Australia and Australians hold a special fascination for me, to the point that three years ago I had the five stars of the Southern Cross constellation, which also appear on the Australian flag, tattooed on my right forearm. In the early 1970s, I taught in Australia and was immediately smitten by the spirit of that amazing country. What a privilege it has been to return as often as my bank account has allowed. In fact, Bill and I have just booked our flights to Australia next April, when we plan to spend the month exploring Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania.
Over the years, my appreciation of the Aboriginal Australian culture has grown and evolved. That 50,000-year-old culture, the oldest continuous culture on earth, is filled with wisdom, sophistication, resilience, and more than its share of tragedy. Similar to the First Nations people of Canada, the Australian Aborigines have suffered mightily since the arrival of the Europeans. But – again, similar to what is happening in Canada – there is a resurgence of Aboriginal culture that has much to teach the other people who now call Australia home.
My photography has been influenced by an emerging understanding of Aboriginal spirituality. In putting these thoughts into words for the first time, however, I am trying not to appropriate a cultural tradition that is not my own.
Let me direct you to an excellent Radio Australia program, The Spirit of Things, hosted by the Canadian-born Rachael Kohn. Each week, Dr. Kohn explores issues of spirituality and religion; her podcast is appointment listening for me. Her July 31 program, “Listening to the Land”, presented an elegant overview of the Aboriginal concept of Dadirri – deep listening to the land. Her interview with the highly respected Aboriginal elder and spiritual teacher Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, AO, is a marvel of depth, humility, and power. One of Dr. Kohn’s other guests, Dr. David Tacey, is Professor Emeritus at La Trobe University in Melbourne and an expert in Jungian spirituality. I commend to you his book Edge of the Sacred: Jung, Psyche, Earth (Daimon Verlag, 2009), a reflection on Aboriginal Australian spirituality. Both of these people speak movingly about the importance of deep listening to our understandings of the earth and ourselves. As my late husband, Spencer Brennan – himself a practitioner of deep listening – used to say, “I will listen you into existence.” All of these people believe in the inherent power of listening to heal the planet and its wounded inhabitants.
Let me segue to how these currents are influencing my photography: if deep listening can help heal the planet, then so can deep seeing. Eyes and cameras can see truths and nuance beyond glib and facile. I find the concept of deep seeing – and I am not the first to use this phrase – to be tremendously exciting. And, to be honest, I’m not sure what it means or where it will take my camera and me. Similar to deep listening, it demands humility and patience. It guides and nudges my eye beyond complacency. It helps me really see.
And so I shall.
The photos below help me understand deep seeing. I offer them to you not as pompous doorways to pseudo-profundity, but as the gentlest, most unassuming glimpses into other ways of seeing. I hope you enjoy them. Your feedback, as always, is welcome. Please feel free to check out my regular Facebook postings.
Until next time.
Shadows in our bedroom.
Bridge over the Bay of Quinte, Belleville.
Bottle in the window of Rose Haven Yarn, Picton.
Belleville's first snowstorm, November, 2014.
Bunker-like apartments in Belleville.
Star lily detail.