Over there

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hi there, if you hadn't already got the news I'm hanging around over at the Artist as Family blog for the next year while we conduct research for a new book called Free Food. In this book we aim to put together all of our experiments in foraging, hunting, gifting and swapping, low-carbon travelling, poaching, free-loading and generally living a very small ecological footprint in this very big country.

If you want to follow our adventures, please click on the Artist as Family link (above) and put your email address in the subscribe tab.


Contour ploughing (poetry, permaculture and P A Yeomans)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Packing up the house today. About to leave on a year's adventure. Dipping into old notebooks. Stopping on this page. From fifteen years ago. A hill in Musk, close to here: Contour ploughing.

A black shouldered kite
follows my spine –
scribed by a grader,
filled with coarse rock
pursues the depression
         contours of my
         tired back;
my blades
with sour grasses
of mid-summer
once covered in clover
           like my belly now
dark and wet
protected from the sun's west

The drawing and poem were very simply imagined sometime in my late twenties (the notebook entry is undated). A vineyard is now situated on this hill, but it has never been ploughed on contour to create swales for passive water harvesting.

Well before I was ready to know about P A Yeomans, permaculture, ploughs and poetics or my own political imperative of bringing back the digging stick, I was intuitively writing and drawing up the logic of rehydrating land through swales – spoon drains that follow contours and hold up rain water. All these years later Ian Milliss and Lucas Ihlein are focussing on these very relationships in a show called The Yeomans Project. They have asked Milkwood Permaculture, Taranaki Farm, (f)route, Diego Bonetto and us, Artist as Family, along for the ride. And we will be riding over 1000 kms to witness this project, leaving Friday.


Buckley and me

During my doctoral research I got to know William Buckley pretty well. As I was scouring material on him a friend, Maya Ward, recommended I read Strandloper, which is an excellent novel based on his life. I have called Buckley the first Australian permaculturalist (cheekily, in front of David Holmgren). Last year Southerly published my Portrait of the escaped convict who slowly nativised into a Wathaurong man over 32 years before Batman and co discovered him. The poem features in my thesis alongside this photograph painted by an unknown artist and undated. The painting hangs in the State Library of Victoria.

Today I was rifling through some images and I came across this photograph taken of me reading at the Victorian Writers' Centre (next door to the SLV) in 2011. I'm standing in front of my poem Step by step, which also features in my thesis.

An uncanny resemblance between permaculture poets? Buckley is important to me because he is a rare European who listened to and learnt from Indigenous land spirit and intelligence.


Jaara Jaara Seasons

Sunday, November 3, 2013

There has been a resurgence of thought about Aboriginal seasonality in these parts. My friend Tanya Loos recently launched in Daylesford her book Six Seasons in the Foothill Forests, which includes a dust jacket that folds out into this very special calendar:

In surmising the six seasons of the Daylesford region Tanya's sources were many and varied, including references from Jaara elder Uncle Brien Nelson. Her book will be launched at Readings Carlton this Wednesday 6 November at 6.30pm. Congratulations Tanya!

Then today, some friends and I went to hear Ros Bandt's Jaara Jaara Seasons, a Bush Sound Performance that took place in the Acoustic Sanctuary in nearby Fryerstown. A few hundred people came to listen. 

I first met Ros a little while back at Jude Perry and Uncle Brien's Bunjil Park where we both took a traditional basket weaving workshop. Today Uncle Brien's son Rick Nelson sang Welcome to Country accompanied by Ron Murray on didgeridoo.

Their short but powerful welcome led us into a diverse environment with diverse weather, bordering on six seasons in one afternoon.

Through multiple instruments and from several amplification points, sound, song and spoken work emerged. People moved through Jaara country, the work physically formed in us. Local birds and falling rain intervened knowingly.

As did a myriad of wild flowers, these particular lilies refusing to be captured as they danced in the wind.

The sound in the bush was restorative and nurturing. It enabled reflection and understanding. It didn't shy away from or disappear colonisation,

but more so provided a place for maturity. After the performance one friend commented that she wanted to get out of doors more often and listen more intently. I agreed and replied how I'm looking forward to living outside for at least the next year.

Congratulations Ros and her fellow performers: Rick Nelson, Ron Murray, Sarah James, Mary Doumany, Le Tuan Hung and Wang Zheng Ting.


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