Friday, October 7, 2011

… another way …

One evening, while at a residential conference on education on the east coast of Australia, again in Gumbaynggirr country, I retired late. Tired as I was, I was more restless than sleepy. The crashing of waves on the shore just metres from where we were cabined, seemed to be calling me. Not being one to take myself off in the dead of night, alone, I decided that I would venture to the beach at first light. As the first light of dawn became visible I walked to the beach.

It was a grey morning, there were lots of clouds and even as the sun rose behind them the day felt ‘grey’. I walked along the beach feeling for this place and this day. I saw something way out to sea, but could not make it out. I thought ‘whales’ but dismissed this as fanciful. I felt that the sunrise was a bit of a non-event, yet I still stayed on the beach. I was alone for what seemed like an hour when an elderly gentleman approached. We greeted each other and I asked if he could see what was out there. He looked a while and then replied with dry Aussie humour, ‘if it’s a boat it’s in trouble!’

I continued to walk up the beach. I was contemplating the sleepless night, the sense of being called and the uneventful morning when I hear the old man cry out ‘It leapt!’ … I had missed it! The old man left the beach very joyful … and I felt happy for him.

I then focused on a space in the clouds, which I suspected would allow the sun to shine through. As the sun hit the sea, in the very spot it did this, there it was! The tail of the whale shining in all its glory! This glow, this shape, this light filled connection, truly ‘lit me up’. It moved me to a vibrantly alive place.

This image, since I do not have a photo of what I saw, gives a sense of the glowing tail of a Humpback Whale, reflecting the sunlight.

My experience was one where to me, the glow emanated out from the tail as if the droplets of water that were swung outwards from the tail itself, picked up the light. The shape was only defined in light. In a dark sea and sky this shape shone ever so brightly. It illumined the sea and me.

This experience put a smile on my face that did not leave for days. It took me so ‘out of my head’ that I really was not taking in a lot of education business. I felt transported to another place of perceiving the world around me. I was able to see how we in education at this conference were all so busy trying hard to get it right. What I had experienced was so far beyond what we could experience with our ‘teaching’. This was not the first time, but it was a powerful time for me to see ‘learning’ differently.

This was the first of my whale experiences. There are others. All have heightened my awareness of life, feeling and learning in a myriad of ways. Several of these have been at Valla Beach, where just last month, as relationships with time and place would have it, a baby Southern Right Whale was born.

Within a few years of the whale ‘lighting up my life’, the First International Dolphin and Whale Conference was held at this very place. It was also where an Elder and a circle of men of this country sat and welcomed the people who travelled from all parts of the world. It is where scientists, environmentalists and mystics also listened and learnt from these ‘First People’. What was shared at this and subsequent conferences, between people of different places and ways of thinking and knowing, was in a sense a huge relationship building exercise, a building of relationships between people, places and stories.

So in a sense this experience holds within it, my entrance into a world of knowing. I am still on the threshold of this ‘knowing’ of the part the whales play in this awesome interplay of life on this planet. I am not about to express what that all means, nor can I. Instead I will quote an Indigenous Elder of today who speaks of ‘a way’ that is held by the First People.

‘… a way to see and feel the energy of the mother,

the waterways and oceans and the way these whales

hold the place for us all to be connected’. Wirrigan

I tell this story, as it was a time when my way of thinking about how the world works was challenged. It was my ‘entrance’ into a way of knowing about how place and people are all in relationship. I have come to know a little of how this is a fundamental way of seeing, that allows so much to be seen, and if seen with respect, the doors of perception open to the wonders of the universe. Of this I have only glimpsed, the journey continues…


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Project - “Women, Caring for Women, Caring for Country”

Consistent with our objectives, this endeavour is designed to enable Elder Gumbaynggirr women to guide their people to become strong in their cultural ways of living with, working with and taking care of the land and waters of their country. They will be able to create a ‘camp’ where they can do ‘women’s business’.

It is envisaged that this will support the women and the community as a whole by...

• reinvigorating their lives

• meeting cultural responsibilities

• bringing back into the community, cultural ceremony, story, song and dance

• healing themselves and their families, their land, and their relationships, their way

• educating the young women in their culture and in their cultural responsibilities

• raising the children with cultural awareness for caring for the land and waters of their country

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A little about ‘story’…

As I have been learning, the most effective way to learn in a ‘whole’ way is through experience and story. By ‘whole’ I mean body, heart, spirit and mind and through relating to ‘all as one’, a phrase I hear often from a very dear Indigenous ‘sister’ of mine.

Many years ago I had the privilege of sitting with an Elder who has since ‘passed on’. He told me how his people used to ‘call the dolphins in’. He told me about his relationship with the dolphins the morning after he had ‘sung’ in a public place, in his language for the first time in over 50 years. Experiencing him this way was truly awesome. This old man who was permanently curved over his stick, sitting or standing, used his voice to call out to all to connect and be in respectful relationship. He called us to honour the life of all living things on Earth. He gave so much in a matter of 20 minutes and yet he sat up for the rest of the night and yarned and yarned, energised and vital, continuing to give to the privileged few who could sit with him for hours on end.

When the next morning he was still powerful and clear and awake to so much more than we around him could know, he gave me a clear sense of his, and his people’s relationship with the dolphins.

As I sat at old Uncle’s feet, he leaned over and said very quietly,
‘I would not say this to everyone but these here dolphins they

are my brothers... we are family and we help each other.’
As I am going back in time and feel and see what was happening then, I am so drawn to the eye of my uncle as he looked at me sideways, such that the one eye on my side of him, although circled in soft wrinkles, was wide and joyful and twinkling. As I see it now, it feels so like the eye of a dolphin when it caught mine in a wonderful and mind-shifting meeting; a meeting, which holds another story, one to share at another time.

As my Uncle told his story his eyes twinkled, as he looked at me to see whether I was ‘listening’ in a way that showed he could share more. Maybe this is what the dolphin was doing, looking to see if I could take in more?

Copyright ©2000 - S. Kirby

This relationship between the storyteller and the listener is a key to being given the gems that are woven into the stories of the Elders. He went on to explain as many may have read, of how the first people along the coast were able to call in the dolphins to bring in the fish, as they moved along the coast, always when the time was right and when the fish were plentiful. It is not just in the information that we gain from a story like this, that lifts our hearts and spirits, but the feeling in the relationship, with the storyteller and those receiving the story and with the storyteller and those who feature in the story. So much is not spoken, but is still part of experiencing story. Much that is given is expanded through the connecting up of a range of experiences, which the listener, when in the field to listen openly, accesses and re-experiences within the story, energising new fibres in the fabric of the ‘story’.

It all has a magical quality. I use this word as it is beyond me to make complete logical sense of how it really works. I use it also as I feel sure it is not an accident that during that time I was gifted with some truly wonderful experiences with dolphins, both in captivity and in the wild. And then there are the dreams... The Dreaming is alive and well today in this country. That is yet another connection that is carried in story.


Monday, June 20, 2011

The Pacific

An experience of ‘being with’ the ocean occurred while I was in the Pacific Island Group that we know as the Solomon Islands. I had felt for some time a growing sense of the connection that the native Islanders seemed to have with this great expanse of water. Out in the open sea, while in canoes and being taken between islands, the Islanders, would navigate the waters, winds, currents with an obvious and deep respect for the power of these elements.

When travelling in a canoe one day between the islands we were caught in a storm, which seriously unsettled a couple of visitors. Seeing the distress in one of us, a young Island woman began to sing. The tune carried the sense of waves rolling rhythmically. This served to distract us, to calm the escalating panic and to allow the one responsible for reading the elements, to remain focussed. We soon calmed down enough to see what was really happening … our ‘distraction’ had served to ‘connect’ us! We were then able to see that the young man responsible for our safe crossing seemed to have such a deep sense of connection that we found ourselves implicitly trusting him. He seemed to use all of his senses and more. He seemed to be at one with the ocean and the storm. I was in awe.

Later I was to see how the children grow with a feeling for the ocean and its movement.

On this day, I was talking with some of the women about community development issues, while sitting under trees where the water inside the reef lapped the edge of the land. There were rocks that showed above the water, which was less than a metre deep. A child size canoe was positioned in the water within a few metres of the women. In the c
anoe a child of maybe six months lay sleeping, unnoticed by me until she woke. This little one was experiencing the movement of the water as she slept and played. Her body, by being in the water this way, was able to experience and learn the subtle movements of the water, on the leeward side of the island, inside the reef.

Only last year I read the Wade Davis Massey Lectures ‘The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World’ and find that he has not only noticed Islanders who have the ability I witnessed but more, he has taken the time to study and write about it.

Although I am not in a position to agree or otherwise with all that he has written I do know that in essence we agree. There is much that we in our ‘modern’ world can learn, from the ‘knowing’ of ancient custodians of the lands and waters of the Earth.


Friday, May 27, 2011

The wisdom in learning from Custodial Elders

At different times in my life I have been awakened to the importance of the Pacific Ocean. One such time was when an Elder of the Gumbaynggirr people shared with me, a story about the relationship between her people and the ocean. This was a powerful moment because she affirmed for me what I had only dared to allow myself to feel and never to speak.

This old woman, who has since passed on, took the time to prepare me to truly hear what she was about to tell me. She asked me in relation to my work with her people...

‘Why do you do what you do?’

It seemed like an easy question and I answered her. She asked me the same question again. I answered again, adding more of my story. I figured that I had not yet told her what she wished to hear. (there was a time in my learning of these ways that I may have thought... ‘ah well she is not hearing me, I will say it another way’ this was before i was able to see the wisdom in the Elder’s approach to learning).

Well this went on for a few more minutes where the question was continually repeated until I had said all I could say about me and my story. The question still came. I stopped and thought and realised I was empty of all I could say. It was at this moment that I heard myself saying

‘... because my spirit moves me this way!’.

This is what she had been waiting for. It was only then, when I was connected to spirit and empty in my head that I was given the story she was willing to share with me.

At this point in my writing I need to make it clear that there are very important lores around story and who has the place to share what with whom. I wish to make it clear that what I am sharing with you is my experience only and unless I am specifically given the place to share a story it will not be told through me.

I have plenty of stories that it is my place to share. It is these that will be told in the weeks to come.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Learning a different way of being in the world

As I am writing I realise that I would like to make clear what I understand about how changes, in the way I am and in the way I walk the land, have happened. This way that I have learnt to bewith the natural world has (as I see it) contributed to my being given opportunities to learn from custodial peoples. So here is just a little about me.
As a young woman I chose to make some lifestyle changes. I seemed to know that it was important for me to be more in touch with the rhythms of the natural world. Then later, about twenty years ago now, I wrote about the changing perceptions of the world that came with the changes I chose to make.

“The changing skyscape was mind-shattering. My mind slowly (sometimes quickly) let go of my conditioned way of thinking, of seeing how things are in this world. I learnt about the plants and animals, about the hills, valleys, rivers, fires and floods. I was in touch with the changing phases of the moon. I delighted in watching the splendour of the sun, rise across the ocean and set beyond the hills. I began to feel a part of the Earth and all her life forms. The different rocks, stones, pebbles, soils, clay, sands and colours became a whole new world. The interplay of light on dewdrops, frost, mists, leaves, clouds and hills expanded my sense of connection with a world of so many facets that I was ‘blown out’ of my old way of thinking. As I came to allow my senses to function, I became conscious of feeling all that I was experiencing. I slowly became aware that I was feeling ‘energy’… well I came to feel the Earth, the sky, the sea, the wind etc as energies, not just with my visual and aural senses. This was not as weird to me as it might have been if it wasn’t for my growing awareness about the way (many) Aboriginal people feel things too.”

Today, as for most days, these days, I am grateful for the fact that I had the chance to learn to see the world differently, to appreciate the world in such a way that the interconnectedness of all life, the whole of everything, sits in my consciousness on a day to day basis. It is this that helps me to feel truly alive and helps me to trust in our ability to live with the Earth, in harmony and with respect, in our changing world.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Gumbaynggirr Country

It has been my privilege to learn with and from custodial peoples, about their way of seeing the world we all share.

I experienced a conscious connection with Gumbaynggirr country as a young woman. I was overcome with the beauty and the feeling of this place when for no explicable reason, as I looked to the mountains to the south west of the Nambucca River I found tears falling from my eyes. Little did I know then that this was to be the first of many times when I was to feel taken into the landscape in a way that leaves me bereft of words but overflowing with feeling.

Little did I also know that this was to be the beginning of my learning consciously from the land herself, what it is to feel the nature of connection. Over the years I have come to have the knowing that It is from this place of connection that relationships form. It is very difficult from such a place of relationship, to harm the land and waters of our ‘Mother’.

Therein lies my hope for the future. If we can learn from the custodial peoples of the lands and waters of the Earth how to relate with, feel for, experience and respect the mother and all life, we may learn enough to share some of the respectful caring and responsibility for the Mother.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Welcome to our new site

I would like to welcome everyone to our new website.

We will be sharing our latest news and thoughts so stay tuned.