Shamanism - Local Spirits
On a Monday morning, a few weeks ago, I went back into the bushland behind our block. This bushland is to be destroyed. The land has been bought and paid for, the blocks have been sectioned out on paper, and soon there will be streets and people where previously there were kangaroos and bandicoots. I went very early, thinking the birds would be awake, but as it turns out even the birds don't want to do anything on Perth's coldest morning of the year. I kept making jokes to myself about how even birds suffer from Mondayitis.
Common Bronzewing - Original Artwork by Ravenari
I heard a few birds, but not really as many as I was expecting. Not for 'early morning, sun is shining' time of day. The land was still and cold, with hundreds of spider webs and their anchor lines sparkling everywhere, eucalyptus leaves going translucent and glowing green in the sun, signs of fox and wallaby and roo life everywhere.
I've been meaning to get to know the spirits of the land here. Today it was the trees. I entered a half journey-state so I could still bushwalk, and offered my respects and my love. I felt one tree asking me politely to skirt it, so I did. I feel that the gift of respecting this request was turning behind me to look at the tree, to see a pair of two stunning silvereyes getting ready for their morning salutations. Chattering and preening one another, expressing their existence through their song. After five minutes of witnessing this, they both shot into the air in tandem, twittering all the while.
I saw two common bronzewing, the bird who told me it would help me out in all of this when I first started walking the land here. They were sitting on a pile of dead paperbarks stacked on top of each other, which I'm starting to think as the 'starting point,' even though they're stacked right back in the land where people can't see them from the roads. But I feel as though once I pass those paperbarks, I am much more in the heart of the pocket of bushland that is left.
On my way back, the tree that asked me to skirt it, told me to come closer, and then started talking to me. It shared its name (which I will abbreviate here as Gurra) and talked to me about a few things; the lives it shared itself with, how it had a sense it wouldn't be around for much longer (unsurprising, considering the corpses of trees surrounding it) and so on. It had a quite gentle nature, and didn't want me to actually stand under its canopy, so respectfully I didn't.
Gurra wanted me to come back, and I promised I would. I'm starting to get to the point now where I'm learning where certain stands of trees are, where the small bunch of yellow flowering hibbertia might be, where there's a lot of mature calytrix with a dwarf sheoak; perfect for resting kangaroos. Where the bandicoot territories are. Where the ravens like to preen each other first thing in the morning, and the juveniles like to play. I know what species of Acacia are flowering right now, and how if I look carefully, I will see bejewelled blowflies resting on them at sunset, looking almost too beautiful to be considered pests. I feel as though I'm starting to learn the land, and that is both a gift and a sadness.
I've been very hesitant about doing this, in all honesty. The knowledge that it will all be destroyed soon - and violently - weighs on me heavily. It is - I think - hard for anyone close to the land to deal with the destruction of the plant and animal people above it. It is hard even when you accept death as a miracle. There is an element of difficulty that comes in deliberately getting to know the land and the spirit persons there, knowing that it will be destroyed as you walk it. I admit I avoided walking this pocket of land for a month or so when we moved into this house; because it's hard to share in something, in someone, who is going to die - in violence - very soon. It's hard to know I was a part of that, too. Where our house is, were birds, trees, insects, mammals, flowers, and so on. I contribute what I can (our garden is made up of local natives to attract the mammals, insects and birds back again), but that doesn't erase the bulldozing and cutting down that goes before it.
On the way home, I was treated to a rare and special surprise; a pair of ravens sharing intimate moments a small distance from me, and a juvenile raven playing around at their feet. They did all sorts of things, gave each other twigs, played with a bouncy twig attached to the log they were on (i.e. pulling it down and letting it bounce back up). The juvenile stuck his head under a piece of paper and then strutted around, wearing it like a hat. When it fell off, he did that again.
It looks like I will be one of the few people who cared enough to not only walk it, but learn it, to know of the families and lives that area breathed into existence and then breathed out again, to speak to the spirits there as they allow me, and so on. It fills my heart with a visceral ache. I am not angry at the human animal for doing what they naturally do, but I am grieved and grieving, knowing what is coming. I'm trying to document, draw, photograph and narrate as many of my experiences there as possible, because one day soon it will all be gone. Please take the time to learn the land around you, because nothing lasts forever.
Photographs by Ravenari
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