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Whenua, in te reo, means land and is the same word for the placenta. That which nourishes. That which we come from, that to which we return.

It is a tradition to plant the placenta and umbilical cord beneath a tree, in a special place, in the place you come from. You are intimately connected to the land. The tree grows as you grow. The landscape is changed because of your presence in the world, because you put something into the land that nourishes it and then the land produces the food that nourishes you in turn.

You will always be connected to this place.

We are children of Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother. How often, when faced with a decision and uncertain what to do, do we go home, connect with where we come from, listen to and learn from the land to get perspective and clarity?

What remains when land and sky are gone? What endures? Listen to the story you were born into.

Whenua/earth #advent2020

The Māori creation story begins with nothingness. ( Te Kore).

It is a long dark night. (Te Pō)

From here two of our Māori gods Ranginui, the Sky Father, and Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother, emerge.

Rangi and Papa lay together in a tight embrace. They held each other so tightly that no light could get through and the world was in darkness, and their children are born between them. 

For a long time, the children exist in a dark cramped uncomfortable space. They talk of the “potential”, the speck of light seen beyond.  What could be beyond?

The brothers made a decision and tried to separate their mātua. Finally, it was Tāne who lay on his back with his legs facing up. With total focus and strength, he pushed and pushed. Ranginui and Papatūānuku didn’t want to be separated from each other or their tamariki. In this crucial time of separation, te wehenga, the tamariki spoke with respect to their parents while helping.  Rangi and Papa wept for each other rather than being angry with their tamariki. The separation of the parents by the children resulted in the movement from darkness to the world of light (Te Ao- Mārama) and humans flourished on the Earth. However, Rangi still mourns the loss of Papa and drops tears which become dew and Papa’s sighs go up to the sky, which become mist.

In the end, the brothers became Māori Gods, guardians, or atua of particular domains.

In the cycles of our own, day in and year out, little births and deaths – what does the knowledge of our bigger creation narrative offer?

There is life beyond the darkness that seems to be all we can see. We can make a decision that things will be different, and choose to act before the new Way is visible.

We are strong, in our minds and our bodies. We are agents in bringing about our own becoming and shaping our lives into what we want them to be.

The old ways cease to be, but we learn new ways of relating to one other and ourselves.

Whakapakari/strengthen #advent2020

Going to a sales page and creating a post to ask if there is an item instead of searching for the answer youself is like asking the person of colour you know what BIPOC stands for instead of googling it.

When you hear that white people need to ‘do our own work’ this is what we’re talking about. Especially don’t use questions as a way of doing the following:

  • trying to prove you are woke or engaged in issues of colour
  • trying to identify with/befriend that person so you can someone who says, ‘I have black friends’ or wants to name drop association to your own benefit
  • trying to befriend that person because you want or need something from them

For further reading please check out Clemenger Melbourne’s site: Deadly Questions for other commonly asked questions from ‘Why don’t Aboriginal people just get over it?’ to ‘What the most important things I can teach my child about the land and indigenous culture?’

Taking it personally

This vase is full of stones because my cat, Ragnar, has knocked it over four times this week.

He, also this week, has also knocked over glasses of water, dug up rows of seedlings I’ve just planted and pooed on my pyjamas.

I think it’s fair to say we’re not in a great place right now.

Pyjamas aside – he has clearly eaten something weird to have diarrhea like that – I realised yesterday that I was feeling all this very personally.

You see, each of those things – getting a glass of water, buying myself flowers, tending to the garden… are acts of self care that I’m really not very good at doing for myself.  So many other things somehow always have to happen first.

We’re in a stand off now though. I refuse. I refuse to let a pint-sized Floof take away the small acts of self care I allow myself. There are 3 vases now, more seedlings planted and sown shielded by a border of chilli oil spray (pleasedontlickit) against cat, and snail, interference. I’m leaving an empty glass by the tap and drinking when I go by…

He’s driving me crazy and… into more extreme acts of self care.

I hate cats. They’re so frickken smug.

God bless the fur babies and the flowers, the seedlings and the Sabbath, and make them Good.

Yantar – Eat

Last night I attended a session of the Faces of Hunger Film Festival 2020 and have to share with you this beautiful visual poem by Alberto Zuniga… “a plate of food is a survivor, a traveler, a passport, an ambassador, an inheritance”. I hope it brings back the flavour of something your Nana used to make and the memory of the taste of childhood. “We eat what we are, what we have been, what we will be”

I listen to people talk about a “new normal”. I hear it as something ‘out there’ and I wonder, “Who’s making it? Who’s working on building the new normal?”

Sometimes I catch up with friends (over zoom or for a socially distanced walk) and they’ve discovered something wonderful in this season and they ask: “What can I do to keep this? How can I keep living my life with this in it once things go back to normal?”.  There is that word again. Normal. This idea that normal is something that happens outside of us and is controlled by forces outside of us. But what we’re really talking about is life, or culture, and culture is made up of ‘the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviours shared by a group of people’.  How and why is lockdown having an impact on these?

In trying to come up with a parallel for this lockdown experience, I started thinking about the idea of pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is a conscious stepping aside from life as normal in order to explore and experience a totally new environment such as: a journey to the Red Centre, walking the El Camino or doing an internship, or taking a sabbatical often for a time of discernment or at a time of transition such as a relationship or job ending.  Anyone who has had experiences of this kind will know that it is not the destination that teaches us something, but rather what we learn along the way.

We have not been able to choose to take this pilgrimage, but regardless there are similarities: We have needed to let go of the ‘way things have always been’ and consider what else they might be. The routines aren’t there, the busyness, the commuting, the activities and events that take up our time… the bustle of life has slowed because we cannot travel more than 5kms and need to be home before a curfew. There is an invitation here to consider, what is essential to us? What can we survive well without or even is a relief to stop? Unbidden, we are being asked to reconsider, “What are my values, beliefs, assumptions…”?

Here’s what can happen on a pilgrimage: when you sit with a empty horizon before you and allow the land to speak to you, you will discover how full it is; or when you walk (and walk and walk) and hold silence within yourself knowing yourself to be walking where many others have walked, and will walk again, you can identify both as singular and part of the collective of all of humanity; or when you visit a new country and experience being the person who doesn’t know the language, the food, courtesies, jokes or the slang and might know for the first time that you can be the ‘other’ too… it’s not the place we go that changes, or the places we come back to – but us.  I don’t know that change is the right word for this because, really, it’s remembering, and re-membering. A coming back to the wholeness of who we feel called to be, and how we can be – and become – that which we lost sight of somehow.

Here’s what can happen on a pilgrimage: when you walk, you meet and get to know your own neighbours, you might discover a little library, a lovely garden, a cute letterbox – familiar and new as if you were trying to memorise the face of a loved one before you lose them, suddenly there are details you never saw before and they are precious; or when you are removed from friends, family and the usual social circles, you paint a spoon for Spoonville, put a teddy bear in the window, or leave groceries at the free pantry. Learning without words, without touch, without ever meeting, I can connect with someone and that can be profoundly meaningful; or when you are stuck with someone, or stuck apart, stuck in a job you need or stuck on a job you love and can’t go to right now, you recognise the fragility of life and how important it is to do what you love with the people you love best and who love you well – what will it cost you to have that? What is it worth to have that?

This seems the spot where you might easily drop T.S. Eliot’s ‘the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time’. T.S. Eliot wrote these Four Quartets during World War II and the air-raids on Great Britain. It is good to remember that these times ARE precedented. Pandemics have ravaged with worldwide impact before, as disease arrived on cruise ships so too it came with the First Fleet. People have lived through experiences wondering if the world would ever be the same again, wondering whether a safe world would exist for their children to grow up in. It is this line from Eliot that drew me today:

last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.

The new normal belongs to you.
It is yours to discover. It is yours to remember.

I invite you to gently and creatively engage with any/all of these questions through journaling, a vision board, mind map, or other mindfulness practice you enjoy, as you make your way onwards.

Is there anything you have discovered a lockdown love for? Make a list… what did this teach you about yourself you didn’t know before? What needs did these meet?

Make a list of things you have felt you’ve missed or lost in lockdown. What do you value about them?

Are there things that you haven’t missed? What has putting these down, freed up capacity for?

Land, family, law, ceremony and language are five key interconnected elements of Indigenous culture – how have the interventions and new laws of the lockdown impacted how these elements in your life have looked over the past few months? Was there somewhere outside your 5kms you longed for? How were rituals different, such as birthdays, weddings or funerals? Have you been using Zoom, Google Hangouts, Discord… or silenced by in accessibility of software or skills?

Has this time brought up things from the past that have been painful or difficult? Honour that. Celebrate what you know about survival. Consider doing a compare and contrast of then and now as a way of seeing how far you’ve come and how much resiliency you have learned. If someone was absent – who is present? If someone harmed – who is healing?

Has this time brought attention to or caused areas of your life to become painful or difficult? Honour that. What is this telling you about what’s important to you? One way to enter into this conversation might be to map What Is/What Could Be. Know you are worthy of dignity and respect and a life that fulfils you and brings you joy. Are there any steps, however small, that might create movement between what is and what could be? Take them.

Did you take up new, or see changes in, the roles and relationships you have through COVID? As teacher, partner, parent, friend…  acknowledge these shifts. Have you learned something about your expectations of yourself and others?

Continuing to consider this years theme for NAIDOC week of “Always Was, Always Will Be” with the Collins Australian Clear School Atlas New and Revised Edition.

This image shows Economic-Population. There’s a sense looking at a map like this that there’s still Terra Nullius – land where no people are and no work is happening. You can see that the measure used for ‘economy’ – doesn’t recognise the agriculture or trade practices of Aboriginal people.

Recognising Aboriginal people must surely need to begin by recognising the profound, enduring relationship and connections they bear with the land.

“Aboriginals engaged in seed propagation, irrigation, harvest,
storage, and the trade of seed across the region.”

― Bruce Pascoe, Dark Emu

When you say/hear an Acknowledgement of country, does considering the above make you reconsider what it means? “We acknowledge that we gather on the lands of which Aboriginal people have been custodians since time immemorial, and pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging”

The dashed line above denotes the ‘limits of agriculture’ (at least for the 60s-70s when this atlas was published). What can we learn about what is considered ‘agriculture’ from this image? Who gets to determine that?

Does the image raise any considerations for balance?

I will re-member you

It’s late, or early, and I can’t sleep for thinking about loss.

Tomorrow, or today, I have my first online funeral (cancer not COVID) but I can’t help but want some primal scream for the research uncompleted, articles unwritten, the things you’ll never get to see or say to your kids. A voice – silent. A light – extinguished.

Around the world right now that’s happening – lights extinguishing.

The current COVID death count based on available information is at 903,473 worldwide. Do the modeling on that to factor in the families, friends, colleagues, neighbours impacted. How incredibly precious is each life.

In, Rubem Alves’ The Poet, The Warrior, The Prophet, a body washes up on the shore in a fishing village and the villagers try to hold funeral rites the way they usually would, but no one knows this person to remember them. There is a void. And in the end, the void is filled with the stories of who this might be. The void is full of possibility.

The other night, my partner and I watched Pixar/Disney’s Coco together (I’m not crying, you’re crying). In the Mexican tradition of Día de Muertos, the memory of our family is kept alive by the images and stories of them we share. Each member of the family might have a different story about an ancestor, each have a different inheritance from knowing and sharing that life. It’s why when we tell each other, we are so enriched by the remembering. Or Alves’ “re-membered” because it almost seems as if that person is alive to us once more with the telling. With lockdown right now, those friends, family and colleagues aren’t able to gather to share their stories, to share their grief. There is a void.

I haven’t been wearing rings much during the pandemic, everytime I notice my bare hands it seems like a stark reminder we are in different times, see – I usually put them on just as I grab my lanyard for work and leave the house… I’m not going to work. I’m not leaving the house. The experience of living through a pandemic (we refer to it as riding the coronacoaster), sometimes is ok and at other times it’s the steep drop of noticing each tiny rhythm or ritual that we don’t do right now layered up one on the other. Like… thinking of what to wear to the funeral, what stories we will tell to re-member you to each other and celebrate your life, who of our mutual acquaintances will be there to see and catch up with, participation in a ritual not necessarily reflecting our beliefs but those significant to you who are at the centre – the reading and singing together, eating and drinking together, the sharing grief together.

I’m realising that today, I will do that on my own. There’s no one else in my household that knows you. There is a void.

I think I’ll wear a ring to your funeral.

And somehow, just like that, in the void… there was possibility.


…The Prophet speaks not to the dead but to the Wind.
He names what he does not know, he says what he cannot do.
Before the Mystery: grace.
He enters the woods, he dives into the deep waters…
He invokes something which is beyond knowing and doing: God…
The only thing he has is a wound in his flesh: the pain of Desire: longing. Restless is his heart…
Inside the Void, a universe slowly makes itself visible: dreams.
What is not… And they are beautiful: a Garden… The same Garden which lives in the entrails of the Victim. And they blow with the Wind, and in the graveyard, life appears. A flower in the desert. The secret of messianic hope.


Rubem A Alves – The Poet, The Warrior, The Prophet

Always Was

This years theme for NAIDOC week is “Always Was, Always Will Be”. I’m interested in finding ways to creatively and contemplatively explore what this means as a white-presenting Settler in this place.

I love old books and paper, I’m going to use some of these as a lens: First up is the Collins Australian Clear School Atlas New and Revised Edition.

p.9 “AUSTRALIA – Territorial Changes”

These maps show the territorial changes (6) between 1786 and 1861. Here they are shown with an overlay of the AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia. It’s hard not to liken that to a shadow, a haunting overlay, crossing and connecting countries and communities across territorial lines drawn and re-drawn.

What arises when you look at these? Has your home country/town been in different states?

It’s important to understand that when you are speaking to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait person and recognise that their cultural tale is millenia-long that the image of Australia they might imagine is the reverse: Aboriginal land with state and territory lines superimposed on top. When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people say: “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land” this is what they mean… these many countries and territories existed prior to 1786 and they are still here.

Yesterday, Gomeroi woman, Rachel McPhail, living on Wiradjuri country did a call out to challenge Australia Post to encourage Aussies to include the traditional Nation name in the extra address line when sending letters and packages. To support this idea, you can check traditional Nations at AIATSIS.gov.au.

Picturing Footscray

VU run an annual photography contest, mostly for their students but the People’s Choice category is open. (entries close at 5pm tonight if you want to sneak one in!)

I enjoy the art of paying attention and celebrating the place I love to live. You’re only allowed to enter one image but going through some recent images to find favs is a fun process too.

  • what have you captured an image of?
  • why is this important to you?
  • how is it a unique part of Footscray?

The virtual gallery capturing the best of Footscray will be open from 14 August to 15 September to explore the neighbourhood and vote for your fav.  In the meantime, here’s my shortlist… what do you love in your neighbourhood?

20200628_081239

So many bluestone back laneways – perfect for an iso walk…

IMG_20200329_194320_592

2020 feels like a year of stop and go. The Kinnears factory is a piece of the skyline but that development in the distance is creeping inexorably closer along that block.  Ballarat Rd is usually really busy, here – oddly quiet. This will change.

20200326_073814

Early dawn view back towards the city from Quarry Park.