Songlines ~ “I know these Hills”

Places have a vibe, an atmosphere, a sense. It is my experience that places can also be sentient – as in aware, as in they know you are there.

I realise claiming this, in a certain context, qualifies as a hallucination but my lived experience tells another story. I am by no means the first human being to have made these claims about the Land of Australia and in other places also. Celtic culture has many stories about the Land being sentient and conscious – King Arthur and Camelot for example. Indigenous Australians have carried this knowledge in their ancient culture for millenium.

Places have a kind of ‘music’ about them, a rhythm, a vibe – a Dreaming. Celtic music has a distinct rhythm, pace and feel. I wonder if the original inspiration for these rhythms was the Land of Ireland and what is now known as the United Kingdom.

If you have ever been to Central Australia, to Uluru – the place has a strong Dreaming there. It hit me coming out of the plane. Very distinctive and unmistakable. Maybe you could share with me your experience arriving in Central Australia – and I will show you mine.

Something is happening here in The Hills, it is as though an unseen hand is guiding the ‘something’ – it is very mysterious, magical even – could be the Gnomes. I am starting to wonder if it is the Land of The Hills, the place herself that is dreaming up the ‘excitement’ in Tecoma – strange suggestion I know, read on …

I stepped into the Dreamtime when I was younger. The Dreamtime is all around us, all the time – especially in Australia but we non-indigenous Australians are socialized so as we do not see it. It is still there – behind the curtain of perception, a heuristic of the mind.

I had an illness when I was younger that made me sleepy and not quite ‘with it’. I was accused and corrected constantly for being a ‘dreamer’, ‘off with the pixies’, ‘in a dream most of the time’, told to ‘wake up to myself’ and join the collective of suffering, brutality, disconnection and isolation.

I never understood why this was the preferred way of being. My ‘dream’ as they admonished was infinitely more diverse, creative and engaging compared to the monotony to which they insisted I subscribe. Bring on the Dreamtime.

My illness obscured my perception, made the world fuzzy. It excluded me from the usual way of seeing the world and I missed a lot of social conditioning, a big part of what we collectively decide is real or ‘true’. I was free to wander, to travel with less ancestral baggage.

I was light enough that I wandered into the Australian Dreamtime. The Land helped and my Father too – he was committed to 4 Wheel Driving, for reasons best known to himself. Just quietly he wanted to be a Farmer, so he said to me – he loved the Land but could not farm, no Land for him to farm – so we went ‘bush’ in the 4WD as often as he could get away.

Travelling to a ‘place’ and meeting its Dreaming, the vibe – the sense of the place seemed to me the only way to live and so when it was time to leave home, it seemed the most natural thing in the world for me to follow the Dreaming – I had no language for this when I was younger.

I felt pulled to Europe, perhaps because that is where our family’s ancestors hail from. I simply followed an internal but very clear compass. There came a time, while I was away, that the compass leading me so clearly in one direction dramatically turned around completely and I sensed a pull where there had been a push.

I was in London and very sick although I was unaware of just how unwell I was. I felt a strange physical pull like someone had my arms and was pulling me forward. It grew stronger and stronger until I decided to go with it, boarded a plane and returned to Australia.

Sometime later I was speaking with an Aboriginal Elder about my day and night time dreams and I mentioned this experience. The Elder said to me with awareness, clarity and absolute certainty,

“Ah, that was the Land missing you and calling you home. You had been away too long.”

WTF! My eyes immediately and spontaneously welled with tears. My eyes fill with tears still as I remember what the Elder said that day. Now it seems I am myself an Elder.

Understanding the Land as a living, dreaming, conscious being who knew of me and cared for me as a Mother would care for a Child turned my heart to water. An explanation such as this does not fly in words. It is just empty and hollow devoid of meaning but a physical sensation, a pulling – and such recognition from an Elder about the experience feels more real. It is a good day when feelings make some sense.

The Elder went on, “Our people walk this Land. We follow the Songlines. There is no place on this Land our people have not walked. There is no place here that is not known to us. The Land knows us and we know the Land.”

What the Elder meant is not just ‘walking’ on your two feet. I am far from an expert in Dreaming or the Dreamtime but for reasons maybe the Land will someday reveal to me, I have learned a little and can share what I have learned from my lived experience.

I have heard explanations of Songlines in the past. The ‘explainer’ always spoke through their own filter of culture. So Songlines were described to me by white people as – maps the Aboriginal People use to navigate. Songlines are songs that help Indigenous Australians find their way through the Land but this is by no means the same as navigating.

My understanding of Songlines is much more deeper, sentient and personal than that. Understanding Songlines also requires a comprehension of the Dreamtime and the Dreaming. Both are ways of understanding, relating and actually creating a reality that is fluid and not static as we are taught at school.

The Dreaming is a magical way of living and can only be perceived through the senses of a sentient being who carries knowledge of themselves, of those around them, of the Land. Songlines need to be sung to keep them alive and to build the relationship between the person, the people and the Land itself – or my understanding is the Land will die.

There is much to say on this. There is singing, dreaming and creating going on up here in Tecoma at the moment. Forgive this clumsy attempt to open the conversation in manner of tin opener or sledge hammer.

I have found for you a Song or such a Song that we from elsewhere can recognize as a Songline. This song is about a place, about ‘The Hills’, I hope to give you a whiff of what I am trying to share. Look with your heart and not your eyes.

3 thoughts on “Songlines ~ “I know these Hills”

  1. Thank you for this post. You have captured the liminal beauty of Dreamtime so perfectly! In the mists – just on the threshold of what the eye can see and the mind can perceive.

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