water-child(ren) stories

This is the second blog in a series of a 10-week inquiry into the Place Stories emerging from Place-children encounters during Bush School. At Bush School, we walk-with Gabbiljee, the watery place at the end of Derbarl Yerrigan. Gabbiljee, now known as Bull Creek, is situated on Noongar Country in Perth, Western Australia.

Naming Place

Before we walk-with Gabbiljee, we learn the meanings of some new words; decompose, crustacean, exoskeleton and omnivore. These teach us scientific knowledge about some of the things that we will see on our walk. Jordann tells us that there are cirrus clouds in the sky today and this means that it might rain; we prepare raincoats and gumboots just in case.

Walking-with air, wind, clouds and sky we are reminded that there are other ways of knowing Place. Clouds hang low in the sky, sunlight muted by a blanket of white and grey; a dull shadow envelopes the enclave of trees in front of us. Wardong (crow) calls out, welcoming us to the place that the children call Pond Land.

We sit-with clouds, trees, air and Wardong. Here we learn another word – Gabbiljee. This name evokes a different type of knowing. Naming this Place Gabbiljee opens up spaces for thinking-with otherwise Place stories.

We are reminded by one of the educators, “Sit still and quietly and nature might find you.”

And then from one of the children, “How does nature find us? We find nature.”

We are interested in noticing how Place finds us. Thinking-with Noongar histories and knowledges is one way that we can shift our attention towards the ways in which Place finds us by inviting us into relation.

Water finds Children

During hot, dry Bunuru these wetlands were an important source of food for Noongar peoples. Knowing this Place is knowing that it is damp, watery and alive.

At first glance, Pond Land appears a chaotic assemblage of leaves, branches and grass, dried up, waterless. A musty smell hangs in the air. Before long boots press down on ground, the smell becoming stronger, more pungent with each step. Ground is soft, bouncy, unsteady underfoot. Up, down, up, down, up, down; boots and ground are in conversation with one another.

And then, “There’s water!”

“It stinks!”

“It’s Gabbiljee! Look! I can’t believe we found water!”

It might seem that we have found water, but if we shift our attention towards the vibrancy of water, leaves, grass and branches we begin to notice otherwise.

Water-children Stories

It is not easy to shift our attention away from the excitement of this moment. The first reaction is to join in with the celebration. Hesitating before saying “Wow! What a discovery!” or “How exciting!” opens up spaces for noticing the multiple players in this relational game.     

What stories do you notice emerging from water, leaves, grass, wind, boots and voices?

The smell is now familiar, barely noticeable. But hesitating and noticing the smell reminds us that below the surface, water, ground, air is vibrant, alive. Musty, damp air is escaping from between branches and leaves, rushing to the surface and making room for water to bubble up from unsteady earth. Water is always there, always beneath the surface.

“It’s like quicksand!”

“It’s getting deeper every time!”

And then Mr Fletcher suggests, “Let’s let the land rest now.”

We are tired from playing, talking, splashing, jumping-with water. Perhaps water is tired too.

We are wondering what we can learn from water-children stories? How might listening to water-children stories reveal ways in which we can be in good relation with wetlands? 

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