Rain and Bracken Fern Encounters

Blog 6 9th August 2021

This is the sixth 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. A collection of poems by Noongar author Ambelin Kwaymullina continues to be a constant companion to the walks. 

Encountering Rain

Djilba sky is grey, ominous.

Wind and rain intermingle with screams, laughter, bodies, skin, tongues. 

Blowing in from the west, rain seemingly ushers us towards our destination. 

Sky, rain, wind quieten. Rest. 

We encounter rain in different ways.

seeping through branch 

pooled in hollow leaf

mixed with soil and hands

transforming writing

filling creek

Rain invites us into relation in many different ways.

Encountering Bracken Fern

We notice.

This plant doesn’t grow in Tree Land, nor in Pond Land. Yet here, beyond the confines of the school fence, this plant is abundant. 

it feels fake, it doesn’t look like a real plant. 

no, it’s just that it’s strong

how does it unfurl like that?

Bracken Fern commands attention.

It is impossible to ignore its carpet of green as it blankets ground, circles trees, wild, dense, unkempt. 

Bracken Fern histories are long, complicated and contested. Bracken can be weed, native, fossilised, food source, poison, building material, feared, pest or a source of renewal and strength. It’s story depends on who and what you read. These multiple (and often opposing) Bracken Fern stories teach us that knowing something is always governed by our own relations.

Bracken can also teach us that the “world cannot be fully understood by life in human shapes because humans cannot occupy the spaces held by all other life” (Kwaymullina, 2020). 

Imagining-with Bracken Fern 

Perhaps instead of knowing, we can imagine. 

Imagine the other spaces held by Bracken Fern, the spaces that humans cannot touch, cannot see, cannot occupy, cannot know.

Sit-with Bracken Fern. Notice how Bracken Fern stem meets soil. Stop still. Watch, listen, smell, touch stem-soil meeting, becoming one. Imagine, underneath soil, stem meets with rhizomes, rhizomes spread like tentacles forwards, backwards, sideways, wherever and whatever slightly damp soil allows. Sit-with Bracken Fern, imagine rhizomes reaching, pushing, shaping, moulding, becoming-with soil. Smaller roots shoot out from rhizomes, like tiny tentacles growing, shifting, changing, shaping soil. Roots push upwards until they break free from soil to meet air. Can you see roots becoming stem, becoming fern?

Under-the-soil Bracken Fern stories are important because they speak from a different position, a position that is not governed by a human desire to name, control, use or eradicate.  

The tricky part is learning how to listen to these stories.   

I wonder how we could learn to listen to under-the-soil Bracken Fern stories? What stories would they tell us? Can we listen without needing to know or explain? 

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

You might be interested in learning about how Perth childrens’ creative relations with rain are being explored as a potential response to climate change. 

https://artgallery.wa.gov.au/learn/artist-activation/conversations-with-rain

You can read about other Bracken Fern encounters here:

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