Thinking-with Threads

This is the third 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 (myself, Year One children and their educators) 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.

Before, during and after this walk, I am reading and thinking-with an article written by Palyku authors Ambelin and Blaze Kwaymullina. Palyku land is in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Slowing Down

Before we leave for Bush School, the children are asked by their educator to look for living things both during the walk and at today’s destination – the place the children call Tree Land.

What is a living thing?

Something that can breathe.

Something that can grow.

Trees! Bushes! Animals! Slaters! People!

So many living things that we can see and name.

We set off on our walk. Wardong (crow) is perched in his usual spot on the fence. Overhead the sky looms in multiple shades of white and grey. The darkest shades of grey give us plenty to talk about; surely it will rain. Some children run, eager to reach their destination. Others meander, stopping every now and again to shift closer to something that catches their attention. The provocation to find something living quickly gives way to discovering the opposite.  

Mushrooms! They’re poisonous. Don’t touch they can kill you. Look that one’s dead.

Here’s half a flower. And a dead one. Is it dead? It looks it.

Slowing down helps us to notice what might otherwise have gone unseen. We slow our bodies to look closer at our surroundings. We slow our sense of hearing so that we might tune into the sounds of Wardong and wind.

We slow down our sense of smell and touch.

It’s sticky. I can’t smell it, all I can smell is bushland. It looks like blood. Tree blood. Do trees even have blood?

Slowing down our minds and bodies also helps us to think of names for our discoveries; it helps us to take photos, to zoom in, zoom out, to draw pictures and to collect. Slowing down, observing and recording practices are familiar to those who work with children. So is the speeding up that inevitably follows; hurrying to take the photo before someone moves, rushing to see what is happening elsewhere.

Is slowing down enough?

Thinking-with Aboriginal knowledge systems unsettles familiar ways of being with Place and children. 

Thinking-with threads

Ambelin Kwaymullina describes the universe as a pattern of many colourful threads; each thread in relation with all of the others.

“Nothing exists in isolation. All life – and everything is alive in an Aboriginal worldview – exists in relationship to everything else” (Kwaymullina, p.196, 2010).

What might knowing this Place look like if, like Ambelin suggests, we “stand a little further back and . . . see how that thread connects to others; stand further back still and you can see it all – and it is only once you see it all that you recognise the pattern of the whole in every individual thread” (Kwaymullina, p.196, 2010)?

Could thinking-with threads – white cloud, grey cloud, Wardong, grass, mushroom, flower, trunk, sap, finger, body, mind threads – be a way to know this Place otherwise? How might these threads connect with one another?

Tracing and following these threads and looking for the connections is a way of making visible the less heard stories about this Place.

Kwaymullina, A., & Kwaymullina, B. (2010). Learning to read the signs: law in an Indigenous reality. Journal of Australian Studies34(2), 195-208.

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