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Remembering our true relationship to Earth and Country How one activist came face to face with her shame, and found true belonging by redefining and renewing her commitment to ‘family’. And how we can all remember the time-honoured ways to reach deep connection within ourselves and the land we stand upon. by Pauline Pearse, and photography* by Craig Fallshaw*all images published with permission from the Anangu people Finding the centreI stand tall upon my front lawn, wriggling my toes into the springy grass and feeling the sun warm my upturned face, and outstretched hands. I pay attention to my breath as it enters and expands my body. My lungs expand to hug my heart, which seems to beat stronger, louder, in response.
I am listening to an earth-connection meditation called Wayapa. The words invite me to reach out across this land, gather all the positive energy from the land, and draw it into my body. Up, through my roots, my feet, my spine, from deep within the core of the earth An activist’s shameAt the invitation to take this vast energy from the earth, something catches in my centre. A dull ache. An embarrassment. A shame? Yes. In being granted permission to take.
This is interesting, I think, as the tears start to well in my eyes. I have spent so much of my energy, my lifetime, working to ‘give back’ to the earth. Repulsed by the ‘taking too much’ that seems to be the modus operandi of society, I’d resolved to take less, and ever less. To deepen my respect for land and country. Honour that which gives me life. To honour that which gives all life.
I am ashamed and disgusted by the never-ending taking and consuming of the throwaway society in which I exist. Restoring balanceI inhale shakily with realisation; my abhorrence for, and subsequent rejection of, this consumerism, has meant in some way a part of me has also been rejecting the bountiful and endless gifts of the earth. In rejecting these gifts, I’ve rejected a part of myself.
Like the man who refuses to ravish his most willing lover, because of his fears for the unhealthy shadow side of ‘taking’ – the one that exists outside of consent. Sadness, anger, and perceived helplessness at what I see as endless intergenerational abuse, taking, pillaging of this land, has led me to feel it is my duty to restore the balance. In many ways, it is.
However, I’ve been literally and metaphorically pouring my energies into the earth, at every opportunity. This is not in balance either. I have forgotten how to request that her powerful energy flow into and through me, how to draw from it, how to dance with it. I have been the poorer for my forgetting. Welcoming acceptanceNow, with this simple permission from an elder, I have been invited to drink my fill. To allow the nutrients to flow unhindered through the energetic umbilical cord of the mother, to the babe, me. Ahh, but I am no unborn foetus, to suck blindly from my mother-host until such a time as I have outgrown her and she purges me from her womb. Those days are behind me. Today, I am guest at the table of my cherished siblings, cousins, grandparents.
Part of honouring the earth, this land, my country, is not just to value her gifts, but to accept them with grace and gratitude. To take, yes, and only what I need. To connect. And to accept that I am an integral part of the landscape.
I reach out across the earth, and draw the energy towards me, into me. Accepting that my life offers enough to this earth, and that in turn, I am offered enough. I still reject blatant consumerism, still seek to make my ‘footprint’ ever smaller. Now though, I am able to fully accept the non-physical earthly gifts which are so priceless. So restorative. Welcoming the deep energies of the land that flow freely to and through me. Accepting that the integrated ecosystem of life, which sustains me, is my most sacred family. Finding belonging, redefining familyMy sacred kinsfolk exist all around me: the plants, the birds, the trees and the bees. From the tiniest phytoplankton, to vast deserts of red sand. From complex mycelium networks, to tall mountain ash. And from the unfurling curl of a new fern leaf, to the creek that runs beside my home. This is family. Mine and yours. Ours. There is wisdom here. Sentience. There is life.
In every tiny crevice, in every decomposing leaf, in every drop of water. No less than mine or yours. From the vast oceans that lap at our shores, to the red heart-rock we call Uluru in our centre. We all sit at the same table. We all share in the same abundance that gives us each life.
When I look at the world around me, as though everything in it is a beloved member of my family, I find a sense of deep acceptance. My body relaxes in this space of safety. I find true belonging.
Suddenly, the idea of land ownership feels as absurd and repugnant as owning another human being. Because I understand that I am of the land. I belong to this land, more than it could ever belong to me. Could I imagine owning my parents because they gave me life? Of course not. So, too, is it with the earth beneath my feet. Instead of owner-ship, I recognise the deep relation-ship I have to the land, as indeed, she has to me. ConnectionIt doesn’t stop there. As I welcome this deeper relationship with the land, Mother Earth, I am compelled, in turn, to renew my commitment to the rest of the inhabitants of this great Kingdom of Life. To all my brothers and sisters; the plants and the animals. The ‘people’ who walk on four legs, or six, or fly. Or crawl, or slither. The ‘people’ who stand with their feet firmly beneath the earth, and their limbs swaying to the breeze.
I reconnect to the ‘people’ who live beneath the water’s surface, and the ‘people’ whose day starts at night time. This is not anthropomorphising. This is seeing the world with a more balanced perspective. Putting down the mantle of hierarchy, the delusion of them versus us. We really are all in this together.
As the earth rapidly warms up, and a global pandemic has us facing undeniable truths of human impact upon our fellow species, it’s never been more apparent. It’s time. Time to open ourselves to a different way of thinking. A way that is more equitable, and less self-centred. A way that has peace, acceptance, and kinship at its core, rather than fear, division, and ego.
This way is not new, but so many of us have forgotten. Forgotten the ways of our ancestors, how they think, and how they speak. Time to rememberThe people who have walked this great land for tens of thousands of years have this kinship connection to the land, plants and animals. Their language is rich with everyday reverence.
The mountain ash might be my most senior maternal mother, and the dead crow, my most senior paternal mother. Language is important. If a tree is a thing, it can so easily be viewed as just a resource, a mere commodity. If a tree is a she, then one might not so readily put a chainsaw to her waist.
When the land is considered sentient, then there are rules. Etiquettes in the relationship. An invitation to have a conversation.
Approaching a new land I have not walked upon before, I might say, “Hello! I am here. Please, do not be ignorant of me. Do no harm to me. For I am kin.” The commitment, on my part, might go something like, “I shall do no harm to you, and shall seek to keep your waters clean, your plants healthy, and your ground free from contaminants.”
With this commitment, comes great responsibility. Responsibility to nourish, to nurture, to care. To protect. Restore. Remember. Phew! Sometimes the weight of this responsibility can seem exhausting. And it can be, if all we do is pour our energy into the earth without stopping to take a breath, to have a conversation with her, to walk with our brothers, or swim with our sisters. The first step is easy: connection. If first we connect, the rest will follow. It is as inexorable as the day following the night. How will you connect?What daily rituals show your gratitude to the land you belong to? How do you teach this kinship to the children around you? Just for today, commit to an act of connection. Talk to a sapling. Hug a tree. Encourage an ant. Admire an insect. Ask a rock for its words of wisdom. Listen. The above article is inspired by: • my own life’s experiences • Wayapa Wuurrk • John Bradley’s Learning Language, Learning Country • and the first few chapters of Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (a beautiful book that I’ve just started listening to on Audible).
About the author: When she’s not wandering barefoot with binoculars, playing cello, or sailing towards horizons, Pauline works for The Wilderness Society. She has a penchant for guacamole, great admiration for insects, and is apt to climb trees without warning. About the photographs: Craig Fallshaw, founder of Complementary Medicines Group, is a keen photographer and loves employing his drone to photograph otherwise inaccessible places. @wickhamlane www.cmgrouponline.com.au
All Craig’s images here are published with permission from the Anangu people. Uluru–kata tjuta National Park’s have cultural significance, coming from Anangu traditions, dating back tens of thousands of years. The foundation of Anangu culture is Tjukurpa, which is the source of stories, ceremonies, landscapes, plants and animals, art and rules for living. The above images are not to be reproduced in any way. [NEXT ARTICLE]
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