elder
he is pondering the bundles of grass seeds tumbling past us south down the long crescent of sand that constitutes Hazards Beach on the Freycinet Peninsula, the millions of years of evolution to devise such ingenious methods for dispersal and the proliferation of their race…
I guess if you are given a few million, billion, years to think about a problem you are bound to come up with a few good ideas
A species is just one of nature’s thoughts…
We are just a passing fashion…
The occasional casuarinas holds on to the grass covered sand dunes on my left. The layers of sand are littered with millions of oyster shells from thousands of years of Tasmanian Aboriginal feasts
To my right is Oyster Bay
The Oyster Bay tribe was one of the biggest and along with The Big River (Derwent) people they put up a fair fight
For a while
Gone now
Just echoes in the survivors
We walk past a cormorant, lazily drying in the sun
We approach a pied oyster catcher who starts walking in front of us
Yolngu Yaku, Gathaka, ngarra-ku yolngu Yaku Gathaka
The yolngu name for the oyster catcher is gathaka
That is my Yolngu Name
My brother laughs at it’s stupidity for continuing to run away from us
I romanticise the situation to an ambassador’s welcome
We catch up with two more Gathaka and they briefly show the way together
It is unusual that for one to be without a mate
I show my brother their Yolngu Dance
He thinks I am just imitating their mating dance
‘No, that is the Yolngu dance they do in ceremony’
‘Oh’
the dance has your elbows bent with the hands, holding a small branch, up and you rapidly move your forearms and wrists to the beat… most other bird dances have a closer resemblance to the funky chicken. If you watch an oyster catcher fly it flaps its wings more rapidly than other birds it’s size.
We continue on, bare foot, pack on back, down the beach to be welcomed by other birds.
Ocean Gulls with their clean black and white colour scheme and red tipped beaks
A tern, rare these days, flat sharp head and angular wings that make them look fast
A heron with its elegant long neck and soft grew plumage
The tern squares and harasses the Herron
The Heron slowly takes to the air and leaves for somewhere more peaceful
At the end of the Beach we find a Geologists sacred site
The interface between dolerite that has intruded into the granite
It tells its own story
This is a special place
Covered in the memories of Aboriginal People not so long gone
Dolerite with its fine crystals because it cooled fast, searching like fingers into the cracks of the granite. The granite has large crystals because it matured slowly, ponderously, underground with time to mature into something...
These are the places I am looking for, places with stories that can be woven with layers for many to find a connection with.
There was a great battle
In the age of the Jurassic
The Devonian Granites had ruled for so long but a new impetuous tribe came blundering in and spewing onto the surface
These new people called themselves Dolerite and although they were made of the same elements they came with a very different agenda…
But you will probably have to wait half a decade before I have really found those stories
An hour or so later we got to cooks beach
Named after the bloke who set up a sheep farm and built a stone hut, still standing and housing bushwalkers
A swim reminded me of just how bloody minded and stupid you have to be to get in these waters.
A longer dip reminded me that the phrase I must have heard a thousand times ‘it is not so bad once you get in’ surprisingly, is true.
 
Interim Conclusion
It has been a year
A lap of the sun
A lap of life
Beginning and ending in Tasmania
But mostly somewhere else
What is the thesis of us nomadologists?
That we are all creating our own I think
Kerouacian adventures burning the night in NZ
Journeys through DMT ending in reaffirmations of our commitments formed on the banks of the Yarra
Proclamations of love to loves left behind
Searches for ancient wisdoms
In all the stories,
all the descriptions of worlds
all the descriptions of adventures
sometimes referred to
sometimes left implied
is the endless searching of the writer
Around it goes
The circle
The Celtic imagery nestled with the folk music at the Cygnet Folk Festival
The 4 phase cycle of gurrutu
The archetypal hero’s journey; away from home on some adventure into the unknown then the returning with the boon to benefit those who stayed home…
In the bigger cycle it was Kev Carmody who sang and told stories 6 years ago as I began to look for Aboriginal Australia
This time he said how he simply could not fully describe what he meant as he talked about the song cycles that existed for every square inch of land and these song cycles linked to make song lines across the country…
I understood
Not by what he said
But because I had experience of what he referred to
I had danced part of them
Felt them
Sure, you can develop some romantic rhetoric about connectedness
But can you describe love to someone who has never known it?
Without the actual experience it is no more than intangible ideas
Something we should bare in mind as we write to strangers
Advertisements for our experience
Invitations to share our thoughts
Am I exotic, interesting, worthy?
As self indulgent as it is, others can catch a glimpse of what they already know… look to see how someone else has put the pieces together…
What are my fragments in these snapshots? Yirrkala to Tasmania and a vast landscape in between
To state the obvious, we would not have left, spatially or philosophically, where we started if we were content there. So we are united by our discontentment leading to our dislocation. We want something else / more.
What ideas do I bring to the table for synthesis?
I have never been much of a fan for Rousseau
He failed the first test of a philosopher – he did not live by what he said
His words were little more than rhetoric designed to seduce the disaffected hippy chicks of his day
He abandoned countless illegitimate children to the ravishes of Parisian poor houses
Rather than the idyllic upbringing in nature he espoused
I guess he found a market and sold his product to it
His ‘Noble Savage’ a fantasy born of an experience of ‘nature’ being the manufactured parklands
The ‘nobility’ of his ‘savages’ comes from the subtleties of sophisticated cultures that his arrogance prevented him from perceiving. Raw nature is harmonious at some levels but at others it is of ruthless killing and consumption… of which our wars and greed are a reflection and ‘Lord of the Flies a fair speculation.
Mystical connections do not come cheap, I have broken a few hearts because I thought I was in love but it was just that I was stoned. It takes time to build a relationship with eternity, we can simulate the psychological condition but it will dissolve if it does not have a strong emotional basis grounded in the rest of our lives… you know what I am getting at?

Yet, in the same breath, I will tell you that my spirituality has predominantly come from the large amount of my life spent in the wilds. Our experiences are related to through the lenses that our ‘culture’ has given us. So let us not be too simplistic and throw the baby out with the bat water. In nature I can leave time behind.
Peace
Recharge
Perspective
Feeling
A little bug in a rainforest to a vast mountain range
A spider web glistening with dew…
Beyond thought and knowledge
But then we come back
I can’t survive out there forever
And I enjoy the dance we call culture
I want to make as much of it beautiful, in the James Joyce’s ‘harmony with the senses’ kind of way, as possible.

Most nomads, taking Yolngu as an example, had deeper roots than us to particular places. They moved in cycles, leaving when resources were getting low or promising more somewhere else.
They come back as they were when they left
Now, we come back, but we left with different myths to guide us, known or unknown.
We kind of hoped to come back with something. Not many of us go in for coming back with material riches, sacrilege in our culture of mainstream distain, but The Journey was supposed to yield some wisdom
So here I am
Back at the folk festival or ‘Day on the Green with Paul Kelly’
Not the dance party in the forest where agreement is abundant and challenge rare
The numbers are still stacked in my favor for the uniting value here is generally creativity or the appreciation of it.
But this is the highway between the city and the outer suburbs of reality
Where we listen to folk, blues and blue grass music
Coming from our cocktail of cultural heritage
And the landscapes those cultures evolved in
And there is the link with all the yolngu stuff
Music weaving us into landscape
Belonging and being part of a place
Looking after ourselves – ourselves being the whole bloody thing!
I have always thought Yolngu manikay (song), didge and irish airs would float together perfectly through my beloved Tasmanian highlands…

The power of the Yolngu myths is that every yolngu person has a specific place within the cosmology and the landscape. The landscape is their text that when read becomes songs and dances. Learning this knowledge involves physically participating in it, much in contrast to our (my) objective, scientific heritage… traced back to a myth of separation of god / humanity / nature.

Let us not create some fantasy where we say nomads were delocalised peoples who wandered around and that we can relate to them as we ourselves search, lost, through the globalised world. Yes there is a level of awareness when all humanity becomes our family and all space and time here. That is not where we, as babies, start and, to be perfectly honest, a young spirit cast adrift into the globalised world without anchor tends to remain a selfish lost being clutching to the random mish-mash of different cultures’ spiritual incites that happen along, raging against the injustices of this cruel world, but sadly still living for themselves, their journey and using those around them for their social and sensual gratification. Still at the ‘I am not that’ level of awareness rather than the ‘I am that’ level.

I write this sitting on a rock with calm waves lapping around me and making the kelp dance. I have spent much of my time here in Tas reconnecting to these places that filled my childhood. I can’t imagine who I would have been with a truly urban upbringing that excluded these things. Energy waves dance past me and I float back to past experiences here
It is as Kev said
My words ring hollow
The best they could do is spark a little interest in finding these things for yourself…
 
Music
I seem to be a seasonal traveller
8 years I have been gone from Tasmania now
But most years I have made the Christmas (Solstice) pilgrimage ‘home’
And most pilgrimages include the Cygnet Folk Festival
A little jaded from yet another night of catching up with mates from past lives
Such different lives we live now, their wives and babies are part of our evening
We stayed in and had a great night mixing nostalgia, new stories and fresh wit
Their lives are more exotic to me than those of my Yolngu Family now…
Next morning, off to Cygnet with Pete
Pete has spent much of the past ten years out on these roads
or has it been 15?
And is struggling to ground himself and participate in the world
Rather than remain a cynical detached ghost passing though
He is also struggling with heart break
He met the girl here at the festival some years ago
So did I
I invited her to dinner, got along but was just passing though and the connection faded
Years later I lean Pete has got together with her
A few years later still he has lost her and regrets spending the past 10 years always in a dope cloud
Renowned scammers the pair of us
Together a critical mass that has generated many-a-story that will not be published under this name
We buy day tickets and receive a ribbon for our wrist that could have easily been fabricated
Are we getting old?
I was always a little reticent to rip off artists
The ‘Spooky Guys’ entertain us with their wit and seriously sung baritone - ‘vote the bastards out’ and as they pondered why the hell we voted them in. I scanned the crowd for those not clapping to plot a lynching… a man in a red cardigan sat frozen in indignation. He did it! He voted the bastards in…
There was a lot of trouble here a few years back when, one year that I did not come, a whole heap of Bogans turned up in cars to ‘bash the ferals’ and that is just what they did – got out of their cars and proceeded to lynch the nearest hippies they could lay their hands on.
The police presence has always been large since then; for once they are on our side
“Save a Job Shoot a Feral” one young youth calls from the safety of his mates as we walk past. I have cut my hair; he must be talking about Pete… ‘save your time, ignore morons’ calls my internal dialog to him, not quite ready to stir the pot, it goes unsaid.
“Hello homoes” a slightly older bogan calls, also from the safety of a large group walking along the footpath. Pete’s long hair again surely…
“Keep your fantasies to yourself” I call. No response they continue on
“Good one Rod, you trying to get us bashed?” asks Pete. I ask him how fast he can run.
This state remains so polarised
Redneck against Green
Beautiful landscape against horrendous history
Hope against despair
Which side are you on boys
Which side are you on…
Ugliness aside the music is rich and beautiful as it floats from pubs and the various stages
‘Trouble in the Kitchen’ raised the energy level
It swept out through the crowd
As they sang softly of Sarah Island on the west coast, where ‘the worst’ convicts were sent, chairs were collected and passed out the side doors to make room for dancing
We came alive
Yet I sat and watched
Kev Carmody told his stories and sang his songs. I had listened to him here, six years ago in the early stages of this exploration beyond what I once thought was the whole world. Tasmania.
His Didge playing took me to all the places I have been since then. The big wide open county rolls by in these images while the mountains and rainforests and beaches and smiles sit still and I relate to them as I did when first experienced. He finished with ‘from little things big things grow’ surrounded by children from the crowd.
After he played I spoke to him of Yirrkala and what we had been doing in the school and how my ngapipi had loved ‘from little things…’ when I played it to him. He spoke of wanting to write something with Mundawuy about the whole land rights story because that is where it started… sowing seeds, see if they grow.
Afternoon rolled into night. Beers went down at a gently sustainable rate, musicians floated in and out of my life until around midnight the passive observer finally gave way to the passionate dancer.
It continued into the next day when I sat on the lawn at Mooralla Vineyard and drank more beer and wine, this time with my parents and sister, to join in the Paul Kelly concert. For year’s I have tried to get these guys out to engage in this stuff and happily they had a wonderful time. Passionate Dancer Rod lived again and the blue grass tunes had the feet flying.
This is what our culture has to offer me. This makes it worth while and worth improving.
 
Dear Landowner
something I put in a letterbox up the road. The subdivision I talk of funded their residence at the top of the hill.

Dear Landowner

I see by your sign that you have some commitment to ideas of conservation
So do I.
Where does mine come from?
My childhood was a lucky one
One of freedom
I roamed hills catching tadpoles, frogs and lizards
I watched birds and followed animal tracks
I built cubby houses
And wove my identity into the landscape
This childhood propelled me into a life of caring
My undergraduate studies were of the life sciences to feed my sense of wonder cultivated by the hours spent watching nature unfold
My career is now as a teacher, attempting to help others build a life in which they continue to care and grow
My childhood dreams have been devoured by this housing development and the one at what was the end of Bareena Rd.
Bareena Road now ends with a continued open invitation to explore
Orana (which may interest you to know means ‘welcome’ in the local aboriginal dialect) ends in your locked barb wire barricade
My secret places have been dug up here
You are the legal custodian of what remains of them
The network of paths and dams and little water holes I knew so well
I wonder about the children growing up in these streets
Are the gifts I was given by this bush land available to them?
What happens when they read your sign and observe your well constructed barb wire fence?
Do they simply shrug their shoulders and return to some banal TV program that continues to wrap their starving imagination in cotton wool…
Do you care about this world and the direction the subsequent generations take in it?
You are not only the custodian of places that I love and defined me
You are also in a position to effortlessly let some kids make an emotional connection to landscape
I guess it comes down to what is important to you

Yours Sincerely

Rod Baker
Former resident
Fellow landowner who has an open gate
 
hope
The roads out here dissolve into the landscape like blood capillaries into tissue.
New song lines bringing spirit back to where people sit in houses and wait…
I have followed it to the end where only the slightest suggestion of tracks hinted at where to go and now I am sitting on a fallen large paper bark tree that has fallen into the river at Wawawla (spelling?)
My dhuway wanga (brother in law / husband place)
The fresh calm water is covered in green lilies and purple lotus flowers
Ngatha, my dingo pup, is asleep at my feet
I could go out on the log
Dangling my feet above the water
But that would invite a crocodile to pluck me from the log like a ripe apple
So I am some meters from the edge
I was in briefly when a fish fell from the hook as a sister tried to haul it up the bank
I dived on it, touched it
But the slippery sucker got away
No time to remove my thongs I found myself halfway to the knees in sucky weed covered mud and thinking about crocodiles. I got my foot out but had to abandon the other thong and go in after it with my hands before getting hauled out.
I was left puffing and panting and pondering how out of condition my life style finds me.
Smoking, age or a tropical disease?

Sitting, writing, I pause to swat a mosquito occasionally. My record so far is three in one hit. I don’t seem to develop bumps after being bitten so it is really just background noise, funny what you can get used to, what becomes normal.

I got drunk with My Ngapipi who is my team teacher on Friday night. We had a good night sharing stories both serious and funny.
But he got too drunk and the understandable resentment for our culture, that is mostly hidden so well by all, shone through the cracks. It was not directed at me but I could sense that he perceived that the commitment to Yolngu ways is only rhetorical and that most white teachers think white knowledge more important. He is right but it is a tricky one as the white knowledge is what white teachers have to offer and few have the skills to go beyond knowledge and into the realms of spirit where real education lies. He does not feel I am like this and what we are doing with the yolngu History unit is the right thing. Term 3 and Nelson Mandela touched on the black leaders around the Apartheid issue- Biko, Gandhi, Rosa Parks… separately we had both watched the ABC program about the Rugby players and the controversy surrounding the Springbok tour in the 60’s, just briefly there was a mention of Black Aboriginal Activists and that it was through this interest that the Australian Left first opened the eyes to land rights issues.
I remember some South African Journalist talking at my school about Apartheid in the late 80’s. He guided his speech to focus on the deaths in custody issue here in Australia and challenging us to tell him the difference. My conservative little mind at that time responded by thinking he was trying to take the heat off his own country and I missed the opportunity for some honest reflection. Thankfully some other recess of my mind seem to hold the things I miss first time round and patiently waits for me to mature to the level where I can see it for what it is.

It is starting to rain and the forest is alive with bird songs and the occasional green frog. The little drops of coolness on my bare sweaty back are soothing. Back to here away from the thoughts you were just reading. I stop and watch a duck potter amongst the lilies and skinks chase each other around sleeping Ngatha. A sea eagle flies over and the chirping parrots all shit themselves and squawk. I could continue to romanticise this beautiful picture I find myself in by describing the sound of children playing floating down the river to my moist little glade…
But it is actually the sound of them fighting and crying.
My Ngapipi cried on Friday night
He cried from deep down in the bottom of his soul
Perhaps it was for himself, stuck with a tyrannical woman he does not love but who has his child
Perhaps it is for his dead son lost many years ago in tragedy
Perhaps it is for his whole being as his universe falls apart around him
It is a huge challenge for those with a heart and awareness, such as my Ngapipi, to face
He needs a lot more backup
We all need more recruits to the ranks of those who know and care
Last time I wrote in vague terms about the different bodies of knowledge mixing to make each of us
Can I be more specific?
Strategic in the mixing of the cocktail?
How is that knowledge delivered?
How is it accessed?
Heroes
Mandela or 2Pac?
Biko or Eminem?
A pedagogy of hope
Pull these heroes
What is the key element
That good old living for self or some greater ideal again
The resilience
The hope
The self belief
The critical mind to look at the world and imagination to dare dream of something better
The courage to look at ourselves, and I mean ourselves, me, you, not the general culture that we want to feel better than and call ‘other’
Look at ourselves, criticise, accept and dream of something better
Not many people rationally construct their personalities
In fact it is an impossible task care of the insurmountable subjectivity of the venture
But we can use rationality to carefully choose the heroes we give our children
The stories that set fire to their imagination
The world they see themselves acting in when they daydream
The songs they repeat to themselves…
What are they?
 
A Fragment
The trauma of being here is not unlike the trauma of strong love in its youthful infancy.
In the troubadour sense of highs and lows
Of a hundred deaths and rebirths each day
The soaring of the spirit when she smiles or laughs
The plunge into sorrow when she avoids your eye
A day into the beauty of white beaches and granite. The fortune to arrive as a kangaroo is shot and the shared joy of the catch
The plunge into the abyss of sorrow as another young man hangs himself and his brother punches the body and turns on police and ambulance in confused expression of drunken grief
The trauma of losing your identity as your love dissolves you into something else
A fabric of gurrutu sublimates ego into a part of being rather than an individual entity
Particle theory gives way to wave theory
And it was with the confidence of the noble heart to follow amore
His or her own impulse over God’s will
Libido over credo
That got our western individual identity where it is
 
Stay Out!
Summer is here at last
I sit on the balcony of my parent’s house in Taroona
Taroona means shellfish in the local aboriginal dialect
My legs are weary from 3 days hard bushwalking through mud and up mountains
Three days surrounded by stories fed by the landscape, my parents geology background and a mythology waiting to be written
This is the house I came home to from the hospital for the first time
This is the view I ate countless breakfasts to
A dynamic view to say the least
During Winter I would watch the Bridgewater Jerry creep down the river
A fog emanating from old Jerry up in the hills smoking his pipe
It renders the northern suburbs freezing and miserable most winter mornings
Frost would crunch underfoot and your breath turned to fog
Today the Derwent wraps itself in serenity around half of the view
Sparkling calm and blue
Roofs poke out amidst this tree covered subtle suburb as they have always done
It is the other side of the house
Up the hill
Where development has devoured my dreams
Chewed up my childhood hiding places and cubby houses
And spat out banal housing developments
I have been gone eight years
Each return visit finds more development
More property price rises
Putting the land out of reach of those who’s birth right it is
Pete, Mark and I laughed at the falls festival as we sat in a tent listening to the drizzle
‘Tassie where you can be shivering and sunburned on the same day’ surmised Pete
‘So why don’t you fuck right off’ concluded Mark
We will put this on T-shirts
The counter development campaign
All my youth Tassie dreamed of Development
She built dams to make cheap energy to attract industry
We sent ambassadors around the globe to tell of her beauty
Every traveller to leave our shores took it upon themselves to preach of her beauty
Careful what you wish for, you might get it
Most Tasmanian’s can’t compete with the workers in mainland economies
With mainland property under their belt
We are becoming jealous lovers
I hope the south westerly that set in over new years drove a few out
They are talking about individual property rights on aboriginal land
Erosion of aboriginal identity with western individualism aside
Who will end up owning the land?
Beautiful land
It might take time
But Tasmania will be their future
Priced out of the market for their own land

A few boats potter about the sparkling blue water
Roofs in the bush on the other side of the river catch the sun
We say river
But it is an estuary
A flooded valley that once was full of seals and whales
We hunted them out
Along with the majority of the first people, their culture, their knowledge, their universe
Sometimes the whales come back
Just one or two
Humpbacks
I have watched them excitedly from this very balcony
Or followed a pod of dolphins passing by Taroona
It makes the news
The whole city celebrates
Greenpeace are doing battle with Japanese whalers to save mink whales in our southern oceans as we go about our lives right now
Some people care more than others
What is left of the aboriginal culture is mostly ignored
There is something down at Oyster Cove…
I don’t know anything about them
I know so much more about Yolngu from the opposite end of the continent
I was so ignorant when I left
There is an aboriginal art exhibit opening this Friday somewhere in Salamanca
I will go and make first contact

I lied about the weather
It is never blue like that
A South Westerly has crept up the river and set in
A cold wind blows and drizzle runs down the kitchen window
The water is grey and menacing
Bruny Island is lost in a squall
White water is picked up and swirls across angry waves in search of a foolish boat to torment
There is a firewood shortage and we have run out
My fingers are numb with cold as I type this
3 people died of exposure in Hobart last night
They tried to walk home drunk and were found frozen solid in the gutter clutching each other
You don’t want to come here
The nights are full of terrified ghosts of thousands of convicts who perished to escape lives of suffering
They howl and scream at your window as they are swept by icy winds from house to house looking for someone so foolish to venture outside
The bush war with the aboriginals continues
If you are found alone in the bush they will take your soul
And fill you with the shame of knowing where our culture got its wealth and comfort
The resources to travel as we do
So stay away
There is nothing but misery waiting for you here
 
History Overview
I have a little space
Head space
Just a little because there is a book five years in the making calling me to live in its world and give it the breath of life. Its stories come before these stories and the writing of which have probably served as a lifeline anchoring me to who I was before I set out on this leg of the journey.
Excuse the recent deluge
A chaotic outpouring, like my memories, no longer aligned in time
A jumbled explosion as I emerge from an all consuming bubble in which I never found that little bit of time to throw the bottle containing the messages I wrote or typed.
I am going to try and set out the broader historical context of the environment that has been feeding me these past couple of years
A history filtered through my memory and biased by the stories I have heard.

The Yolngu, people of east Arnhem Land, have lived there a long time
Long time
There are not the cave painting in predominance like around Kakadu and west Arnhem Land
They painted on funeral logs and young boys tummies as the waited to be circumcised
Now they paint and print on all manner of surfaces
But that history runs back to before our ancestors started tinkering with agriculture around the edges of the black sea
Yeah, yeah, tell us something new
The Maccasans came around six hundred years ago
They would gather sea cucumbers, trepang, and sell it into China as an aphrodisiac
They would employ yolngu labor
They traded metal, smokes, fabrics and all sorts of technologies most Europeans living on this continent never realized the Aboriginals knew about before they arrived
The yolngu in turn would trade with the people further south
The maccassans were a huge part of Yolngu economic life
This is reflected in there spiritual lives
The Maccassans are woven into the fabric of the Yongu universe
Mundawuy was wondering why the maccassans had been so open minded to Yolngu belief given that they were Muslims
The only poorly informed suggestion I could give him was that they were Sufis, with a little more of a mystical bent, thus enabling them to appreciate the Yolngu relationship with eternity that already existed.
If only our Christians were Gnostics
The Maccassan stories are at the heart of many ceremonies
We think of ancient knowledge
Many of us ‘nomads’ search the globe for it
Romanticise it as our potential salvation
As if we might find it in some pure easily recognized package
The best we get is the fleeting glance
Hopefully we are perceptive enough to know it and hold it
Water of knowledge
Fluid, taking new shape to fill the new vessel that holds it
The new culture that holds it
Mixing with whatever else is in the vessel
In our heads
Ancient Knowledge
Mixed with maccasan knowledge
Mixed with pastoralist knowledge
Mixed with missionary knowledge… but I get ahead and also repeat myself
The point I dance around is there are written texts in our own heritage more ancient than this yolngu knowledge
This knowledge lives and dances and evolves and is just as young and old as our own
What it offers is fresh eyes rather than ancient eyes through which to perceive and be in the universe.
This is no museum culture

So the Maccassans came
Yolngu life changed
Yolngu philosophy evolved to accommodate the change
It stabilized with Yolngu in a position of relative power
Each monsoon brought the sailors in their prows
And they left again with the departing wet season
But then things started to change again from around 1900
The pastoralists came and started eating the land and the dreams to the south
Massacres happened; the once superior steal spears met even more superior guns and horses
Clans were whipped out
In about 1912 the South Australian Government stopped the Maccasans coming and sold licenses to Japanese
The Japanese were not as respectful as the Maccasans
The yolngu defended their waters and lands
killed some Japanese
About 30 around the 1930’s
The government cracked the shits and planned pay back expeditions
Public opinion stopped this
Yes, that’s right, the Australian public forced one of its government to raise its humanitarian standards and send a peace mission.
Donald Thomson, the Anthropologist, came and lived with Wongu – the fearsome Djapu warrior chief
I once heard it said of him that if there were people on his land close by he would go and kill them
If it was a little further he would send his sons to kill them
He had over 30 wives
I live with and know his descendants
His youngest daughter, my Mari (mother, mother) still lives in Yirrkala
In the cyclic way of the gurrutu system this makes Wongu my gathu (son)
Three sons went to prison for killing Japanese.
There is a complicated story here involving court cases and unfair trials without translators and public outcry and international opinions and pardons and the return of family and the Murder of Dhakiyarr by police upon his release.
The upshot of which is the Yolngu had lost their trading partners, both from the sea and further inland
They had seen clans wiped out
And strange white men roaming their lands with horses guns and greed
Then Missionaries came. 1935 in Yirrkala
Offering tobacco, flour, sugar and the love of Jesus
They began building a farm
Protection and sustenance
Most Yolngu clans moved into Yirrkala, visiting their homeland occasionally
A school was set up and all attended
Discipline was harsh
The missionaries respected
English was learnt by all
As far as I can tell all the strong yolngu leaders of today went through this system
So time went on
Not rolling around in cycles as the seasons and the yolngu universe had for the past 600 years
But unfolding to a new future unknown future
Just as ours has done at an increasing rapid rate these past 5000 (13000) years
Our cultures have creative freedom now
We don’t really know where they are going
Yolngu and Ngapaki are in this adventure together
Winds of change
Waters of change
Poison of discontentment
Vibrancy of creative impulses
We can’t go back, just learn from where we have been to try and have a little influence on our trajectory in to the future

So a second world war came and, where once the government had planned pay back for killing Japanese, they sent Donald Thompson back to ask the Youngu to kill any Japanese they saw.
They feared that the remote Arnhem coast could provide a landing point
They feared that some of the allegiances that had been forged with the new trading partners could correspond to yolngu siding with the other side.
So yolngu men left families and marched up and down the coast
Donald Thomson’s diaries tell the story better than I
But neither citizens or foreigners the yolngu were not paid until recently for their duties.
The war passed
I don’t know much of what happened until the 60’s
But then surveyors turned up
Looking for Bauxite
At the same time welfare money started to replace missionary support
The missionary days are missed and remembered fondly by some
The banana farm still functions and is run by a white guy
The rest of the farming and agricultural ventures of the Mission was never taken up by yolngu and
Stories vary but it was at this point that the Yolngu are told they do not own the land but it is the queen’s property. Some yolngu perhaps liked the idea that modern benefits would come to them with the mind
The story one old man told us certainly focuses on this part of the story
Mostly it is the other half of the story I first heard
The yolngu did not want the mine
All the clan leaders got together and painted the Church panels to show Yolngu authority.
They sent the bark petition to Canberra
Follow the link, reading the text of the petition and it can see the story
The yolngu were lied to, at least mislead
They thought it was only a little land the white miners wanted
They were soon to find out the poisons that flow in our knowledge
The land rights case that came from this in 1968 was lost
Terra nullius was evoked
The homeland movement was born in responce
Some people moved from Yirrkala back into their homelands
Small communities were established on all the different clan’s estates
Some are permanently inhabited now, some occasionally
Some large
Some small
Most close to some hunting ground
Inland or at sea
Most close to sacred places and stories of one clan or another
Some people moved out and never returned to Yirrkala, trying to get away from the increasing dysfunction and social breakdown there as the two worlds collide.
Some come and go between the two
Some people took to the drink and ended up in the ‘long grass’ around Nhulunbuy
A second petition was sent basically saying ‘you have taken our land but at least leave it its name and call the place Nhulunbuy and not Gove’ it was accepted the town is officially called Nhulunbuy but over half of the institutions are called Gove this and Gove that. Ask Qantas what they call the airport.
Then came Gough and the Aboriginal Land Rights Act passed by Fraser in 1976
Too late, the mine was here
The town was here
The poison is in the system
But Bilingual education was launched as part of an effort by Yolngu to regain the future
The first language was to be respected and encouraged by the state educational system
Children were to learn to read and write in their own language first
And then transfer the literacy skills across as the English content of their curriculum gradually increases to 80% in secondary.
This is not just about respecting and maintaining a language
There are strong pedagogical reasons for this approach, a detailed argument in its own right, but let me cite one factor: engaging developing minds in increasingly deep thought is very difficult to do in a second language alone.
The assimilations hate this stuff and they constantly undermine what we try and do. Our school has had to fight to be allowed to do what it does. It continues to fight these battles. These battles distract our energy from teaching. As if we didn’t have enough to do.

That’s sort of an introduction, sort of a summary.
 
Ceremony
The funeral unfolds, in the mornings people sit around talking, drinking tea, some still up from the night before continuing on with the Kava. It is the perfect drug for ceremony; it suppresses the appetite and keeps you awake for days. The singing and dancing start from midday or a little later. Different clans do their songs and dances. I am taught a little more each time, I walk with the men of my clan as they sing beside the dancers, watching, learning. Most songs go through a number of cycles and the perspiration pours of the men in the build up heat. These are the men who sit at the limit and wait for time to pass by, these are the men who’s calendar is now named after welfare payments but here they are alive. Sometimes it is a little confusing for me to figure out where I should be, who I should be next to but I am made feel very welcome. The Men really warmed to me this past week and were eager to teach me, share their knowledge, my interest is probably one of the best things I can give them.

The ceremony went on for over a week, the intensity gradually building, people obviously loosing themselves in their ritual as they sang and danced together with all time.

When a ceremony is going to finish is never a definite thing, it depends on the thoughts of the elders and the arrival of backhoes. As the ceremony came towards the end the grief began to flow out of the women. Amidst the dancing there would come a thumping sound of a woman throwing herself on the sand and wailing.
Some ritual is more sacred and carried out in special places away form the woman. All wait in silence and rowdy kids are suppressed and prevented from looking in the direction of the deep men’s voices coming from the trees. They come slowly, stopping and singing into the ceremonial ground and none look at them until they have fully arrived painted and wearing feather cords or dillybags, carrying ceremonial gara and gulpa (spear and woomera). An intense dance follows where the spirit is taken from the body and carried on the winds. Then it is over and all walk away to rest before the next and final
At last on Monday the body was taken from the shelter where it lay in a coffin in a freezer and carried to a troopy and driven slowly, surrounded by singing and dancing men to the grave. The women are all assembled abound the grave, this has been a large ceremony and there are over a hundred women in their floral dresses and some carrying pots, tins or brick size rocks. I find my beautiful Ngandi amongst them, she is wearing the sarong I brought back from Darwin like a shawl, she is wrapped up in my love and I am happy she is not carrying a tool for self harm. This death was close in our family, my |a][is move right next to the grave at the last minute. As the body draws closer the hysteria begins to erupt. I sit at a distance and listen to the thumping of dozens of bodies thrown on the ground and the clanging of pots on the head. Some men move into the fray and pots fly out into the distance, some to be retrieved by other women who walk back in, whacking their heads with all their strength. One mother is throwing herself onto the ground. Two middle aged women are fighting over a rock, one is topless (I think this means she is in a mother relationship with the dead boy) and has blood streaming down all over her face and my sister is trying to take the rock from her. They stand wrestle while the wailing and pot hitting and body throwing goes on around them. The bleeding woman gets her hand free and manages to hit herself a few more time, dust rises around them from the tumbling bodies and someone else comes to the aid and the rock is removed. The wrestling of the two distraught women turns to an embrace as they share their grief.

The spirit is so big here in times like this. So deep. So strong. Tears came as I experienced it and they come again as I reflect and write about it. The passion of existence in these moments is unfathomable to even me, with this knowledge of spirit it is not so surprising that the poverty of spirit that comes from a welfare dependant existence leads to such poor health, short life expectancy and unacceptable suicide and violence. How do we get that spirit into the rest of our lives?

After the hysteria died down the Christians had their say. The years of missionary work has left its mark and some Yolngu are very strong Christians. The speech uses a lot of English as empty platitudes that some preacher once raged with passion come out in large chunks, probably with no equivalent translation into yolngu matha and mistaken for cryptic esoteric knowledge. I grow bored of the rhetoric about Christ and love and heaven. I have been reading Nietzsche again (The genealogy of morals) and my concerns with some of the flaws in the Semitic creation myth have been in my mind – the ‘love of jesus’ was the sugar coating that hid the poison of the myth of separation, spreading it across the globe. After the week of affirmation of spirit in this world, in this land, in these people, the overwhelming power of the women’s grief moments before, a banal religion rejecting this life and dreaming of reunification with god only after death seemed a feeble sickness of the mind designed to pacify slaves full of fear and resentment! Perhaps it suits the welfare state we have created here -We destroyed all lines of trade and economy and replaced it with missionary hand outs followed by government handouts since 30’s.

I sat uncomfortably while my mind wandered from the god bothering to the crowd, most looked bored, some loved it, the ancient elder seemed to be looking my way and I was sure he read my body language, what does he think of all this, his poker face beneath the grey beard told me nothing. Once it passed the earth was filled in with shovels and traditional songs sung, more hysteria pots and bodies thumping. A fight brewed between clans, this is normal for many Funerals, a time for letting out emotions. There had been talk that the wife had shot the young man and revenge was to be extracted. Shovel nosed spears where rattled and god knows what yelled at each other. In the end angry factions retreated and it had grown dark. We left the next morning to go back to our homeland.
 
Fear, Love, Desire
Fear and Desire
Fear and Love
Buddhism out of Hinduism
Western individualism out of the Levantine
Social duty
Similarities between caste and gurrutu systems
Being here
Wanting to respect the culture
Yet at the same time a will driving me to break its rules
A free will, 30 years in this manifestation when it got here
Thousands of years in development down different lines
‘Freedom is Slaver’ says a slogan of ‘the party’ in 1984
An irony I often have pondered…
‘… choices are the bars on the cage we call freedom’
Fear and love
Fear and desire
The fear is the same all over,
It is what drives the terrorists and conservative governments to carry out their absurd co-dependent dance
The war on terror indeed!
The global dance of fear
But love and desire
Surrender to becoming part of something – oneness
Or one thing trying to consume something and be that oneness
Eros, Agape, Amor
Doublethink
There have been two slightly conflicting utopias in me for a long time
It is something that has occasionally troubled me for some time and I will try and write out of it below
The two elements of utopia inhabit many who dream of a ‘better world’ rather than just accepting life in this one.
(Clarification; I accept this world, and my dreams are part of it!)
One utopia entails the mystical extinguishment of ego
The other an unwavering belief in the freedom of individuals
Fraternity and Liberty!
Living for more than the self and free will
If you are compelled to act by compassion are you free?
Draw a comparison of these two elements of to the right hand path and left hand path to eternity
Agape and Eros
Agape – impersonal love of god
Eros – erotic desire at the core of our will
There is overlap between these two spheres
Amor as the troubadours sang of it
Love
The act of surrendering to it done out of free will for itself
Not driven by fear or desire
The individual is not entirely lost when it realises it is part of a whole
Does this take away freedom?
The binds of love
The fabric of gurrutu
Perhaps as it renders the individual a part of something
The freedom is transferred from the individual to that something, be it love for;
A person
A culture
A state
A landscape
An idea…
Some of these people and things are free and full of the creative impulse of life
And in some the spark has gone, being with no becoming, chained to the past and present with no freedom to flow into the future
Which do we give our freedom to?
Something small enough, like a personal relationship, in which our will can remain a significant part?
A universe in which we are nothing?
A religion which we have no control over?
Slave mentalities
‘it is all an illusion, maya’
‘we are all sinners but heaven will come later’
Religions of world haters!
Pessimists
Disengagers
Cowardly accepters of perceived greater powers
Free Will underminers
Opiates of the masses
Some of us want a real life
Some of us will never be happy slaves
Or do we remain alone and free?
Surfing samsara
Following our passions
Saying ‘yes’ to life
To the elements of life we choose with our hearts and informed by our own experience of life.
Escape the dogma and doctrines that happened to come our way,
By accident of birth,
A childhood Television diet,
Where our eyes wanders in the new age, religion or philosophy section of a bookstore,
Or an email some crank sent.
Freedom directed by a valid experience of life
And what is life without love?
Eros, Agape or sweet Amor!
 
Dipping Beneath the Surface
It is one thing to stand on the shoulders of giants
It is another to try and follow in their footsteps
The first phrase is an old one used to refer to the intellectual advancement on the edge of our cultures knowledge, the building of conceptual frameworks and knowledge on those of the great minds before us.
The second talks about the tendency of mediocre minds, who miss the boat of creativity and pour their energy into the redoing of what has already been done and in these they will usually fail for they lack the flair of spirit to make it real. The Alexandrian librarians content to catalogue what has already been.
Career chasers resorting to name dropping and rhetoric
But this whole metaphor is steeped in the western conception of progress
Expansion
Growth
Reaching ever higher heights
OM mani padme Hum - comes the ironic rebuttal from the east
The jewel in the lotus
Nirvana in Samsara
What is there to know that has not always been known?
My mind is in motion and not still
I prefer to dance than sit
Creativity over sustainability
Is it a contradiction to ever chase intellectual and spiritual growth, while insisting on a more modest, sustainable material existence that does not rely on growth?
Does a myth that encourages one inadvertently encourage the other?
Is their an innate drive for growth in us
For creativity?
That is redirected in some cultures
Or is it purely culturally derived
Music, Language, visual art
Or
Car, House, new toys
Power is reversed in the two sets and paradoxically perceived
In the first, usually the spirit of creation is recognised as something greater
I didn’t really write this
It just flows though me from all the sources of thought I engage in
Yet the materialist will claim to own his car, his house, his new toy.
They own him
The dance of creativity bequests freedom of spirit
Now, back to the yolngu world
Progress?
Look at the Cartesian plane our reason is embedded in; there is an edge, a place to expand from, to grow into. The hero’s adventure into the unknown and coming back with the boon for society. A myth of growth. I am sure it subconsciously set me on fire in youth as I dreamed of discovering something through science, and then when those dreams dissolved it recast itself as journeys into philosophy, mythology and culture.
What of the Yolngu universe?
What of the Gurrutu universe?
Are there any stories of heroes who leave it and come back with a boon?
Into the ‘dreaming’?
(Incidentally, I have not once heard reference to a dreamtime here, of a differentiation of time; it may be there but not obviously)
Is that such an unknown realm or just part of this world here?
Talking to Timmy, the Yirrkala Council Chairman, I asked him about stories of heroes going into the unknown and coming back with a boon and explained that in our culture it was a model for the expansion of both knowledge and universe.
He asked me if I knew what my mother’s family Name meant:
Ngurruwutthun
I did not
I do now
It means ‘barge’ ‘big boat’ my mum told me
A Ngapapi said it meant the bow of the boat
There you go
The boat that traded with the Maccassans
Bringing new things and ideas
Even more
Water is so often used as a metaphor for knowledge here
So this family cuts its way
Leads the way into new knowledge
Not the hero characters of ego’s giving themselves to something greater
But the character of animals and things to be mirrored in people
My Ngapipi who is now my team teacher, told me the story of manikay as we sat at the airport and waited for the body to arrive. One of my student’s mum, I called her Waku.
The first song before she arrived was ‘wakurra’
The sound that grass makes when it is calling out for rain; it sounds like a frog.
Then the plane landed and the song changed to that of fresh water flowing
I danced
Standing next to my uncle holding the spears that made the front line to something we made the sounds of the water
Ah…. Ahrr…
Then we collected the body and took it to a troopy, then to hospital where the song again changed
Mari /Gutharra
My Ngapipi (maternal uncle) is the Mari (maternal grandmother’s brother) for this funeral (she was my waku – sisters child) the Mari is the most important relationship in a funeral.
The dance swirled around as the fresh and salt waters mixed
Then we went in and out with the tide
And I really danced
Language has many levels
It is a story My Nathi wrote about
“we float in language like icebergs…” wrote Huxley
these surface stories are really language for the spirit as my student’s mum’s spirit journeys home
but what is spirit?
What do I mean by ‘spirit’
Certainly not the dualists model of some other substance
Nor the materialists reduction to it or the related concept of mind as an order of information supported by the chemistry of the brain in isolation and simply ceasing to be with death.
For I do feel that my ‘spirit’ has come from somewhere and will go somewhere
Yet it is just the information supported by my brain and the rest of my body
Influenced by the dance between my genes and environment
But there is no contradiction here
The words do not refer to some literal interpretation of spirit
I think of the metaphors I have used
Of waves in space time
Waves of information I culture
Memes passing through me
From this yolngu culture to you
Of the connection our identities have with each other
With past and future
A fabric of existence
And there it is
Spirit
Individual threads or the whole thing
And this metaphor as water for knowledge
And Ngurruwutthun cutting though it
Knowledge
Spirit
Mind
Energy
Information
Language
Turn these concepts around enough
Get away from language to the visual metaphor of information washing through space time and they all start to look the same
A spirit lives most clearly in the memories of those who have experienced it
But it lives also in the countless effects that flow through space and time to unimaginably disparate ends
Just as it has come from unimaginably disparate sources
We only ever have metaphors to describe these things
So let us choose the metaphors we teach and communicate with wisely
Beware of those that get us stuck on the surface and result in us fighting over literal interpretations of concepts like god
Luckily we can go beyond language and metaphor and experience it for ourselves
And as my student’s mum is sung and danced home
And love ripples through the fabric of gurrutu
I begin to dip beneath the surface here.

 
a beautiful sister
I helped bury a sister on Wednesday
Took the day off work
Drove out to the homeland on Tuesday night
Having been out there the weekend before
Both visits I participated in the dances that took her spirit home
The last leg of its journey out over the water featuring a stingray hunt
Her spirit out over the waves
Her body into the grave
I sweated as I labored with a shovel
Not as fit as I used to be
Rain clouds approached after the morning bungul
The preceding gust of wind that accompanies wet season downpours was unusually strong and prolonged, Several tents tumbled across the broad, flat, sand dune that is held together by a scattering of casuarinas and fig trees
The rain never arrived
Buku-dal is beautiful
A picture of tropical paradise
Granite boulder outcrops and broad sweeping white sandy bays
Tropical Freycinet
Only one family goes there and no rubbish detracts from the beauty as it does in so many other outstations
A lovely place to come to rest in
That wind was her
Brief in the scheme of things
I am not sure if she was yet 40
But she shook the world as much as she could while she blew
She had been to Africa to a woman’s conference when she was 19
And brought back an open mind full of ideas that the place was not ready for
She would speak her mind on Tabo subjects while the conservative people around her ignored her or told her to shut up
Intelligent, educated and articulate
One of the first Yolngu I really communicated with
Too briefly on too few occasions
Sometimes out hunting
Or sitting in a yard with her
But mostly she was away
In Darwin
In hospital
With diabetes like so many Yolngu
With buggered kidneys
On dialysis
The Mari in charge of the funeral lives in Darwin for the same reason but he respects his condition and obeys its rules
She fought it
An educated health worker she knew the consequences
Perhaps it was the toxins her kidneys failed to remove working on her brain
Perhaps it was just her defiant spirit
She would go missing in Darwin for days
Attempting to live a free life
Her eyes still sparkled when I visited her in Darwin Hospital in July
Her intelligence, vision and spirit were such that it could have been a beautiful life shining hope for those around her
But perhaps she was born too soon
She would have been more accepted if she had been 20 just back from Africa now
But things went badly for her
Her husband was the wrong man
As are so many here
No help, he didn’t even come to the funeral to love his children with her
One child was born hopelessly deformed and damaged
The other shines with her spirit and intelligence
Her beautiful potential played out a tragic life
Swept up by the relentless current of destruction that flows though this place these days
Medikur, mukupmi (sister, you beautiful thing)
I hope your daughter shines as you could have
 
Knowledge and Power Structures
It goes on and stops here
The school is closed for a death again and I have nothing more than sadness to type and not much energy for that. So I will cut and paste from yesterday before the heaviness set in and come bouncing back when next I find beauty (which I must admit is never that far away!)

A hell of a day last Thursday
Two explosions of temper tantrum
One before recess
One after
Students coming who have not for so long
Regular students at funeral or just not coming
Parents who just let it all slide
Kids with no boundaries
Kids that want the melodrama of TV
Loving it when they get it
The right buttons pressed
Tables upturned
Rocks pelted at the windows
Chairs thrown across the room
The air conditioner pulled from the wall as my team teacher tried to constrain the second explosion. Me eventually resorting to calm, relentless, brute force.
The first accepted the gesture and walked with my arm more reassuring around him to a shady place where the tears took place of the rage and the poor bugger felt all alone because the family scene has gone to shit and
now he is fighting with his closest mate
The second just wanted to continue to destroy the class as papers were pulled from the wall. A crushing bear hug established that there would be no more fighting. He was carried out like a baby feebly kicking and trying to grab anything, also to a calm shady place where the rage eventually dissipated
And tears continued to flow
Oh yeah and on Wednesday a primary kid went home and came back wielding a machete after a dispute over a rubber with a teacher aid. Storming about yelling and hitting walls with his weapon. I helped another yolngu teacher disarm him.
Kids are entertaining themselves by rocking houses a lot lately.
Marauding the streets wild and with no direction

My Little Brother was trying to hang himself last week again
They had to cut down all the clothes lines
Sent him away with a body to a funeral
Hopefully he will find out who he is
I dropped in to Their on Friday morning as I have been a stranger these past few weeks
I had Visitors before and after the Garma festival
Thursday night I drove half way to Darwin to deliver a Yothu Yindi foundation troopy. It was not very well sealed and I drove the 700 ks of dirt road in a vortex of red dust and when I coughed I momentarily thought I was coughing up blood. Slept in the back amidst sound gear and got to Darwin by midday Friday and performed at the Neo gig / stage show that night.
Partied hard for two days and came back Sunday Morning
Had a great night camping Sunday night
But no sleep
So I had only just recovered in time for Thursday’s Melodrama in the class Friday morning my beautiful Ngandi’s daughter was crying for her She must have been on the piss again last night and not come home wrote a dodgy song titled ‘nothing but a good time girl’ a few months back
Friday afternoon another ngandii payed a 16 year old sister $150 to look after her third baby child while she went out drinking in town I hope she does not come back with number four on the way another ill defined entity set free to get lost and drown in this cocktail of incompatible aspects of identity as western and yol\u knowledge swirl around in a chaotic whirlpool until some people with vision can craft a new system of thought that works here from all this raw material.
At the moment the kids are left to decide if they should go to school, they may be told to go but it is with no conviction or consequence if they stay away Just as the kids back in Humpty Doo are left to choose the pop culture that wraps them in the banal cotton wool of domesticity and keeps them in a juvenile puppy state.
Again I think the same thing
Children’s innocence is sacred but their wisdom is soft
Without some strong defining boundary to adhere to they end up lost.
Or is that just the sinister resurgence of my conservative schooling?
The boundaries of this yolngu culture were exceedingly well defined in its traditional state
The hippies flocking to garma to authenticate their Rousseau rhetoric back home would hate it if they had to participate in it
I fear yolngu are loosing faith in who they are
such a beautiful culture in such a mess
from missionaries to pop advertising telling them that our way is better
this insidious message is seeping in
and running like poison in their minds
there is a story I have started to tell
about the cyclic nature of yolngu identity, knowledge and power
In the Gurrutu system your grandmother’s mother is your child.
Your grandmother’s clan’s mother’s clan is your daughter’s clan…
(they know this half of the story but I tell it for your benefit)
Draw a diagram. It is a circle.
No one on top
Compare this to our patriarchal structure
With kings or pharaohs or emperors or Gods or king/gods at the top
Priests and men of learning next
Merchants in material luxury
Trades men in the middle
And slaves at the bottom
We don’t call them slaves any more
But we free people know little more than the names have changed
We draw it as a pyramid.
Power, identity, knowledge
There we have the two diagrams in the sand
The circle and the pyramid
Diagram of power structure
Diagram of knowledge structure
Diagram of identity in society
And what knowledge do you think ngapaki culture brought to teach when they come a conquering?
The masters or the slaves
First we brought our religion of slaves
The poison pill wrapped up in the love of Jesus
Careful what knowledge you accept for it defines you and where you fit in the world
That is far as the story will go for now

But what about all of us
Our own society structure
The poison has worked the other way also
The empathy and compassion that comes from the love of Buddha, Jesus and the rest has gradually entrenched itself up the pyramid
The harsh structure has been undermined by spreading humanity
For some leaders compassion is only a rhetorical tool
For others it is real
When we had more slaves than we needed we could sell them off
Or use them up in some greedy war
Or even set them free and forget about them
Now we house and feed them
And leave them to live a completely pointless existence without even the meaning of a fight to survive
‘A solution’ cry the simple minded economic rationalists:
Economic growth to make space for them
For those who have bought the materialist utopia at least
Forget it

One of my visitors these past weeks was an intelligent woman rediscovering her Hinduism
We had fantastic conversations across the spectrum
One of the things that we talked about was the parallels between the Gurrutu structure and the Hindu caste system.
We talked about the parallels that Fritjof Capra drew between eastern mysticism and quantum physics in ‘Tao of Physics’.
And of course about gurrutu and quantum similarities
She told me about some more aspects of Hinduism that she herself is only just rediscovering
Since these conversations I have remembered another connection
I read a passing speculation somewhere, probably Joseph Campbell’s ‘Oriental Mythology’, that the people inhabiting the subcontinent before the arrival of the Arian race that became the Hindu culture were of the same genetic group as Australian Aboriginals and today’s ‘untouchables’ still bare some of the resemblances. It was suggested that it be logical that the conquered race become the slaves, the untouchables.
Well, here is this weeks eureka thought: If the above is in fact the case.
I wonder if the system of thought of the ancestors to the untouchables was similar in some ways to the gurrutu system and the philosophical and spiritual system that evolved in the Hindu culture was a mixing of the patriarchal Arian system of thought and the indigenous gurrutu system of thought…
And if so… what of the future evolution of our own cultural identities in this landscape

There is a lot of shit going on around here
Saturday I had a lovely day gathering and gorging myself on shellfish
Predominantly oysters growing on mangrove roots
Harvested by cutting the roots
Cooking the whole lot on a fire
We got back after dark to find people marching around stony faced carrying woomeras
There had been some fight between families
Women fighting over men
Some passing conflict to find a few moments of meaning in
Wrestle a bit of action from the television back into their own lives
What do you do?
Vitalise by living a vitalised life yeah I know
That’s what I do in Darwin
Or here hunting, dancing and learning and coming up with ideas
I’m having a good time
But as I look around I keep feeling more strongly that it is not my job to sort it out for anyone else
we are studying Nelson Mandela this term. One of the pillars of ‘black consciousness’ was that blacks could do
anything and not to take help even from friendly whites they sure as hell need a shot of that pride here as they sit and watch me get their kids on the bus to school I only do that when the family connection is close If I was born black it would be my problem
But it is not
This is your job I remind the parents as they watch their son head to the bus

On Friday I was struck by the happy smiling face of one of the yolngu health workers
‘He always seems to have a smile on his face, that is what the place needs’ I thought
He had a lot on the go and energised all around him
Well, he used to
He was Gary Dirkard
Former AFL player for Fremantle and Nth Melbourne
Maybe you heard the news
He died in a single car roll over on Saturday Night
Probably racing around helping people get home
Enough, enough, enough!

 
Water as Knowledge
The metaphor has been swirling about in my head these past few weeks.
Well, it has been there for a few years incubating and maturing but it has been bubbling close to the surface and into consciousness these past weeks.
All the yolngu stories of different waters represent different knowledge of clans; held in different languages mixed at different points.
The first metaphor I was introduced to here was of the general phenomenon of ‘ganma’
The mixing of fresh and salt waters
A fertile zone in rivers
It was given as a metaphor of Yolngu and Ngapaki (western) knowledge mixing
As embodied by our Bilingual or Two-Way school
But the metaphor is older, deeper and more subtle than just that
Each yolngu identity is a coming together of mother’s, father’s, mother’s
mother’s, mother’s father’s… etc clan’s knowledge.
Different stages of life herald different flows of knowledge
Flows of spirit
And they come from the land
Through the rivers and the oceans they are connected
Before white man came here knowledge of the Yolngu, the land, would have mixed with the knowledge of the Macassan traders from across the sea
We have constructed a timeline that covers a little more than one wall of the classroom
110 years at 7cm a year
1900n to 2010
It plots the recent history in a neat western mathematical sort of a way
1907 South Australian Government stopped Macassans coming
c1917 Bill Harney (from pastoral land down near Roper river) carried out a series of Massacres around Gangan, Birany Birany and Gurka’wuy
1935 Yirrkala Mission starts
1960 welfare payments start
1963 Bark petition sent to Canberra – the first Aboriginal land claim, it now hangs in the corridors of parliament house and is referred to as our Magna Carte
1970 lost land claim, (Terra Nullius invoked) mine goes ahead
1970 elders lost attempt to prevent alcohol outlets opening in Nhulunbuy…
Just a sample
Looking at this history the changing blend of the waters of knowledge can be seen
I am yet to plot the arrival of television channels. In the early 80’s it was only ABC…
Traditionally the yolngu knowledge flows through the cycles of the gurrutu system and now I make the same comparison / contrast as I have before with the western pyramid power structure.
Yolngu have different, overlapping knowledge from different places, clans.
What do we have?
The knowledge of Christianity
The knowledge of the priests in charge
The knowledge of the ruling political elite
The economists
The mystics
The knowledge of scientists
Within science there is the knowledge of the quantum physicist, the molecular biologist, the biochemist, geologist, ecologist, psychologist…
The knowledge of sports jocks
The knowledge of the historian…
Each has its own specialist language
Each has its own concepts
Its own members and non-members
Each blend of knowledge defines the holder’s power in society
In the USA I see the creationists have had a victory in some states as part of the conservative advance in that country. Winning court cases
allowing them to introducing their ideas of ‘intelligent design’ into the curriculum masquerading as a scientific theory.
I am sure you have read before my thoughts about Christianity, along with those other Middle Eastern faiths, being derived from the systems of belief of slaves, pacifying them as they were dragged from one foreign city to another, becoming further estranged from their local beliefs way
back in the times of those conquering Assyrian Kings. The domesticated type of individual that serves a state these systems are designed to produce (with god on their side…).
In the USA and here in Yirrkala
Which knowledge would be more empowering?
A system in which we are subservant to greater powers
Or a system where our reason alone defines the terms of our existence
Which mentality would best suit those who want to feel like saviours of the masses
Or, for those more honest with themselves, desire to wield power.
This is at the core of the greatest personal conflict I experience here
I do not think a western individual would fully accept a place in a yolngu universe not of his own choosing.
He can choose to come here
But I guess I am a slightly more extreme example of a westerner not accepting a life simply by accident of birth
Fulfilling own potential rather than simply societies expectations
There is no science curriculum here in Yirrkala
I do teach history as a scientist
Cause and effect
What would have happened if you took this element out?
What was the effect of the arrival of this element at this point in time?
The rations with the missionaries
The welfare
The alcohol with the mine
How do all these things define you?
How can you shape your future with this knowledge?
Perhaps these things all seem a little academic, unnecessary worry from the comfortable vantage point of job security, stable families and predictable future, comfort is not threatened if you just relax and flow along with it
But these people here are drowning
People all over the world are drowning
1 in 4 Australians has to use antidepressants at some stage
Surly one way out is to know who you are
What makes you who you are
How to become something healthy in the future
I was at a cocktail party in Darwin earlier this year. The first cocktails were great; mixed with care, the right proportions of the right ingredients; either known from experience or taken from a recipe book. As we got more pissed we lost control and the cocktails became more random mixes, we tried to kid ourselves that they tasted good but it took only one sober judge to tell us they were shit. Is this always the history of cultural identity?
 
At a personal level
Ever changing
Ever the same
I’ve just read Martin Flannigan’s ‘In Sunshine and In Shadow’ A fellow Tasmanian 10 years or so ahead of me facing down our history
Our history with Aboriginal Australia
I read intimate descriptions of the places I come from
Share with him the lament for the loss of those places that held childhood memories and the memories that run timelessly into prehistory and of the intimate relationship between Robins and Truganina, the ‘protector of aboriginals’ and the last of the full blood Tasmanians
The space between my beautiful ngandi and I thins at what seems to be an exponential decline in distance. Intimacy builds up behind an ever thinner dam wall of tabo. I should explain if you have not read it between the lines. Ngandi means mum. I am in love with the wrong skin. All things in the yolngu universe are one of two moieties; dhuwa or yirritja (a little like ying and yang) and you are the same moiety as you father, the opposite to your mother. You marry the opposite moiety. So a Nandi / Waku relationship is wrong but not as bad as a brother /sister… respect for these gurrutu rules has been doing a constant battle with the previous 30 years of conditioning I brought here including being a sucker for bright eyes and a beautiful smile. My head and heart have been at odd for 18 months. As always the head got the start but the heart is winning out in the long run.
Robins effectively abandoned the Tasmanian Aboriginals on Flinders Island to die out while he returned to a life of comfort in England funded by the sale of his various land grants.
What am I going to do next year?
One day I am going
Another I am staying
One day solitude and humbug gets me down
The next day my spirit flies as 10 boys consistently come to learn first about Nelson Mandela and now their own clan leaders of the past that got the first ever land rights claim together in the form of the ‘Bark Petition’ of 1962; Australia’s ‘Magna Carta’
They identify their own clan leaders only 2, 3 or 4 generations ahead of them, research and write about them. We plan to put together a documentary consisting of 5 minute stores about each of the characters involved (done
by different students)
They imagine themselves as leaders
Hope dances around the classroom
In the art centre, where surrounded by their creation stories, their law, they hear the stories from various old men and women
This is as real as life has been
As real as being in love
Staffing is being decided for next year
Friday Morning in week 1 the announcement came over the P.A. that all
staff who had not yet handed in their forms with intentions for next year
were to do so.
I was in the Girls classroom organising the mornings lessons moments
before the bell was to go
What am I going to do?
Take out my wallet
A one dollar coin
Heads I stay
Tails I go
Heads it is, I stay
As an afterthought I apply for leave in term 1.
If my block sells wont even have to work term one
3 months should see the book finished and some trees planted and irrigated as stage one of the permaculture garden

My Beautiful Ngandi comes around more often now
For a shower or washing cloths
I find myself taking her food when I cook more than for one
Bread or some other little offering
she listens to my stories
And tells me her own
Some days she seems close
And others further away
The closer days are closer
The further away ones not as distant
My heart still sings at the sight of her smile
And flies with her laugh
We were going to go to the ‘Jam’ last Thursday
Nhulunbuy’s Nightclub
On Thursday afternoon I dropped in to the hospital to find her there
Either migraine or severe dehydration
Very disoriented and wanting no more than her daughter
She had been playing cards in the sun all day
She spent the night in there alone, I left her all the smokes I had and a
little cash and collected her after school the next day.

I spent Saturday afternoon on the roof at our Mother’s
My little Brother was drunk and threatening suicide again
At first he had tried hanging but all the ropes had been cut down
He had smashed up the stereo
And climbed onto the roof to throw himself off
Upset he had not been taken to a funeral
Worthlessness, dope and alcohol a bad mix
He didn’t want me there
I had not taken him to the funeral

There is another story of there to explain why my car is out of action.
Holidays and a road trip to Alice aborted in Katherine with two dropkicks as well as my team teacher and a sister and her husband, hot springs and cold beer, a Neo concert in Katherine, dancing with chairs with and without people in them and then the woman who had occupied the chair, my car still unregistered with the previous owner just too much
trouble to find from here, longrasses attracted by our drop kick companions attracting police. Me walking out of the pub to find number plates taken by cops. I identified myself as the owner and the junior cop demanded.
“what’s your name?”
“excuse me?” I said with raised eyebrows
“what is your name” a little take aback having overstepped the necessary courtesy line
“It is Rod, Rod Baker”
I bit back the desire to smile offer my hand and ask him for his name
“did you know your car is not registered”
“No, I’ve not long bought it”
(well no paperwork exists to say it was 16 months ago)
Now there is a question I could spend some time answering
“where are you from?”
“From Yirrkala, I am a teacher there; I need to get back for school, how am I going to do that”
A smart tactic that turned their minds from pinning me to helping me, ‘I’m one of the good guys like you can you help me’. The senior officer excused them as they went over to the cop car. I overheard him dressing
down the junior over how he spoke. No fine ($700 odd dollars in these parts) told not to drive it until I got
temporary rego the next day from the rego board…
We made t home

Now back to the roof and me climbing up and tentatively walking to my drunk little brother,
taking out a smoke, lighting it and offering him one
“Fuck off, I don’t like you” he blurted
“why do you say that?”
“you have been fucking the Ngandi Mala” (mother group)
“What do you mean”
“You have been fucking ngandi” (referring to my beautiful ngandi) he called out and repeated with the sign language for sex for all the gathered audience to hear and see (about 30 or so community members to watch the show and add their piece, one obviously trained in how to deal with these frequent situations was great.
‘I wish I was’ I thought to myself
“That’s not true and you know it” I said
I backed off a little
The police came
We got him down
They took him away
My beautiful ngandi’s daughter (sweet 6 year old) was there
She was not
Her smile greeted me as I drove past the green house straight home to two
large glasses of scotch on the rocks before returning to her.
A few days later I asked if she knew what my little brother had been saying on the roof
She said she did not
I told her

Stress?
My guts got a bit tighter during the week
Was it living here
Was it the deep hurt that comes at the crossroads of knowledge between what I know of the beauty of this culture, what is happening to it and what my squatocracy ancestors did in NSW and Tas?

The next Thursday came around and my beautiful ngandi and I were once again planning to go to the Jam (for the first time together having been there without her in the past, her often but never when I have)
The waiting game over a bucket of Kava
We don’t want her brother to come because he is a pain in the arse drunk, often ending up violent.
He knows the plan and waits for us to call the taxi
Time passes
The kava bucket empties
At 12:30 I go call a cab was we have resigned to taking the brother
Brothers also inhibiting what sisters can do
Only two taxis working and an hour or more wait
Fuck it I will drive and park the unregistered car in the bush
We get there a few minutes past 1:30
Curse all the procrastination they have shut the door! Even though closing time is 3am
There are around 6 yolngu already trying to get in and two white guys
I am spokesmen for the yolngu and am shown a watch with 1:37 on it.
I go and case out the back for sneaking
On return to the front door I am told they let the white guys in
I ask the bouncer about this and he says they work here
Racist fucking bastard, this is war!
The old energy flows through my veins
The recognizance had revealed two walls that might be scaled leading to a door I could open to let all in.
Pissing off security staff has always been one of my highest callings I explain my plan and set of to scale the first wall
My Beautiful Ngandi is a mixture of concern and enthrallment
Anything for that smile
I remember the rafter swinging incidents back at the Uni Bar
The first minor one a soon to be girlfriend had witnessed, the first time her eyes saw me I
was upside down above the crowd.
“A like minded fool” she had said to her friends
The second time she had gone home early, perhaps a week after we met, what else was there to do now she was gone? Swing from the rafters again
I felt so alive that night, as I did on Thursday
I felt alive as I scaled the first barb wire topped wall with the aid of stacked milk crates.
Is this wise for a teacher in a one nightclub town?
The old man in me was told to wait a few more years as I showed off my climbing skills. The second wall was trickier as it landed me in fairly open space but I managed to make use of a pilar for cover.
I pull it off and emerge from the back door into the beer garden
We have to be careful and I peak through the crack waiting for the right time
Only a few at once I instruct
They all wanted to get in
They were all pissed
Getting busted was inevitable
I lead the way
4 drunk yolngu bumbled in behind me
I kept the pillars between me and the bouncers
The yolngu got busted in a flash
Without breaking my stride I cruises inside across the dance floor where another Nandi, guilty of often abandoning her 3 kids to drink in town and the long grass for days and even weeks, was dancing alone on the dance floor and then straight out the door.
The door man opened the door and his mind (as bouncers minds do) played itself slowly across his face
“How did you get in?”
Pretending not to hear and feigning a little drunkenness I went on
G’day Mate, have you seen my brother?”
“how did you get in?”
“My brother was s’pose to meet me here, he looks a bit like me”
“what was he wearing?”
“I dunno, I have not seen him in years but we used to wear the same sort of stuff, why?’
“look, ive seen you in these clothes before when you came to the door, how did you get in?”
“what! My brother came and you did not let him in, he wasn’t pissed was he?”
“how did you get in?”
We went around and around the bastard refused to smile although I did manage to draw him in to debate a few times. Why do bouncers take this stuff so seriously and refuse to acknowledge their part in the cosmic joke? I must ask them next time we have a chat
“How did you get in?”
“O.K. I’ll admit it, you have a chimney in there and I am Santa Clause”
I winked, slapped him on the shoulder and walked off. He wanted to smile but murdered the smirk in its infancy.
My Beautiful Ngandi was grinning as I emerged victorious in defeat I told her the story and she threw back her head and laughed retelling each instalment in yolngu matha to our little band of the excluded.
If only we could be alone with our feelings this high things would take care of themselves.
We never found ourselves alone
We drove home with a few extra passengers
Relived the adventure
Shared chocolates and smokes
An other little brother, in my class was still up and hanging around waiting to go back to card playing
She said she was going to play cards and for once asked me what I was going to do
“If you are going to play cards I will head off to bed”
She wished me fun dreams of our adventure
I wished her luck at cards
I headed to bed
She headed to a card game
It was 3 am

Friday we drank Kava until nearly Dawn
But she was a little distant, briefly coming to life with me as the previous evenings adventure was retold but mostly not there.
Now time came with us alone
When the distance was expressing itself
I raised the issue of relationship again
Impatient for the time feels right for it to be raised without words
She retreated to saying she had a boyfriend again
“then leave me alone, just leave me alone”
Others came and I went home

She was quite and distant during the next day
But came around with a sister to use the phone at night
“I am not angry with you, I do not hate you”
She did not respond as is so often the way. Yolngu are like that, it is infuriating at this level of intimacy.
“you listening?”
The slightest movement of her eyebrows said she was, I went on
“when I see you, Cook for you, Do things for you, They make these feelings stronger”
I tapped my heart
“So they have to stop”
She said nothing, didn’t move
“do you understand?”
She nodded slightly and raised her eyebrows, the equivalent to shouting yes (I exaggerate slightly)
We returned to focusing on the small baby she held that was crying. Little Ngatha failed in cheering her up and the phone call ended and they left.

What will happen now?
I have not smoked for two days so perhaps my rhetoric of late about
stopping will come to something.
Have I given up her also?
I hope so
Will I have the resolve to tell her to go ask her boyfriend if she does ask for anything?
I’m not sure
If she turns up in the early hours of the morning alone and drunk again
what will I do?
Take her by the hand to my bedroom
Can I keep my mind from entertaining these possibilities?
That’s what the distance I ask for can help me achieve.
 
Recharge
Tasmania is amazing
Her landscape calls me home
Sheer dolerite columns and cliffs rising from rainforest to cloud
Soft soft greens of mosses, ferns and gentle rainforest trees
Come home come home
The subtle smells of humid eucalypt forest with giants rising 90 meters above
The smell of sassafras
The smell of celery top pine
The delicate poise of notofagus (myrtle) branches
Fractals more beautiful than any maths class will ever touch
Trees starting life in moss covered rotting logs
I walked for 3 days with Dave, my brother Drew and Mayu – a Japanese chick Dave found along the way, god bless him.
We spent the second day up on the Labyrinth in the clouds and I pondered the linguistic connections from mist through mystery into mysticism as secrets were unveiled from behind swirling fog.
For the briefest of moments the clouds parted to reveal a lake in front of a mountain before once again all over a few meters away became white. The shortness of the moment seemed to somehow render it all the more eternal and even now as I write this I leave to spend a little more time there…

The path dropped down in front of us, winding through rocks and clumps of the miniature Pandanus into the white. We missed the ample flowers of the miniature pandanus by only a few weeks and the skeletons of their bloom stood above their tightly packed prickly leaves. This place is covered in snow half the year and we were only a few degrees away from it as we ate a small lunch sitting on a rock outcrop staring into the abyss, waiting for our eternal glimpse. Pencil top pines appeared out of the mist gnarled and ancient and growing ever so slow. Crystal clear ponds lay all about us equally showing the stones below and reflections above. Around the ponds were mosses and tiny flowering plants in the peak of their existence on this wet summer’s day, the alpine sundew was covered in droplets fed by the mists and waiting for the sun so that they could live up to their name. The mist could be seen moving steadily over round bolder outcrops and between the trees and as we were all looking at our lunch Mayu cried ‘Ah mountain’ and there it was for a moment, for all eternity, a lake with a pencil pine on a small point, outcrops and rocks rolling towards the first stage of the mountain silhouetted in briefly thin mist. Then it was gone. But it is still here.

The last day dispensed with all clouds and beneath blue skies we walked across boarding over button grass plain before we climbed to Byron Pass through beautiful sassafras and myrtle forest. After two hours walking there was a sudden change in the air, ever so subtle but it was now moving and slightly sweeter, seconds later a corner had us in a different habitat – from temperate rainforest to alpine tundra in a flash. Open vegetation of Pandanus, shrubs and pencil pines replaced the towering moss covered rainforest trees. In no time we were on top of the pass and the sweet smell of honey was traced to the flowering Pandanus (the big species, not miniature). 15 years exploring these places and it was the first time I found this… there is so much still to find in the place of my spirit.
Calling me home
Calling me home
From the pass we descended through a forest of pandanus, standing in thick families like I have seen nowhere else.

Last time, the first time, I walked this path behind Mt Olympus I was stumbling through as an 18 year old with his first broken heart. Chris had dropped me weeks before but we had gone on the walk anyway, the other two walkers had got together along the way and I had just lost the knife my brother gave me atop of Mt Byron. It had been sacred to me and the loss had broken me so that I cried alone amongst the boulders that had swallowed it. In fact I think I had more or less cried myself to sleep some nights way back then… how long ago that is now. I remember the actions but not the feelings… it must have been shit. It had only been a 3 month relationship but love is love.

Back then the five days in the beauty of the landscape saved me. It filled me and has been central to my being ever since. Walking in this wilderness is my pilgrimage. It has saved me and brought me back so many times now. I had been struggling for energy for a month when I set out on the walk, I came back from the highlands with stiff legs but my spirit fully recharged. One day I will never leave. Scatter my ashes from ‘The Acropolis’ and find out what its aboriginal name is!

From Byron Gap and down through the Pandanus forest and across wombat maintained grass stubble we found our way to Lake Petrach, a large shallow lake amidst these U-shaped glacier carved valleys (ice monsters consuming the mountains, breathing their deadly cold breath over all comers as the inhabitants clung to the edges of the island; the most southern humans in the last ice age). Flanked by pencil pines and clean quartzite beaches we gently slipped into the cool waters in naked acceptance of beauty surrounding us. (fucking cold water compared to N.T. but not as cold as the deep lakes down here).
And then we slogged through mud for another 5 hours. Stopping for one all in mud fight that had us emerging at the end like creatures from the swamp. We were much apreaciated by the day tripping tourists peering out of their clean bubbles.
 
Hunting
August
The desert roses are out and this means that it is time for turtle eggs and mud crabs. It has been for some weeks now. Yellow flowers on the lonely gums, Gadaka (I think) tells of wild honey waiting for us. We brave the sandflies in the early morning low tide of a new moon and hack away mangrove roots covered in oysters, the tide turns and we carry heavy loads back to the camp where a baby is crying from sandfly bites.

Last week we set fire to the place and the smoke drove them away, we cannot do this again so we go further around the point away from the sand fly haven of the mangroves and start cooking the oysters while some of my mothers continue to gather rock oysters.

I am tired. The dogs howl at buffalo all night and the two that I look after sleep outside my window and wake me on an hourly basis. My nights are full of fitful, deranged dreams confusing my past and present. I needed to sleep in but there is something always on. Sunday it was this hunting trip. At 6am I was rousing my family, arriving to their place at the same time as my beautiful young Nandi, she is 24 and had been out on an all night bender on Kava, comatosed, she helped pack and dozed in the back of the troopy as we head out to rocky bay. Once there she sleeps, a slender body in a floral dress following the curving of her body over the sand, one arm outstretched. We all sleep in the shade of a tree, bellies full of various shell fish and a rock cod my mother in law caught.

Then last night after a Mexican feast and some tequila we go and spear crayfish. The half moon has low tide at early dark and after scanning the water with torches for the red eyes of crocs (they stay away from rocks and coral as a general rule) we walk amongst the coral, I have speared a ripper in the first 30 seconds and after an hour we go home with 4 beautiful crays. They are full of colour up here, blues and blacks and reds dancing in stripes over their body. One is boiled straight away, cut in half and garlic butters soaked over the grill… mmm.
I will share two more with my family tonight.
 
Lost in the Abyss
Just another broken soul lost in the abyss
A disembodied spirit floating through old worlds
Worlds where dreams were had
Where plans were hatched
Where scams were pulled off
Memories of adventure
Beers would be consumed in anticipation of what would be done that night
Now they are consumed to no effect
Those days are gone
And my life is somewhere else
Past and present are asunder
There is no more overlap between them than nostalgia
I share pictures and stories
I pour myself in an effort to make contact
My mind wanders when I try to listen
I have to try to listen
What have I done to my mind?
Emerging it in a world of such different entities
Have I really lost interest in this world?
In the day to day concerns of those who live here?
Is it so trivial?
So banal?
So inane?
What a lonely journey if that is true
Come back, come back
Go back, go back
It is not what I set out to do
Isolate myself
I only wanted to find something to share
To contribute
Alas myth of objectivity
I thought I could do it without changing myself
Independence of observer
I have always been a participant
Now I return to float by as an observer
I can’t touch their world
The landscape calls me
It knows me always
But the people?
I watch the scene at Salamanca
Lads position themselves for the perve
A new chick arrives and they shift their sitting position to include her in their voyeuristic world
She sits with her mate and mirrors their body language surveying the human terrain
And me, ‘voyeurising’ on their voyeurism
I complain of being disembodied to Pete
There are people about
I do not know them but they are the people I know in Darwin
There is Pete and Anne
But they are on the outside looking in with me
Then once again the goddess of destiny intervenes
And drops a flyer in my lap
We find spirit in live music
Live rock that hurts the ears
I almost dance
The potential life quivers with vitality
Eye contact and smiles
One more beer and I would have danced
At first alone, for no one had made the step
But once I started then others would soon have joined and the gig would have gone off.
But the beer was not had
We left
Contrast with gentle tunes in an alleyway
Someone who knows spirit holds me for an hour
Playing sweet African tunes on the marimbira
He brings me back to now
He breaks my writers curse of being in another moment
“thanks mate, you are a great ambassador of spirit.”
He talks of what I feel
Of recharge through music
He does this
I buy his CD, what greater gift can be given than encouragement to be yourself
 
Cartesian vs Gurrutu logic
It seems that not only is the basis of being, how individuals define themselves, vastly different; the western ‘self’ with its ‘ego’ and associated psychology compared to the yolngu being embedded in gurrutu (kinship) relationships but also the type of logic that has evolved in cultures made from these different ways of being.
Or is it the other way around – chicken or the egg?
Let us start with the western system and its rational Cartesian conception of the universe. ‘Cartesian’ named from Descartes valiant efforts to describe the universe as god saw it. Its cause and effect deduction and explanations objectively viewed by a god outside of space and time, whom Levantine mystics, philosophers and scientists have attempted to sit beside and understand the world, but this model of the universe; a clean slate of space time through which to draw our lines of reason and causality is not that which Yolngu perceive the universe and reason within it. Where at our core we have 3 dimensions of space and one of time (or 11 dimensions or whatever the latest favourable quantum physics model is) gurrutu is a network of relationships between all entities in the universe. In the Cartesian model entities are given position and velocity with numeric values (a snooker table has been provided as a metaphor for this). In the yolngu universe different relationships also have ‘values’ and subsequent implications. Both universal views lend themselves in part to visual models although they become a little too abstract to be simply called that.
Western reasoning
Taking information
Evaluating it
Putting it together
What cancels what out?
What is in harmony with what is already accepted?
Plotting cause and effect as defined in our Cartesian world view
And that is the difference
What we call ‘reasoning’ is embedded in the Cartesian world view
What is outside of it appears irrational
Our Cartesian reasoning exists in the yolngu world
Yolngu can play snooker!
But this type of reasoning is only part and is embedded in a more important guru=u system and it is at this level that yolngu rationality exists
a metaphysical or spiritual level
As I watched out the window at a primary section in riot and teachers valiantly trying to reason with kids before screaming out of frustration I could not help but think they should be finding a way through gururtu to get their message across.
Of course some of these kids are growing up with little of either type of rationality, as happens every where in this messed up world, and these kids are the hardest for us to reach.
As is so often the case, the problems can be traced to selfish behaviour
Individuals who have failed to mature to the level of taking responsibility for their part in society.
Responsibility for their part in the world
ngapaki or Yolngu
The two systems are mixing up here now. Two very different waters of knowledge. Where salt meets fresh water is an important metaphor here. A fertile place for creativity it is indeed but sometimes I think it may be more like ngapaki oil and Yolngu water or a violent riptide dragging a lot of identities under in the confusion.
To make oil and water mix into a stable emulsion you need a surfactant
It interfaces between the two liquids
We need a surfactant to disperse the western self,
That is like an oil spill on the spirit
Starving all that resides there through selfish pursuits dictated by the ego
Keeping us on a superficial, materialistic level
Our mythologies and spiritual components of religion have always attempted to do this.
What will we fill tis roll in our future?
Perhaps this is the surfactant I look for:
The Cartesian model of the universe is gone
It is over a century out of date
First relativity, then quantum physics rendered it obsolete
Quantum physics, Astrophysics, ecology, information theory… they all have a new model of the universe
Super string theory and p-branes
A fabric of space time
They all depict a universe of interactions and relationships rather than entities
The myth of objectivity has been shattered
Every observer is connected to and influences the world observed
So when the mystics and the quantum physicists found god they also found themselves smack bang in the middle of things, or rather part of all space and time and not upon a pedestal of ultimate objectivity.
Our culture, our world view, has been unstable for many thousands of years now. Perhaps when we weave it back together again, when we all belong again, it might just look a little bit like gurrutu.
 
Hectic and Timeless
March 05
Hectic and timeless.
Things seem to be going to hell here again. The older boys who we nurtured through last year are falling apart; hitting the piss each night and coming to school, if at all, still shit-faced without sleep in the morning. If they come back after lunch they are often stoned beyond function. They can’t even make it to music anymore. Gentle natured boys are getting in fights to the point of hospitalising one another at ever increasing frequency. I do not teach them this year and see little of them inside of school; kids that came most days last year are fading away from us. I talk a little to my little brother as he falls as heavily as any of them but he is not strong enough to swim against the tide of his world, he just says sorry (as if all that matters is what we think of him rather than the consequences) and does it again and again and again – His mum will send him out to the homeland to get him out of here and straiten him out soon. My phone was used to call police on Tuesday when an older uncle’s head is slashed with a broken bottle – the reported grievance was that my family did not attend a funeral (of a drunken woman run over while asleep on the road) late last year.

My middle years boys class (years 7, 8 & 9) is equally hectic at the moment. All of them wanting personal attention and tantrums and book tearing up and chair throwing happening when they don’t get it, within ten seconds! Attendance is good – average around 10, but, even with the assistant teacher in the room it is… hectic! They apologise afterwards but it means nothing, when pressed it is always another’s fault and the victim mentality wraps them in a shield from responsibility, reality and growth. The girls class is bigger and the same. Some days the learning of Maths and English seems to go forward, some days it does not. Wednesday comes around with the welfare payment and it all goes to hell. A flu sweeps though the community taking out teachers and further increasing the workload on the healthy, I make aspirin, lemon and honey tea for my beautiful ngandi and some days she smiles and some days she does not. The flu finds me and I take Friday off for a mental health day as much as a physical necessity.

I have the chance to stop myself and remember what is going on…

The vast sea of eternity boils and individual entities of consciousness of space time burst from its surface in moments of existence; everything that comes into being must also face annihilation as we return to that eternal ocean. The best we can do is dance with Dionysus under the Apollo sun in the time we have. But so often I find myself dancing alone and loose the rhythm as I focus on those around me who forget or fail to know eternity and become consumed with anger and grief over all this inevitable destruction of being.
They see night as the end of day
Rather than prequel to a new unknown dawn
It is a dance party and there is a bass drum pounding in the darkness
There is a fight on the edge of the dance floor, yes, they are all playing their parts in their time but it is my part to dance and with my eyes and energy call as many to join me in this Dionysian Mystical Dissolution away from the Apollonian Individualisation and negation against the other.
It would be nice to pull a few roots in the process however.
Remembering all of this my energy and joy of existence returns and I remember last weekend that I lived it; I danced on Friday and Saturday nights. Briefly and drunkenly on Friday to a DJ’s tunes at the Arnhem Club and then in full, sober, blossoming on Saturday night at a benefit gig for Tsunami relief put on by local musicians forming a ‘collective’.
The days found me in the water, cloaked in a stinger suite, fitted with snorkel, mask and flippers, armed with a battered, aluminium spear. The tropical reefs are a spectacle of abundant life with countless colours and forms to be found amidst the corals and diverse schools of trusting fish. Saturday, locally, I speared my sister a large green parrot fish and let a crayfish escape into his hole.
The next day I went out in a mates boat to reefs of unbelievable abundance. The water was alive with the sound of crayfish and beautiful coral trout nearly a meter long found themselves on the end of Clive’s spear gun. I was armed only with a Hawaiian sling with perished rubber and somewhat battered points after extensive use in the hunt for sting rays with my family. On the occasions I hit a fish I was to see a few scales floating where a fish might have been. We were rushed out of the water by the appearance of a sizable (I did not see it) Tiger Shark and at another reef one had a bit of a go at my mate as he carried bleeding fish in his catch bag. A mackerel was hauled in off a trawling line and crayfish pulled from holes. We came home over almost mirror like waters blue reflecting the building wet-season storms and occasionally broken by playing dolphins. By the end of the day there would have been around ten sizable fish and maybe six crayfish divided up and distributed.
There was a fourth bloke out on the boat – A miserable bastard despite all the beauty around him. He had told me a few stories early in the trip of petty conflicts over ownership of a black pearl that had been found in an oyster or a 12 foot tinny found washed up on a beach, he told them as if he had been calm and detached (he was not involved in the pearl saga) and risen above the childishness of it all but as the day progressed he revealed himself to be rather ‘undeveloped’. He had thrown a tantrum (literally) when his digital regulator shat itself so he could no longer scuba and dive amidst a whole lot of muttering, which the only word I could discern was the almost rhythmic use of ‘fuck’ and its various conjugations.
“I am having a shit weekend”
It had started with arguments with his daughter the night before which he blamed for making him forget his wetsuit in the morning. He talked how she was going to get a thick ear for it. He has a shit job driving a bus in the mine, he lives for his weekends. To have a shit weekend is to have a shit life. Later while I was washing down the boat I overheard him moaning “I thought there was going to be no more shouting”. He obviously hates the consequences of his domestic conflicts yet was going to go charging back in there full of pride and self-righteousness and keep the cycle going, I have no idea what their part of the cycle is but it is probably the same. I gave him a suggestion:
“You still love them do you?”
No response, a strangely vacant look
“Why don’t you try telling them you love them, see what happens?”
It was as if I was not there and had said nothing. Later he was to say as part of his monolog (for he did not seem to engage in conversation but just unload all his thoughts after having had a joint)
“You just got to accept that women are all the same in the end.”
I refused to believe him; he is just avoiding blame and learning.
Or is it that men are all the same in the end too?
We are all the same in the end
So why worry about it and try and change them?
Live now
Be happy
But I don’t think it was a mystical realisation he referred to and I just thought it but didn’t say ay more.

That was the weekend before this one. This one just gone I spent once again in the water but this time locally with my family. I got a few fish and have sore hands from tinny cuts while pulling crayfish from holes. I was so involved in it that I went to sleep on Sunday night and dreamt of looking into little clefts to see crayfish staring out at me. One crayfish I had a slight grip on, he could not escape but I could not pull him out. I had exhaled to sink more easily and I damn nearly drowned myself in refusal to let the sucker go, eventually I burst to the surface gasping for breath with a crayfish (above size but I am sure he shrunk on the way up) in hand. In the end I got five crayfish, one whopper, a giant clam and a few smallish fish. It is good to catch your lunch and cook it up on the coals under the shade of a Casuarina tree. It is not so good to be sitting on a veranda when a drunk staggers in shovel nosed spear in his hand looking to finish a fight with one of my brothers. He was not in and the drunk left without incident. He was the brother of the other drunk I almost had a run in with at the circus in a previous account. It is funny how you become desensitised to things, it all passed without a raised eyebrow and my thoughts stay with the crayfish. The younger boys are too tired to hunt because they are always on the piss. I held my breath too much on the weekend, feel punch drunk from it all, and struggle to find the patience needed in this job.
 
What is Gurrutu
Gurrutu is love

“What do you think gurrutu is?” he looked at me across the table
Eyes searching for honesty
Looking to see if there was any understanding
Looking for any useful learning in me
“Well, I can’t answer that simply, or if I do, I need to explain my answer. It depends on which ngapaki perspective I answer from.”
‘You have said nothing’ a voice inside my head reprimanded, that is us ngapaki, always talking around the point in an attempt to sound intelligent. I had been stalling while I collected my thoughts and wondered weather to take the mystics line or the quantum physics line. They are all the same in the end but they use such different language.
“In a way, I think the closest thing we have to gurrutu is love
Love in that it ties us together
Love is when we feel connected to something
The opposite to fear repelling us
Gurrutu is highly developed systematic love
Every functional culture teaches its children to grow into love
Or at least tries
The biggest step to maturing is from the selfish being
To the one who sees self as part of whole
Of something greater than self
To love one person
To love one family
To love one community
To love all humanity
To love the universe
All traditions teach it
Religions hold up their examples
Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammad…
All mystics who grew their love beyond space and time to include everything
All religions at least started with their mystical insight,
Even if they were overtaken by power hungry politician in robes
Now this secular, materialist, capitalist society we find ourselves in,
Without love at its core,
Canonises selfish consumers;
The cult of the individual.
All human caused suffering can be traced back to fear and selfishness
This has been known for a long time
And remedied by countless cultures
Gurrutu is love
A fabric of systematic love that weaves us all into the one universe
You can not fully understand gurrutu by thinking about it
Like love
You have to experience it with your heart
With your whole being”
 
Royalty Time
6th of December Royalty Time

I sit with my laptop on a Sunday and type this. It has been a full on couple of weeks and now I am sitting by a campfire as the water boils for tea. The wind is singing to the casuarinas above my head while I dry out in the shade, my hemp shirt is draped over the bull bar of my troopy in front of me after my unsuccessful walk through the water with my garra and galpu (spear and woomera), white sand sparkles all the way from sand dunes to blue water and rocky outcrops covered in oysters stretch into it at both ends of the beach where sisters, mothers and grandmothers gather shellfish.

Behind the troopy a willy willy comes to life and grows, the white sand takes on a three dimensional cone shape and dances in front of me, the wisps of sand look like muscle tissue of some amorphous ghost and as it swirls it follows the path of the track I drove in, back up the dune and out of site. There are clouds on the horizon, dark in some places and there is a little chance of rain today, the first rain has been and gone a week ago and dark rain is making vertical lines in the clouds in the distance. Other storms have brewed and erupted this past week; it is royalty time and all the money in a vacuum of purpose amongst the men tears it all to pieces.

I stop writing to gather leaves to cook damper in and now my Mari passes me some as I type and sip tea.

Two weekends ago the funeral for the boy who died in the car crash (driving alone, drunk) came to a conclusion so I spent time sitting and listening to songs and trying to make sense of them. It made a little sense outside of what was explained and I realise my language has come a long way these past few months. The most amazing and powerful song cycle was the dance of the death adder. Four men lay in pairs; feet facing in and a pile of grass at each of their head, spears at their sides. First on their stomachs and then on their backs, the song cycle went on and built in intensity, they rolled slowly back and fourth as women got up and added high pitched cries to the song. Then the fires were lit and the intensity grew dramatically, suddenly everybody was up making a commotion and the men were writhing around kicking sand into the air, stamping out the fine and breaking the spears chanting going on until a crescendo was reached, the fires were out, the spears were broken and one of the four men had a cut on his arm from the broken end of a spear. There was one drunk man getting in the way while giving unwanted and unneeded advice, he had the knowledge but is a drunk now and a pain in the arse. Later a flurry of sand was thrown as other elders expressed their anger with him.

Early the next week we picked up a young Ngapipi (uncle) running back from the limit. He was drunk. He is about 12. He does not go to school. The place is a bit of a mess with a lot of alcohol and dope abuse and feral kids growing up with little parenting. It is a beautiful setting with houses looking out over a paradise beach of white sand and litter.

Where once the calendar that established a common time between people was based on the season now it is based on welfare payments, fortnightly CDP day, annual family and royalty payments…. The drunk boy sat on the ground at my Mum’s place and threw a tantrum for wammi (dope).
“wammi, wammi, wammi, waaa, wammi, wammi, wammi!”
He cried like a spoilt child crying for a new toy, working him self into higher levels of hysteria, as if he would get it here, from this family.
“Take him home waku, take him to his mother” was my Mum’s directive but he did not want to go. Eventually I picked him up like a sack of potatoes and he simply went limp and pretended to sleep letting whatever was going to happen, happen, he was as light as a feather and I carried him under one arm to the car. His mother thanked me for bringing him home and asked where I found him as he bolted to join some children playing on the rocks by the water in this beach paradise.

With the end of school and all the extra money around there are a lot of holes for the kids to fall into and on Friday night as I arrived to take family out to their homeland my Mum was worried. A brother had been induced to join the men drinking at the limit. It is a strange issue for me to face and I have had to rationalise it so as not to feel a hypocrite. I hit the piss pretty hard when I got to 18, but it was not such a dangerous adventure. It was normal to do this and go on and become a responsible adult. All my siblings studied and had jobs, all my friends were embarking on careers and drinking was part of life’s celebration, it never threatened to become all of life as it does for these kids. The younger men they follow are not needed and drink to forget. They have so few role models to follow, how can we get some of them through?

I had to stop writing to go and play in the sand dunes with the kids and now it is night and I have returned home, I have a bowl of maypal (oysters) next to me now as I type and they take me back to the day that was and then it will be to the week before it.

A 12 and 1 year old sister, a 5 year old little brother and a 4 year old waku (sisters child) crept out of the rocks and begged me to come and climb a sand dune with them, how could I say no? We tumbled down steep dunes and explored paths through coastal scrub until we found ourselves on a cliff face looking down at the women gathering oysters with hammers into buckets below. I was nervous, even scared for them and between me and the women yelling below they came back from the edge and surfed as one big train down the steepest dune we found laughing all the way.

I picked up my spear and returned to the hunt, following the yothu through a small crack in the rocks where the tide had gone down enough to let your head through above the water… between the small waves. It was low tide now and a beach had been exposed in front of the pockmarked sandstone of Cape Arnhem. The rocks are full of shapes ripe for the imagination, from the jagged silhouette being an assortment of twisted individuals looking down on the water to all sorts of creatures imbedded in the face. I stopped with my |a][is to eat some fresh maypal, little oyster four inches deep in their own juices in buckets, before continuing on in my own thoughts while looking for stingray in the shallow waters. The chatter of the women and children died away as I moved away and then around an outcrop underneath these magnificent rocks. I wondered about the effect that this different internal experience of gathering food has on men and women; the women talking, sharing their thoughts and the men, silent as not to scare game, alone in their heads as they concentrate on signs of prey. I wondered about children who grow up without silence to imagine and have their own thoughts in, where pop culture fills in all the gaps with music and TV. I wondered about fixing my spear so I can use the gulpa with it again. I thought about the drunks back in Yirrkala. I probably missed edible stingrays through a lack of focus – I saw and speared nothing.

The young brother was out drinking at the limit on Friday, he had been drinking for a few days. When the men drink here they stay drunk for days. Sometimes weeks. They slip away from their families as they get more and more angst for their disturbances. Fighting each other and demanding money, cigarettes and food. They hate themselves and give sermons about their importance in an attempt to hide. Eventually they cant face their families any more and they end up ‘in the long grass’ outside of Nhulunbuy or Darwin drinking themselves to death or getting themselves into prison. They don’t all fall that far and some of the more sorted men have lost a few years to drink and then come back. There are lots who don’t come back. We were heading out to a Homelannd and most of the people in the troopy were unfamiliar. I had one Uncle next to me – a gentle spirited 20 year old who was drunk to the verge of passing out – it was him I that I had held in the car on grand final day when he wanted to go to another brother’s help in a brewing fight. I was going to try and pick my young brother up at the limit along the way. You always slow down as you drive through the 2k limit where alcohol cannot be brought past, some of the drunks have the habit of sleeping on the road in the hope that it will all come to an end. The men and a few women sat in groups and we scanned them for my brother until we spotted him. I pulled off and swung the troopy around as he walked from the group to meet us, he was very pissed and moved between being happy to see me and ashamed to be drunk. “I’m stupid” he confessed in shame. ‘No gutha (little brother), you are just drunk, sober up and you will be normal again, we are going to our homeland, hop in and you can sober up on the way…”
He was torn by this, I could see part of him wanted to get out of where he was, who he was and go where his spirit comes from but he was also undergoing the right of passage with the men of his community. He was leaving his mother and getting pissed at the limit despite her wishes. He was becoming a man. He knew the damage this causes but found himself here regardless.

Stopping at the limit is not something you want to do. About ten drunk men, mostly family, descended on the car to humbug for cigarettes or anything else they might get, asking for lifts into the community or town. Doors and windows opened and arms in the car, family obligations of thosein the car stretched to the limit – the sort of situation that might make those not ready for it freak. I spoke with one Uncle who I have not seen much of in recent times. He is a heavy drinker but in one of his more sorted periods had made my spear and galpu for me. He is a bit dodgy. There was not much room in the troopy, it was full of several families’ groceries and about eight people and it was going to be difficult to fit my little brother in but I just wanted to throw him in anywhere and get the hell out f there. The drunk Uncle decided he wanted to get out and join the men but I convinced him that it would be better to come out to the homelands. One of the men outside had a closed over eye from fighting and persuaded him that bad stuff was going to happen. “Trust me on this Ngapipi, come with us” “OK waku” he stayed in the car. The little Brother climbed in behind me, I got back in and started to pull out slowly, giving time for the various arms to extract themselves. He was drunk and had brought a can and bottle of bourbon with him but we were out of there. I spared a thought for His mum back in Yirrkala, unsure of where her loved son was and waiting the coming storm of drunken men returning from the limit.

My poor little brother vacillated between begging forgiveness “I’m sorry wawa, really sorry” to telling me to “shut the fuck up” when I told him to stop drinking and sober up now. Mostly he was sorry and I assured him that he was still loved. When we stopped for a piss stop the can he had turned into a cup was emptied out the window and the bottle hidden. I thought about ditching it for good… maybe I will next time. He was unhappy but accepted the loss, me remaining up beat and telling him I had drunk it all smoothed things out – the drunk Uncle laughed and we moved on. He passed out (as did my Uncle next to me) and when the reception died out of distance on the radio we drove in sleepy silence to our homeland.

I was hoping my beautiful Ngandi would be there and was happy to hear her unmistakable sweet laugh ring from the darkness as I got out of the car. I was inundated with happy children the moment I go out of the car and it took time to find her without making too much of a fuss about it, her smile shining in the darkness. She helped me set up my tent and we talked about things, she thought it was good we got my little brother into the car.
He found the bottle and continued to drink, promising to give up nextyear and we talked a little about it.
“I am just celebrating, being happy!”
“yeah, but you were also telling me to shut the fuck up, that is not happy.”
“I’m sorry…”
The poor bugger, he is under such pressure and expectation and is a very gentle spirit. I must be careful not to make him feel judged. The night rolled on and I had some Kava. My Ngandi gave me some fish caught that day and a sister and I tried to call our mum to tell her our little brother washere. There was no answer. We would find the reason for this on Saturday when we returned to Yirrkala. It was late now and my little brother returned to take me to a few different campsites to meet family. At one was the Uncle who gave me a ceremonial spear and woomera (not to be confused with the fishing spear from the drunk Uncle back in Yirrkala). He told me stories of the place, showed me where it fitted into the landscape. The creation story is of a shark, speared 100 kilometres away rushing through the land and being made blind by the pandanus leaves (used in poisoning fish in a fish trap I learnt the next day) and settled to rest here, giving birth to yothu (babies, yothu-yindi - child and mother). The landscape, the totems and the clans are all the same thing. These stories describe the relationships between the clans and clan members. This place is my Mari place (mothers mother) The person with custodial responsibilities for a place is the waku (mothers child, sisters child) - so here it is my Ngandi (mum) and Ngapipi (uncle) who own the knowledge. I found bed around 2am and had managed to keep the kava consumption down sufficiently so that I could sleep. The next day Ngapipi took me (well, I drove) along the river. The river had stopped running and is a serries of water holes now, where I had struggled beneath the water with the jack is now dry rocks. One Clan is the caretaker here (which is what My Ngapipi is) but there is what is called a ‘ringgitch’ associating where small packages of land (single water holes) are assigned to other clans. He explained this to me, some of the political implications and gave examples of it in other places. We finished in a beautiful water hole full of fish and birds where he showed me the remains of an old fish trap. All these stories, even the function of the fish trap and pandanus leaves to bring the fish to the surface are just the start of philosophy, the ‘surface stories’ as Yolngu often phrase it.

We returned just in time to see families departing in a tractor drawn trailer, my beautiful Ngandi amongst them. The day was spent resting and listening to several of my brother in laws singing songs onto a tape. Ngapipi explained some to me. The tobacco song, even the alcohol song. They describe life as it is; the alcohol song has cycles from opening the lid through to fighting and getting out a knife, I will ask if the tobacco song includes cancer – I doubt it. Almost everyone smokes here. Tobacco first came here with the Maccasans long before Europeans got here and it is well woven into the culture – availability is what has changed.

Towards the afternoons end I drove back down the beautiful water hole with a couple of young boys to find the women and children fishing and help bring some of them back. I found my ngandi’s smile and sat next to her. She cooked up some yabbies and shared them with me. I drove off with a couple of boys to find some leaves that were put in to flavour the numerous catfish that had been caught. They were cooked between paper bark on hot coals, the edges sealed with mud from the water hole. My sister gave me one, presented on a paperbark plate, to eat as I drove the family back to the homeland; the flesh is tender and pulled from the backbone and tastes of the billabong.
We left for Yirrkala at around six, my sister, my beautiful ngandi, their 3 yothu, some one else’s yothu, and my a little brother. We made the journey between worlds. There was no one at the limit and the community seemed unexpectedly quiet when we drove through it to first deliver the yothu. We arrived at our Mum’s place and were confronted with a drunken ngapipi I had not met. He was aggressive and I took an immediate distrust, if not dislike, to him. No one else was there, this ngapipi could hardly stand as he staggered around the yard making demands and I ignored him, letting the women deal with him. Another mother turned up and told us our Mum was at our mari’s place and we evacuated to there. I dropped my little ngandi, my sister and their yothu at a house close to mine and went to see our mum.

She had spent the previous night at Mari’s place as the aggressive ngapipi and the one I had spoken to at the limit the night before had arrived, with bottles of scotch, and set up camp inside. She had told them to leave with no effect. I told her if she wanted them out to call the police, it is illegal to have alcohol in the community. She had rung the police and they told her to tell them to leave… she was worried that the ngapipi would end up in jail because he had already been in trouble for breaking into a house in Nhulunbuy.

“but ngandi, they have to be men and face consequences or they will just keep on doing it, do you want me to call the police”
“yes please waku, call the police, tell them there are men with alcohol in my house”
“I will tell them the whole story”
It was getting towards 10pm and I was knackered from the drive. I left to go home and call the police drove past so I set off in chase, flashing my high beam at them and indicating for them to pull over. They pulled over and I pulled along side.
“I always wanted to be involved in a police car chase”
They laughed. It was the yolngu police officer and another
“look, my adopted family has been forced out of their home by drunks, they have holed up inside with a heap of alcohol do you reckon you could go around and sort it out…”
I gave them the address and they said they would go straight around there. I stopped off and sat with my sister beautiful Ngandi while they tried to think where they would stay the night. I told them about the police chase and we laughed, they were going to sleep in my lounge room on spare beds if the drunks did not leave or pass out. At the sight of the police they ran inside and went to sleep. I passed out myself. The plan was to have a sleep in and go out to Cape Arnhem in the afternoon.

In the morning the aggressive \appipi was still drunk, standing on the veranda and not shutting up. Obviously stressing all the women who were wanting some peace. He was demanding food and basically being told to fuck off and stop treating the place like a pub. I entered the dialog with a series of questions asking if he respected his sister, the owner of this place, does he do what she asks and what is she asking you to do now?.
“Yes, yes, go away and be quiet.”
“what are you doing now”
“I will do it… blab la blab” he was beyond communication, they were just words to fill the space and keep from thinking about what really hurts. There is nothing to live for, he gives nothing, he is not needed. We rounded up family and headed out to cape Arnhem where this story started. This is a life full of contrast.

 
Intro
What is going to unfold here is a journey from one corner of the content to the other, spatially and conceptually. Any attempt at objectivity is unintended, a subconscious by-product of my scientific and western philosophical upbringing, the drive is a confusion of this background with an attempt at personal expression; we scientist have to deal with the shattering of our objectivity at the hands of quantum physics now anyway. It is going to start the echoes of an identity embedded in urban Melbourne and a life I have now all but forgotten and build out from there to an identity slowly dissolving into the Yolngu (East Arnhem Land Aboriginal) universe. I am not quite sure how we are using the term ‘Nomads’, I am sure a lot of people call our Australian Aboriginal peoples nomadic but their explicit connection to specific places almost makes our sedentary urban culture seem more nomadic.
 
Dealing with Meaninglessness
"God is Dead and we have killed Him"
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Life was gritty in Elwood. Under the gentle maple trees of thick dark green shade were the summer breezes and spring rains but also the smells of a city.
A leaking gas pipe
A toxic puddle
Three junked up prostitutes walking by,
Their spirits long gone,
Eyes absent
Vomit, urine and human Facies in back alleys
A rotting corps; someone’s beloved cat in a gutter,
Compassionately moved there from the road where it was hit
Used needles glaring up from the pavement daring you to walk bare foot
Forgotten graffiti on banal advertising boards
Life bubbles along down in Acland St where the prostituted had been driven out a few years back when the yuppies moved in. They moved a couple of blocks over to the little backwater of Grevil St where the night traffic is now heavier than Acland.
Bubble, bubble
Head in the sand
Sense no trouble
The yuppies proudly show off their tattoos, body piercing, designer hair, gym sculpted and solarium tinted bodies juxtaposed against the white T-shirt or black attire as the standard statement of identity.
Drop an E.
Dance all night
Fuck a woman and brag about it.
The streets were seething in arrogance
“What do you do?”
“I’m a visual marketing consultant”
Like it is something to be proud of
Like they are great artists
An artist tries to express a personal epiphany,
Your selling a pointless product you wanker
A fucking used car salesmen with different fashion sense.
There is nothing wrong with used car salesmen,
They are just used car salesmen.
But they don’t see it, content to condescend, I can do that too.
It is no place for an unmotivated, paranoid dope smoker
Waiting for creativity.
Waiting for a sign
This place wants it now.
Speed, E, Cocaine
They are the drugs you want
Go hard, go, go!
Wankers
DON’T STOP YOU MIGHT THINK
DON’T THINK YOU MIGHT REALISE IT IS ALL A FUCKING JOKE
Wanking is only fun when your dick thinks you are having sex.
No one wants to be reminded that it is not real.
What happens when you find your meaning is an illusion
you crack up
unhinged
nothing to hang your conceptual framework on
built on shifting sand
it doesn’t happen all at once,
the false bottom falls away
a rigid structure is set free floating in space time
there is an uneasy feeling of pointlessness
Nothing changes until the weather turns bad
stress and strain makes the structure creak and groan
breaking point
maybe it falls apart piece by piece
maybe it all shatters in one devastating collapse
the end result is the same,
your ideas and beliefs are swept away in a sea of meaninglessness
do you drown?
What else?
You cling to floating debris but it is all too small and goes under with you
You fumble about in the water getting tired
Once you are in you can’t just get out
It is a special kind of insanity that lets you unlearn truths you have understood,
Mostly the only defence is never to understand
Cowards
Thrown about in these meaningless waves
No sense of direction
What use is direction when there is nowhere to go?
Drowning is supposed to be the most peaceful way to die
Once the panic goes
You stop fighting
Your lungs fill with water
You just float off…
What was all the fuss about anyway?
Dying is no big deal
It is living you have to worry about
In the twilight of consciousness it all makes sense
The brink brings an epiphany
Typically simple:
Existence is meaningless so you may as well enjoy it
Set free from the conceptual framework of rules and boundaries that has imprisoned you for so long you can invent your own meaning.
Take on the form of a fish or a bird or a whale
Survive any situation by changing,
Growing,
Always becoming something more
Something better suited to its environment but true to itself
This is not what the system wants
This is not what the system demands
This is not what they taught you at school
Your schooling was invent for the industrial revolution
Standardised minds for mass production
Economic efficiency
Low cost
Low maintenance
The system needs it
‘That’s the price of progress’
Fuck progress – I want to live
So keep your head down
Watch your mouth
If they find out they will lock you up
Or worse,
They will ignore you out of their existence
 
Windjana Broome
Sitting in that twilight zone between sleep and waking
Waiting for the coffee to brew and be midwife to my consciousness
The bong bubbles in the boy’s tent as they plunge themselves into a different state
Surrounded by dope and for once I am happily having none
Magpie larks squabble over last night’s food scraps before they are dispersed by a Raven, a flock of bared finches passes through and the campsite begins to stir
The coffee percolator hisses and spits to announce its work done
The sun comes up from behind the limestone escarpment towering a hundreds meters above us and a glance back in time reveals Devonian reefs giving way to a shallow sea.
Breakfast and packing and we set out on the ancient sea bed with strange fish around us
Time rolls forward and the oceans around the globe retreat
The sea bed turns to flat plains and the iconic boab trees of the Kimberly’s spring up
The mind is swept up into the extensive dry planes and explosions of life in watery gorges
Mega fauna scratch their itches against these fat leafless boab trees
The mega fauna are cattle now
And hip hop artists are mixing it up with Bob Marley on the Troopy Stereo
“All shall be witness when Babylon falls”
“We are living in Babylon” Pete’s mate Reece said back in Sydney a few years ago
Reece is dead now
He went back to South Africa to sort some shit out after finally getting a permanent residence visa in Australia
Got shot in some random act of street crime
He was a good bloke
“All shall be witness when Babylon falls”
The tower of Babel
Turning over the tables in the temple
The everlasting struggle between the materialists and the spiritualists
Story after story of the dangers of the worship of material wealth with apocalyptic endings
People getting stuck on the surface of metaphor
Taking it as literal accounts and predictions of our collective history
They then carrying their fights out in human time
But the stories are really just versions of archetypal motifs of a personal apocalypse
As the lights go out on another spirit and their bodies become part of the machine
Chomp, chomp, chomp.
Tentacles of economic avarice search out new places to feed.
They creep through this landscape that so elevates the spirit and establish strongholds in pastoral leases and hideously commercialised experiences like ‘El Questro’
Feeding on the Grey Nomads
These retired travellers
The place is literally crawling with them
Long since enslaved and used up
Spat out by the machine at the end of their time to be now passive spectators of the beauty they could have been part of
Pottering aimlessly from campsite to campsite
At least they have this experience now, but what a long time to wait for it
Road signs announce we are approaching some monument or another
It is Babylon
The monuments are in worship of economic achievements
Bridges and roads for the beef trade
Pastoralists claiming new territories
Our heroes
We follow them at our own peril into the spiritual wasteland of our economy
Jundamurra fought and killed them for over three years before he fell
His hideout, Tunnel Creek, is a far more moving monument
Exploring its darkness I wished I could have leant him some superior weaponry to turn the tables of history.
In Yirrkala Bungle Djama, ceremonial work, singing and dancing, participating in spiritual knowledge is at least as economically important as those related to physical resources.
But here on these roads through Northern Western Australia ugly concrete pillars stand to the achievements of the beef industry
They are overshadowed by the majestic Boabs
Obese Ents with a thousand fingers held up to the sky, tolerating cretins engraving their names on their surface
The landscape erects these monuments in countless numbers
And each one is full of more creativity than any human ego can ever lay claim to
So the mind wanders as I drive along miles of dusty roads
Occasionally plunging into someone’s dust snake;
A swirling world of dangerous mystery
Then out of the cloud appears the driver
Sometimes frightened, clutching the wheel
Sometimes relaxed enjoying the drive
The Grey Nomads tow theirs lives in Caravans at 80 k’s
Backpackers cram it into beat up vans
Once overtaken there is again a clear view of the boabs racing by
I take photos and record a video
I try to wrap the experience up in words
But it is all too big
The rock faces too vast
The explosions of bird song in gorges too rich
I want you here with me
But you are not
So after it is all over I try and package my eternity and send it to you
The bliss of a steaming hot spring fed river surrounded by lush tropical vegetation in the cool of early morning at Daley Hot Springs
The peace of sitting with friends after climbing amidst rocks to overlook a dry season oasis and a marauding wedge tailed eagle
The mischief of scamming the Fascist Institution of El Questro
We were The Conquistadores of El Questro riding out in triumph at dawn
A photo of the perfect reflections at Bennet Gorge
The spectacle of a hundred fresh water crocodiles crammed into Windjana Gorge waiting for the rains to restart life
The expansive stillness and silence of a lookout over the desert at the Bungle Bungles
The sublime feeling of walking trough a crack in the rocks a meter wide and a hundred high
The excitement of smashing a television on stage as part of an act with Neo to open The Darwin Fringe Festival.
The fascination of what I am learning while participating in ceremony in the Yol\u Universe…
I am bluffing when I say I find the depth of conversation and connection we used to have
Part of me is on his own out here
But I am onto something
Something about what language can’t touch
Something about the pedagogy of spirit
Something about the objective and subjective
Something about quantum physics and yol\u knowledge
Something about what can be learnt by dancing your knowledge
Something about the way of being when learning is done by emersion into the knowledge rather than the objective dispassionate step back
And something about the effectiveness of this type of learning as a protection from being consumed by Babylon.
Will all this consume me or will I make it back?
It will never be back;
Perhaps forward will bring me full circle?
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