I wrote this piece about 10 years ago but it still holds a truth for me, the White Owl Dreaming Project is still alive and finding it's way to the public eye.
My daughter and I were in the veggie patch digging a hole. We were not planting as you may suppose the tender new life of a seedling, but rather a folded piece of paper. This paper carried my prayers for the coming year, recorded a few nights earlier on the Winter Solstice with a friend. We had come together that night to celebrate the longest night and had a small ritual where the things we hoped to let go of were read aloud and then burnt by candle flame. The things that we wished to draw into our lives we wrote down and also read aloud to each other with plans of burying them in the garden so that they may metaphorically bloom into fruition. I’d bought them home and placed them on a table swamped with drawings, paints, other pieces of paper with other wild callings for self-articulation and surrender. These solstice prayers were at serious risk of being buried in debris until I was reminded of them by a dream.
It was as though the ancestor of all eagles visited me in this dream, and though it was simple it felt also profound. I was called outside to see an eagle, huge and ancient, six times the size of the Wedge-Tails we see around our home. It had a slow and profound grace, and there was a sadness to its movement as though this old bird carried the weight of all that it had seen. With a slow swaying of its huge wings it came to land in a tree that is not there by day. In its place our household’s vegetable garden lies. I awoke that morning with an euphoric gratitude at the gift of witnessing this archetypal being and with a strong sense that I had to plant those dreams in that garden today.
And so there we were squatting on the cold winter earth burying dreams. Just as I was about to cover them up with the rich soil, a calling came from the sky above us and we looked up to find a lone Yellow-Tailed Black-Cockatoo sailing through the sky. We watched in delight as it passed beyond the tree line. Then in a moment of what was to me, sublime synchronicity, three Wedge-Tailed Eagles sailed towards us. These three sacred birds soaring on wings of brave yearning in the currents of the sky. We heard their strange song as they called and danced long and low for us, a child and her mother laid bare on the earth. Tears rolled down my cheeks at the beauty of these birds, at how I was being born again to this good earth, at the subtle awakenings of my dreaming self.
I include this account here not as evidence of my imminent demise into delusions of grandeur or insanity, nor to espouse a sense of exclusivity, but as an offering of what the sacred is to me, how it plays out in my day to day life. How these moments of ecstatic connection have begun to form the creative nexus of my life, these woven spells of intimacy with the landscape and with the interior, poetic narratives of meaning that encompass my being. Moments of transcendent synchronicity would be familiar to many of us, as they weave their way through the lives of those who would receive them. But this sense of the mythic potentiality of our existence is also one that holds little sway in the contemporary mindset of Australian identity, despite a growing articulation of our dire need to integrate with the natural world in a sacred way in order to enable our very survival here.
In his book Edge of the Sacred, David Tacey explores our current redundancy in expressions of the soul, stating that “the archaic dreaming soul, which is buried beneath the busyness of contemporary white rationality, is the missing ingredient necessary for Australia’s psychological health and cultural stability.”(Tacey, 1995,p.12)
It seems to me that it is often the artists of this world, the poets and dreamers, who must grant the permission for us as a society to extend our perception of reality to encompass the mythopoetic strata of being. To honour our creative expression is to move beyond the hankering for those numinous depths, so that our sense of ourselves as spiritual beings becomes a less and less fleeting layer of perceptual reality, until perhaps we can come to walk always within our dreaming and begin to find a dissolution of the separatist ego of contemporary life.
Growing up as a child my mother led us on walks through the bush, teaching us the names of orchids, encouraging us to draw them and to respect there own unique exquisiteness. I was always quite withdrawn, ill-equipped for the priorities of my piers, knowing little of football scores having spent the weekend reading a book up a tree, or trying to catch a glimpse of the fairies in the wild cherry grove.
I have always felt much more aligned with the interiority of being, and have oftentimes lamented the difficulty I find in fitting into the real world, hankering to become more like everybody else. There is still a part of me that despairs, at the age of thirty, that I still don’t have a “real” job. I’m actually still wondering if someday someone might pay me to read books in the treetops. Perhaps I am not alone. I think there exists for many people today, this perpetual undermining of the sacred depths of our imaginations, a dislocation of the parts of us that never cease to yearn for the participation in not only our own creativity, but in creation itself.
There has always been this duality in me, the yearning for ordinariness, assimilation into the norm, the dulling of the pain of disrespected otherness. And then on the other hand this potent, if grossly undervalued inner-life that I secreted away and to which I yearned to belong wholeheartedly. So often in the belligerently secular society of white Australia, it is the gifts of the intra subjective realm that struggle to be heard, the nuanced interplay of our essential selves as they commune with the world around us. Despite our bravado and stoicism I think we ache for the transcendent and the reciprocally sustaining.
The last few years have held for me profound upheaval and personal soul searching, through which I’ve battled to find a place for myself and my child where the integrity of my inner life can be honoured. Fresh pain is etched like riverbeds into the landscape of many lives in the attempts to disentangle ourselves from the cynically enslaved contemporary psyche. The price of my own journey is still unraveling, but I am seeing myself clear of my personal pain and now feel I have come through to a place where my art is a synonymous expression of my soul life.
Images come to me now in dreams and visions, they are weaving a narrative of my own becoming and they embed me in the cosmos and the numinous expressions of the place I call home. Through ritual, song, dance, stillness, the courage to surrender our pain, howling at the moon and most importantly allowing the space for spirit of place to fuse with the mythopoetic space of our own interiority, we come to a sense of spirit which is uniquely Australian.
I have realized that as a white Australian I am deeply afraid of offending the spiritual integrity of Aboriginality by equating my own sense of spirituality with this land that carries the Aboriginal Dreaming. I also know however, that the eagle in my dream was an affirmation of my communion with the spirit of this land, as it meets with the spirit of me, the soul life of my eclectic ancestry and also what is timeless and universal in this business of singing the soul song of life.
It sometimes seems that the guilt we carry as white Australians stands to cripple the very feeling state that could redeem our integrity in this land. I was born to this place. I roamed it’s creek beds and ridges as a child, mapping and rejoicing in the earth-body with my minds eye and with my heart, and yet my guilt at the deplorable mistreatment of the Aboriginal people makes me hesitate to articulate the way in which this land has pervaded my being. Of how in my heart there are planted the seeds of a different and new, yet still vitally embodied and poetically rich connection to the spirit of this land, for fear that I might intrude on the psychic space of the ancient cosmology of the indigenous culture. Do I even have the right to be here, is it all I can do to appropriate the spirit of this land?
But in truth I believe that there is a sacred interface, a melding of meaning and narrative wherever we open to receive the poetic incarnation of otherness. Perhaps the key is to listen, albeit with an untrained ear, to what it is that the earth wants us to hear. It is this renewed resonance with our ecological and cosmological underpinnings that may enable a degree of redemption of white man’s history of desecration. For as we destroy we in turn are destroyed. As we heal we are in turn healed. Is this land big enough, grand enough for many stories, many songs?
If I really listen to the song of the earth beneath my feet, when I allow my roots to delve here into this ground. I do not feel harrowed rage or cold indifference. I feel receptivity and maybe a yearning to be known again to the hearts of man, to be held there in reverence. I sense in this earth the same yearning for connectedness and nourishment that I feel in my own deep heart, and sorrow at the long neglect of the sacred. Her wounds are deep and there is much she hides from us in shadow, but some of the pain I feel in her, I also recognize as my own. Our culture has mined the depths of all our beings, man and woman, black and white, only for material gain, discarding the jewels of our unique inner expressions. The tender follicles of our dreaming skins have been denuded, bespoiled in the oblique transparency of modern life.
I think this earth needs us to know her now in order that we may reciprocally heal, to become something never before known. I think she wants us to join her in the creation of a new dreaming that can encompass all the pain that has passed between us, to transcend the sorrow and meld the ego of man with the spirit of nature. We must give the deepest respect to the needs and rights of the Aboriginal people but rejoice also in aspects of our own ancestry and heritage and how our own unique interiority can become eloquent again in the embrace of this good earth on which we live.
That solstice prayer that I buried in the garden was of an intention to honor my soul life enough to create the stillness to be with my dreaming, to honor that dreaming, to be my creation. In small print at the end (or rather in the middle as this prayer was written in a spiral), I hoped to find the courage to share my dreaming with the world. If I’m honest I don’t really want to fit into the real world and I’m reaching a point in my life where I cannot but cherish the singing of my soul.
I will continue to strive to articulate the essences of my moments of creative expansion and numinous truth, because to me they are much more potent than the football scores. But perhaps more pertinently, I feel that if we do not wake up and listen to the spirit song of the earth, my daughter’s birthright will be sadly relinquished. Perhaps for her children, the eagle will only ever be seen in dreams, if at all, as we reap the chilling harvest of our ecological dissolution. I pray that this is not so.
Tacey, D. Edge of the sacred, Transformation in Australia. Harper Collins Publishers, 1995, p.12.(OK)
Lucy Pierce © 2013