• rosscolliver

Something happens with a regular walk

Updated: Jun 20

For a couple of months, I've been thinking that I must do a regular post on what's out in BarrmBirrm. I had been walking a lot in the second half of summer. The flowers had finished up, there was plenty happening, like this growth pulse in the grass trees.

I did manage to write about the epicormic growth, but I didn't get back to something regular from BarrmBirrm. Hauling the images out of my phone and putting words to them takes time, and other things came up. So it had to wait.

Walking out through a afternoon six weeks later at the end of May, the afternoon light falling down the hillside, a whole new set of plants are making moves.

Afternoon light on cassinia, end of May, 2022

The cassinia longifolia is putting on new growth and the dianella is putting up new shoots. This is what a regular walk has to recommend it: you notice a life that is not yours, a life that isn't of human making.

Without much conscious effort, I have begun to piece together the cycle of a plant, and the cycle of this particular part of the hillside. I recognise a little more of what's going on, another life living itself out.

There are always surprises. Last spring I was ambushed by the slender bitter pea on the slope above Prince Alfred St. All at once the hillside bloomed and I fell in love with what had previously been, to my untutored eye, an undistinguished plant and a boring part of the hillside. I was so wrong! (see it in this post)

Now I find it at the end of May busy throwing up its new growth.

My well-thumbed copy of 'Macedon Range Flora' says that slender bitter pea flowers later September-early October, but it's May and here and there a plant is venturing a flower. I wonder why? Are these perhaps stronger, established specimens unconcerned with new growth, ready to do get on with flowering right now, in this mild autumn turning to winter?

Those are the sort of questions that come on a regular walk in BarrmBirrm. I suspect this is how knowledge of a place develops: through constant attention and a curious mind. To take this one step further, perhaps what is happening as I walk is not simply me developing more knowledge of a place, but the place talking to me.

There are Western ways of knowing, and indigenous ways of knowing. Tyson Yunkaporta in 'Sand Talk' introduces indigenous ways of knowing, and it was Tyson's book that pushed me further into an experiment living here beside Barrm Birrm: what kind of relationship can a whitefella like me have with Country?

My method has been to take some of the precepts of indigenous ways of knowing, pretending that they are true, and paying attention to what happens.

How might Country, for example, talk to me? When I'm out walking, along with all the other things on my mind, I assume that Country is talking to me, whether or not I hear that talking. Waiting and listening is a good start, and I wrote about that here.

The shifting growth of specific plants, as the seasons progress, now strikes me as one way Country is talking to me. I could assume that it is my intelligence that is picking up and making these patterns, but I could just as readily assume that Country is talking to me through these details. When I let go trying to place agency for meaning making in either myself in here or the natural world out there, when I let things go blurry and sense a shared field, then it seems entirely sensible to think that it is in the interaction between me and the place that knowing happens.

And what if all places are Country? Places in the bush, like Barrm Birrm, and your suburban block, and the city streets. All natural places, that speak to their humans?

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