Thinking-with Time

This is the fifth 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 on and with Noongar Country in Perth, Western Australia. Today as we walk, we are thinking-with Djilba, the Noongar season of growth and transitions.

The teacher, Mrs Browne reminds the children that Noongar seasons change according to Country. This way of knowing seasons is very different to the linearity of colonial ways of measuring time. Noongar writer, Ambelin Kwaymullina describes Indigenous systems of time as moving in cycles. Indigenous time is time that exists in relation with each and every element of Place. 

Typically in Djilba, Noongar Country offers up flowers in shades of pink and purple and we wonder if we will see these colours today?

We arrive at the place the children call Tree Land.

The ground beneath our feet is sodden, saturated with rain that has fallen steadily during Makuru.  Sticks, branches and leaves blanket the earth, a reminder of rain and its relations with wind. 

We tentatively sit on damp logs, moisture quickly seeping through clothes and reaching our skin.

Soil invites children into relation. Hands and fingers touch, dig, sift; soil settles into crevices beneath nails, cracks in skin. Hesitating in this moment draws our attention to our own relations with soil.

I can smell the dirt!

a strong smell            

stinky              

very stinky                  

stinky soil                   

mucky      

dirt is made of poo

It feels mushy             

soft                 

cold                   

wet

I can see roots               

rain has caused erosion             

greens              

browns

We notice that new trees have recently been planted to replace those that have long ago been cleared to make way for development.

Djiti Djiti notices too.

Hesitating can draw our attention to different types of relations; relations that are more difficult to sit and think-with. Urbanisation has meant that much of the complex systems of waterways that once characterised this Place no longer exist. Lakes, swamps, billabongs, waterholes; bodies of water that provided food and spiritual connections for Noongar peoples have been erased by colonisation. This is not the only difficult history connected to the colonisation of Gabbiljee; there are several historical accounts of uneasy relations between Noongar peoples and settlers to this Place.

Knowing these Place histories troubles my own emerging relations with this Place. I wonder what an ethical response to this kind of knowing might look like?

There is a moment of transition as we shift away from hesitating towards moving our bodies through and with Place. A group of children are excited about returning to their usual game of mining log. 

Ultimate miner!

There’s a log within a log within a log!

There’s actually 6 logs!

Noticing . . . drawing attention to log-slater-fungi-rain relations reveals that log is living, breathing, it’s own ecosystem.

Log has lived through many Djilba.

Kwaymullina would say that time has moved through log.

Thinking-with log-child(ren)-time relations opens up spaces for considering other ways of being with log. 

Kwaymullina reminds us that to think-with Indigenous ways of knowing time is both a gift and a responsibility. It is a responsibility in the sense that “all individual actions matter powerfully” (Kwaymullina, p.14). It is a gift because it can open up powerful spaces for justice and change.

I am wondering how to walk-with both the gift and responsibility of knowing Place-time in this way?

Just before it’s time to leave, Djilba pink reveals itself in the bushes above. 

Kwaymullina, Ambelin. (2020). Living on stolen land. Magabala Books.

You might be interested in reading about sites of Aboriginal significance in and around Gabbiljee:

https://www.melvillecity.com.au/our-city/publications-and-forms/community-development/sites-of-aboriginal-cultural-significance

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