Connecting to country is about being still, asking permission and using your senses in order to reveal what she is really saying.
Spiritual connection to country is important for me; I will always make my presence known at a location and mentally or verbally ask permission from the guardians and Elders past if it is okay I be there. A gentle breeze, a rustle of leaves or a birdcall at that precise moment is validation. Sit still, observe and tune in. How do you feel? Safe, comfortable, relaxed? Do you feel welcome?
Use Your Senses
When I walk with people, I get them to connect with their natural surroundings. Dadirri (Pip, Issue 22) is a good way to do this. Using all your senses helps to become part of the environment. Listen with your eyes closed and identify sounds. What can you smell?
I always look for native plants, I will share my knowledge of the fruit, edibility, medicinal uses and how the plant may be used to create tools, weapons or utensils. We will taste edible fruit and determine the right time to harvest. More people are including native plants in their diet. Some plants need processing before they’re edible, palatable and/or digestible. In moist places on the south side of trees, I will look for bracket fungi to dry for smoking ceremonies. Where soil is disturbed, I will look for Aboriginal artefacts and evidence. I trust that wherever I walk on Country many people have left their prints. I like to try to work out the story artefacts tell. With fresh animal tracks, you can usually tell if the animal was scared, in a hurry or feeding by the depth and spread of the prints.
From The Sea
On the beach, I find myself looking for edible plants such as pigface, saltbush and samphire. Raw samphire is salty and traditionally eaten as a snack or with fish. Blanched samphire is a delicacy mixed with butter and garlic or seasoning of your choice. These days it can be sampled at the most prestigious restaurants. I also look for seashells, driftwood, sea glass and whatever else is washed up. Sometimes I collect these to show to children in schools and during NAIDOC celebrations. It is not uncommon to find mummified sea dragons, sea anemone shells, cuttlefish and jellyfish. Once I found coconuts – I have no idea where they came from.
I walk often enough to see the seasonal changes; it amazes me how everything is connected. Walk the same path regularly and you’ll notice changes as they happen. When the gymea lily flowers, it heralds the southern migration of the humpback whale as they leave behind subtropical waters to feed on the krill in Antarctic waters. Spider webs floating in the autumn breeze indicates black swans have laid as many as nine eggs. They usually moult after breeding and are unable to fly during this time. The fact that the swans return to the same place to nest shows balance and a safe, healthy environment.
Listen And Learn
The colour of the rocks ants place on their nest is an indication of pending weather. Black rocks absorb heat suggesting that it may become cold, white rocks reflect heat which suggests hot days to follow, while brown rocks suggest weather somewhere in the middle. Swarms of flying ants mean a storm is coming, while birds nesting higher in the trees suggests floods. Black cockatoos call in the rain, a curlew’s cry tells us someone’s spirit has left their body, rough seas bring in the mullet, native bees build their hive within 50 metres of fresh water.
When I share my knowledge, others contribute theirs; this builds and enhances all of our knowledge and our way of being in the world. Walawaani means safe journey.