This past week I have been on Larrakia, in towns with names of Palmerston and Darwin. I pay my respects to Larrakia and thank them for the welcome to their country, their hospitality and guidance.
There were many moments to meet and levels of complexity that took me to my edge more than once. Some moments I was up for meeting and others slipped through my fingers and others faded quickly into the horizon before I was able to gather up my internal resources to meet them.
A moment from earlier in the week began watching dancers and musicians painted and enthusiastically calling the gathered forward to learn a dance. The whitefellas seem to be mainly receiving it as a performance and not an invitation to come up and dance. I hesitated to wait for the leaders in the community I was associated with to get up and accept the invitation first … and they did not …. I was terribly upset and a colleague with me could see my distress which enabled me to verbalise. She then said: well lets go …. And together we joined in the dance, and others then joined in. Yet another reminder to not wait for others, to step up and step into the work to be done, to hear the call, the invitation from community and respond by joining the dance. This was echoed a couple of nights later in a community concert where singing, poetry, dance, and a lot of laughter was shared … unfortunately not too many whitefellas were there to keep the dance going, most seeming to prefer to keep that to the intellectual level which was explored in a formal session of adaptive leadership styles between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people working collaboratively.
Another moment that I soaked up was an impromptu smoking ceremony led by a Larrakia elder on the concrete surrounds of a man-made lake in a place that had the right leaves and bark close at hand that could be gathered by two of the children of the elder. The ceremony saw me watch a procession of changemakers from many parts of Australia walk through the rising plumes to the sound of an uncle playing the didgeridoo. The daughters proceeded to waft the smoke around those who arrived at the burning leaves while Aunty June Mills called us forth and encouraged us to step into the smoke. Stepping up was all it took to receive the invitation and accept the healing. Such a generous offer and none of us were able to resist. One of the women holding the leaves, pressed and held the bunch she had in her hand onto the middle of my back and I felt a clear and direct message – we have your back. That we, the long ancestral tail of women who have gone before me, and my link in that chain to be the same for those who are coming. An instruction to guide me as I continue to pass on knowledge and skills to the next generation and take my turn to get out of the way. It was a healing moment.
And the third moment I want to call forth in my lessons for meeting the moment was in a car. A driver and three passengers, peers, exploring how to collaborate and support one another to voice and share reflections that would help unstick and unfold as we sojourn to future ways of working together. With gentle support I was able to find the words and the frames needed to hold me in the tensions without self harm showing up. I had been prepped and primed by another peer before hopping into the car and that gift of reflective and careful questions held me too. I am always grateful to have so many skilled and trusted colleagues holding me in these tough times in my practice and when I am tired and emotional.
I called on a Blessing I had written a couple of weeks ago at Kwartatuma (Ormiston Gorge) a sacred site of the Western Arrernte people and that helped me meet moments this week too, especially as the fullness of the week ended and my body was totally spent and I tried to find my way to rest.
Blessed are the rocks for they shall hold you up
Blessed are the waters for they shall wash you clean
Blessed are the winds for they shall breathe new life into you
Blessed are the gums for they shall stand by you
Blessed are you among women and blessed are the fruits of you labour
Blessed are you to come to stillness and be radically at rest.