The Past Dwells Here

An entire past comes to dwell here!
Gaston Bachelard ‘Poetics of Space’

In the summer of 2011, on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula on Scotland’s west coast, excavations revealed the only known Viking boat burial to be excavated on the British mainland in modern times. The vessel survived in the form of more than 200 rivets, many in their original location, and indicated a small clinker boat. It contained a sword, an axe, a spear, a ladle, an Irish bronze ring-pin and the bronze rim of a drinking horn. These items indicate that it was a remarkably rich Viking boat burial of a warrior. Positioned beside the warship Roskilde 6, the Ardnamurchan boat burial represents the final journey of a Viking warrior, sailing into the afterlife. Source: A History of the Viking World

An African proverb says that ‘when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground’.

Here at the Glenlyon Cemetery there may not be a rich treasury of artefacts, but rich memories lie here. One grave holds an image, perhaps created by the lad who died, forever young, who is mourned by his family.

Another tombstone in the Sutton Grange Cemetery includes images of a young lad skiing. A photo of his beloved dog watches over him. Nearby the crystals, of ‘a woman with a gentle soul’ are mingled among the stones of a beautiful modern memorial.

It is may not be as fashionable to spend time in cemeteries now but a graveyard can be  a great place to explore local history and genealogy, take a peaceful seasonal walk and contemplate the pasts that lie there.

It is also a great place to meditate, make art and enjoy a flask of coffee!

Akari’s Mystery Tour

Definition: a mystery tour is a short journey that people make for pleasure without knowing where they are going

Akari, my 2008 Mazda 3, specialises in magical mystery tours that feed the soul and the creative spirit. Akari knows all about duende, that raw, tempestuous creative energy that flamenco guitarists, gypsies and dancers are familiar with. Her inclusive tours take in all aspects of Central Victoria including: geology, the environment, culture, flora, fauna and history.

A mystery tour is all about anticipation! Those who come on one of Akari’s tours, especially visitors from other countries, are always surprised when Akari takes them to some out of the way  place that reveals a different perspective of Australia. They are always  inspired !

Today, with the smell of spring in the air, my dogs and I went out on an artistic date with Akari.

 

In Art Heals: How Creativity Heals The Soul, Shane McNiff says that ‘photography can help us become more aware of our environments. When we walk with a camera searching for images… this process helps us look more closely and deeply at our surroundings.” There is no doubt that the camera has the capacity to hold moments of our perception and help us to see the possibilities for perceptual awareness.

I took the time to receive the benefits of aesthetic contemplation and to look attentively.  My perceptions were not all captured by the iPhone! Moliagul is almost a ghost town now yet it proudly boasts being the site where the Welcome Stranger Gold Nugget, found here by John Deason, changed Australian History.  Moliagul also has an amazing monument to John Flynn who pioneered the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service in Cloncurry, Queensland (later to be renamed the Royal Flying Doctor Service). At one time he was the headmaster at the small iconic school I stopped to photograph.

This meditation brings a new energy and creativity into my life. The fruits of Waiting For Godot over the past three months are beginning to ripen. There are so many things I can do with the images I collected on this ‘tour’ with Akari! I look forward to a rich harvest.

Mcniff, S 2004, Art Heals: How Creativity Cures The Soul, Shambala, Boston

Mail Box Spotting and Front Yard Art

“The mailman, if he’s extra tired, would pass them in his sleep,
It’s safest to address the note to ‘Care of Conroy’s sheep’,
For five and twenty thousand head can scarcely go astray,
You write to ‘Care of Conroy’s sheep along the Castlereagh’.”
A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson,
“The Travelling Post Office”
The Bulletin, 10 March 1894

A homogeneous, common, admittedly ageing, urban letterbox.

Most countries tend to have standardized mailboxes with uniform colours.  Japan makes them original. They have things like Kawai and mascots with amazing boxes, customized according to their location.

One of the first things that people see when they visit you at your house is the mailbox. Not every one is satisfied with the standard variety of boxes available in the hardware store. Mailboxes can be turned into amazing front yard decorations. Building creative affairs does not require large investment. All you need is an imagination galore which is free.

If you are not up to making a unique mailbox you can kill time mailbox spotting. Sunday drives may not be in fashion now but humour me. I thought of my parents as I drove around back roads looking for  letterboxes with character.

When we were kids we were fairly easily entertained. I grew up in Gippsland and have memories of the long trip to the city. To keep us occupied my mother had us play various versions of  “I Spy With My Little Eye’ or we identified the makes of cars passing by. Now, sadly, children are occupied with a device and there is less conversation.

This is not my father but he had a very similar rig when he was delivering bread to outlying places.

On our Sunday drives, up and down laneways and byways, we took in all kinds of detail; checking out what improvements people were making to their places. Having delivered bread to outlying farms with a horse and bread cart, Dad knew the region well and people had all sorts of unusual boxes to leave the bread in.

Head out this weekend.  Just for a change, pack the thermos and a picnic and go mail box spotting. Look for weird and wonderful letterboxes.

A collection of found letterboxes! Well! They were not actually lost! They were found in backroads around Castlemaine and beyond. While no addresses are shown, if your letter box appears here and you would rather it not be shown, I will remove the image.

Like these sisters, you could always go on a bike ride and look for unique mail boxes. Aim to see as many unusual letter boxes as possible, take lots of photos and keep a sketch book filled with fun ideas for front yard art.  Decide which is your favourite! Believe me! It is quite addictive to do this.

Share some photos in the comment box here or on Facebook. Head to an Office Works, print the best photos quite cheaply and randomly post them in more traditional letterboxes, like this one, to remind people just what a statement they could be making with their letterbox.

Become Rock Nerds

Majestic mountains, breathtaking canyon views, gorgeous arrays of sea stacks and beautiful sandstone arches are but a few of Mother Nature’s wonders that beckon photographers worldwide. These geological features lure artists of all kinds to paint, preserve, photograph, or sculpt. They’ve been cut by rivers, uplifted by faults or folds, carved by the wind, and eroded by time.
Russ Burden

When I was out taking some photos of this anticlinal fold in the Kalimna Park, just behind Castlemaine, I was asked if I was a rock nerd. I laughed! That is a term I associate with someone like Tim Minchin, but I confess I have been looking at rocks quite a bit lately.

A new global craze has kids all over the world getting outdoors to play hide and seek with hand-painted rocks. Kids are naturally interested in rocks. How many times have we witnessed students climbing on large boulders, collecting rocks, or throwing pebbles in the river?

The painted rock craze has been praised as a cheap and easy way to get kids away from technology and outside.

The hidden rocks are typically small, flat garden stones with a simple picture or a nice message painted on either side.

The rocks are hidden in parks, with photos posted on a Facebook page so other parents can take their children to find the rocks, then re-hide them somewhere else.

Rather than paint them I am happy to keep a small collection in the garden this lovely statue.

Educating students on rocks and minerals is an important and fun part of  science curriculum. This activity will lead to many more fun things to do and may result in an interest in photography and  a growth of interest in geology.

 

Two Feuding Volcanoes

The land around here is ancient. About 480 million years ago it was all under the sea. Then a couple of tectonic plates collided deep underground, squeezing everything like a vice.

I love the idea of sitting on the top of Tarrengower reading the story, as told by Justice B Nelson, and published by Culture Victoria, of two feuding volcanoes named Tarrengower and Lalgambook (Mount Franklin)

“A long, long time ago, long before anyone but the Traditional People walked our Country, our lands, rivers, mountains and animals alike, all had magical life. They had personalities, purpose, speech and they could think for themselves.

Tarrengower in the Dja Dja Wurrung means to be big and heavy and indeed he was just that; big, bold, wise and a very proud old volcano who had become very tired throwing out rocks and lava and preferred to sit humbly watching over the plains.

Another volcano called Lalgambook was a young, loud and cheeky volcano that started to challenge old Tarrengower’s wisdom and authority, and began grumbling and building up anger towards the old volcano. But Tarrengower, being the wise old volcano that he was, decided he should just try to ignore this cheeky little volcano.

Lalgambook grew even angrier that Tarrengower wasn’t acknowledging his threats and started to put on a display of smoke, ash and brimstone to impress the land and animals who were also watching, but this didn’t intimidate the wise old Tarrengower. Instead he just laughed at Lalgambook.

Lalgambook became so frustrated that he began to throw large rocks at Tarrengower who grumbled with annoyance at this cheeky volcano and Tarrengower now began to taunt young Lalgambook by telling him he wasn’t very strong at all because the rocks couldn’t reach him.

Lalgambook exploded with great fury, spurting out lava and smoke high into the sky and hurled gart gart in Tarrengower’s direction, but still could not reach him. This caused Lalgambook to completely blow his core!

Tarrengower’s anger eased and he just grumbled at this cheeky little volcano who was now just coughing and spluttering with no energy left at all.

All the rocks thrown by Lalgambook at Tarrengower can still be seen today and have formed what is known in the present day as the Guilford Plateau where the Jaara people would perform ceremonies on the Bora grounds also known as Yapene.”

Re-told by Justice B Nelson – Dja Dja Wurrung, Jaara
Content in Culture Victoria is free for educational use.

Copyright of this story
The writers, photographers and the State of Victoria

In Game of Thrones men have maintained a watch on the wall for thousands of years. The fire tower on top of Mount Tarrengower has been consistently manned by firespotters, long term occupants of the tower, since the days of Oliver Ralph in the 1950’s. Most recently Peter Skilbeck has been on the watch!

The Advance Maldon Association brought the tower that stand on the top of Mount Tarrengower from Bendigo to Maldon to attract visitors to the area after the goldmining had almost ceased. The tower was originally the poppet legs of the Comet Mine in Bendigo, and was brought to Maldon by rail in 80′ (24m) lengths. It was carried up the mountain on a timber jinker drawn by a team of horses, along a track cut from Butts Reserve to the summit. A Mr. William Adams put up the money for the project, approx. 600 pounds. During the Maldon Easter Fair, held annually since 1877, the lookout tower is illuminated. Prior to the 1950s, this was done by wiring up over 100 makeshift lanterns, using stone ginger beer bottles, hemp wicks and kerosene. The bottles were hidden in a disused mine shaft until the next Easter.
Source: Fire Lookouts Downunder

The viewing distance from this tower is up to 100 km in all directions, except northwards to Bendigo and Mount Alexander where it is about 30 km.

Take the time to visit Mount Tarrengower and the cheeky younger volcano across the way. Learn about the spirits of volcano’s and draw upon their energy.

Volcano Folklore:

Land of Volcanoes

Merapi Volcano Spirit Keeper

Volcano Eruption Myth

Volcano Folklore

This page is only meant for educational use!

Unknown Goldfields Miners Grave

‘Since Saturday morning, the scene (on the goldfields) has greatly changed – then a tent would be seen here and there, but now they are becoming inconveniently crowded … On Saturday, dozens were arriving at a time; on Sunday, hundreds; Monday and Tuesday, one continuous line of new arrivals.’
Argus, 8 November 1851

KALIMNA PARK is a bushland reserve on the north eastern outskirts of Castlemaine comprising 175 ha. During the gold rush the area was almost totally denuded and the ground turned over. In time, coppice regrowth has produced a box-ironbark woodland with a characteristic ecosystem of plants, birds and less visible wildlife.

Gold miners often led an itinerant life, following rushes from lead to lead, so tracking their movements can be difficult. In a remote part of this reserve lies the grave of the unknown miner dating back to the gold rush (circa 1850s). I certainly needed my local guide to find this grave, tucked in a remote corner of the park. It is hard to imagine what life was like for this miner seeking gold in what was a remote part at this time. If this hapless miner made his fortune it didn’t bring him any glory! More sadly the gold rush proved to be a second wave of dispossession for the Dja Dja Warrung people. Already marginalised by the first white settlement, the discovery of gold destroyed vast tracts of land and much of their traditional way of life.

The destruction of their environment and subsequently their traditional lifestyle was a major cause of grief for the Aboriginal people. Traditional food sources such as berries and plants, as well as the native animals they depended upon for meat were all destroyed as the Europeans cleared land and stripped huge areas of timber for their own needs.

May They Have Found Peace

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms
Maya Angelou

 

On a quiet country back road, near the Newstead General Cemetery, lie two burial markers of interest. One is simply called Chinese Ground.

Chinese gold digger starting for work, circa 1860s. Image courtesy of State Library of Queensland: 60526 .

The Chinese were not welcome on the Australian goldfields. They were thorough workers, often picking meticulously through the discarded tailings or abandoned mines of other diggers. They were viewed with suspicion as few spoke English, and they were regarded as idol-worshippers. Chinese mining methods used more water than European methods, and such practices were not appreciated in a country known for its heat and droughts. Furthermore, few of them traded their gold in the towns, preferring to store it up and return to China with their wealth. The colony of Victoria was the first to introduce Anti-Chinese immigration legislation, imposing a poll tax of £10 per head for each Chinese person arriving in Victorian ports in 1855. Within a few years all other colonial governments had enacted similar laws to restrict the number of people from China entering the colonies. This did not stop the Chinese from arriving in droves and spreading out to goldfields in New South Wales and Victoria.

Tensions came to a head on 30 June 1861 in NSW at Lambing Flat. It is estimated that around 3 000 European diggers banded together in a rowdy gang called a “roll up” and, armed with picks, whips, knives, sticks and anything that could be used as a weapon, converged on the Chinese camp. Chinese tents and equipment were destroyed, gold plundered, and dozens of the men themselves had their pigtails, or ‘queues’, cut off – a matter of great dishonour for them – or worse, they were scalped. An unknown number of Chinese were murdered: although the official death toll for Chinese was given as two, eyewitness accounts suggest between 30 and 40 were killed, and several hundred more injured.

Given that an angry group of European and American miners met in Bendigo in 1854 and declared that a “general and unanimous rising should take place… for the purpose of driving the Chinese off the goldfield” it is not hard to imagine that the Chinese here in this region suffered similarly.

The other stone, not far from the isolated Catholic Ground is inscribed with the words “A tribute to those who lay beneath may they have found peace”. After substantial rainfall this part of the world is truly beautiful. With only the sound of nearby grazing sheep I think it is a good place to lie and rest.

Mixing with Trees

“A forest is much more than what you see,” says ecologist Suzanne Simard. Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery — trees talk, often and over vast distances. Learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes

Clearly Enid Blyton’s ‘Magic Faraway Tree’ changed me forever. I loved the enchantment of it all. When I was teaching I often used the metaphor of tree roots, particularly with younger students, to convey the notion of drawing from deep within. In writing sessions I have people sit outside with a tree for at least half an hour, amble down amongst the roots and write or draw stream of consciousness thoughts.

There is much to learned about creativity, resilience and self healing from trees! Trees are super co-operators! Gather together the art and writing supplies and get out amid a stand of trees. Check out the Golden Seed Grove for some inspiration. View the Tree of Contemplative practice; meditate by sitting in the arms of a tree! Go out and take the time to listen to what the trees have to tell you.

Resolve to take action to protect these special tree people! Draw attention to the need to save old growth forest and promote regeneration.

In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families- tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland. After you have read The Hidden Life of Trees, a walk in the woods will never be the same again.

Learn about the astonishing way trees communicate.

Nature’s Rock Art

In ancient India lived a sculptor renowned for his life-sized statues of elephants. With trunks curled high, tusks thrust forward, thick legs trampling the earth, these carved beasts seemed to trumpet the sky. One day, a king came to see these magnificent works and to commission statuary for his palace. Struck with wonder, he asked the sculptor, “What is the secret of your artistry?”
Eknath Easwaran

The sculptor upon taking measure of the monarch explained the process. Nature is yet to reveal the secret of its artistry. Perhaps she will reveal it to you if you talk to one of these stone people!

 

While Waiting for Godot promotes contemplative practices. Take the time to check out Contemplative Practices for inspiration.

Leanganook (Mt Alexander) Stone People

Rising 350 metres above the surrounding area, Mount Alexander (Leanganook) Regional Park is a prominent landmark offering magnificent views and a natural forest setting for picnics and bushwalking. It also provides important habitat for several rare or threatened species.

On a bitterly cold winter day the mountain took on a spiritual quality. It was enough to simply check out spots like the camping ground and commune with the stone people. The stone people, as the ancient one’s of this planet have much to teach us.

DawnEagle Summers tells us that “the stone people you find in your travels will tell you about their gifts, if you listen to them. They each bring their own lessons to our lives, whether they are a precious stone, gemstone, or just a piece of tumbled granite out of your driveway.” She says that once you begin to explore their world, you will learn more about them and suggests that we try carrying a few Ancient Ones in our pocket when we go out to face the world, to help your energy, or to learn from them. She says that stones love to talk with us, to help us, and they want others to know that they will share their teachings with us, if we but listen.

I will wait for another day to spend some time at dog rocks listening to those ancient ones and creating art.   The sniffers were not entirely happy to be confined in the car so we did not linger. Happily they did get out briefly, on lead, at the picnic ground.

Try spending meditative time with a stone person and enhance knowledge of indigenous culture by making dreamtime story stones.

As an aside, while googling, I happened upon this wonderful local concept.

Little Habitat Heroes is a group which invites children to become little habitat heroes. The group, based in Castlemaine, aims to plant indigenous species,  reduce erosion and improve biodiversity, encouraging a return of local wildlife. They wish to foster an ongoing stewardship of the site with regular events to maintain and nurture the growing habitat.

I acknowledge the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of this land. Through their cultural traditions and stewardship, Aboriginal people maintain their connection to their ancestral lands and waters. Take the time to check out ‘Set in Stone’ for something about world famous indigenous rock art.

Winter on Mt Franklin (Lalgambook)

Mt Franklin, known as Lalgambook to the Dja Dja Warrung people, is a small volcanic crater that offers ideal place for a picnic set amongst plantings of huge conifers and deciduous trees that create an exotic atmosphere. It offers a fine example of a breached scoria cone. The breach, through which the road now enters the crater, is thought to have been caused by a flow of lava breaking through the crater rim. Lava from Mount Franklin and other volcanoes in the area filled valleys and buried the gold bearing streams that became the renowned ‘deep leads’ of the gold mining era.

 

 

Since I walked away from the city and the life I had known, Mount Franklin has become my point of reference. Up close its size belies its presence on the landscape. It continues to be a marker for me!

Inside the crater of this ancient volcano, once described as a hellish place, it was cold and damp. Other than a solitary camper, huddled for warmth over a fire, we had the place to ourselves. No doubt because pagans have a gathering here, and dare to have a good time, rumours abound about witches inhabiting this place. Bollock to such naysayers! Today I found only welcoming nature spirits, beckoning me to come back, telling me that it is now an idyllic place to retreat to and decompress after a build up of minor annoyances.

Dig out the frisbee, pack a picnic, pile the kids in the car and head out for a nature fix. Allow 30 min max to get to Mt Franklin from Castlemaine. And do pop into the nearby Chocolate Mill for a warm hot chocolate and to replenish the stash you hide from those kids!

The Gower School Ruins

I have no particular talent! I am only passionately curious
Einstein

In 1912 the Gowar township was gazetted, but little came of it.

Gowar is a rural locality 7 km south-east of Maldon. It was known as Muckleford North until 1880, but one hundred years later Muckleford North has probably become the name more often used. It is thought that Gowar derived from an Aboriginal word meaning big hill.

There were minor gold rushes at Muckleford but nothing permanent eventuated. The Muckleford Creek, however, was a source of permanent water for agriculture, the nearest such source for Maldon. A school for Gowar was opened in the early 1870s and closed in 1908. The stone ruin remains.

Gowar was described in the 1903 Australian handbook:

Any evidence of the town has long gone! All that remains are these ruins!

The Potential of Stones and Pebbles

The island where I live is peopled with cranks like myself. In a cedar-shake shack on a cliff – but we all live like this – is a man in his thirties who lives alone with a stone he is trying to teach to talk.
Annie Dillard

 

Annie Dillard’s essay, Teaching a Stone to Talk, is one of her most brilliant. Whereas wisecracks abounded about the young man who tried to teach a stone to talk, for the most part everyone respected what Larry was doing. It is certainly less controversial to sit, partaking of a conversation with a stone that has been carved into the shape of a man.

In creative classes that I have run I have regularly dispensed stones and asked people to spend private time talking to them. Try it out for yourself! Take a walk sometime, watch for a stone that seems to grab your attention… pick it up, turn it over a few times and look for images on it’s surface. Allow those images to relay words to your mind. Let something emerge and grow.

Of course, like me, you may be content to simply photograph the stones you have been inspired to stop to discuss the meaning of life with. The ones here were photographed at the Forest Creek Diggings. After the total upheaval of the 1851 gold rush like me, in the face of compounding losses, they are mute and have little to say about their loss. They cannot find a way to tell me about the utter carnage that took place as every stone was turned over and the landscape ravaged in the mad quest to find gold. As remnants of much bigger stone, I understand and respect their silence. Perhaps if I visit regularly they will find a way to tell me how they have gone on living on this rock we both call home.

Or, like William Steig who created the delightful Sylvester and the Pebble, you may end up writing a story. Sylvester, a young donkey, finds a magic pebble and thanks to some very mixed up communication ends up trapped within it. It is a sobering reminder to be very careful what you wish for.

 

A Nature Fix

Old tree
Giant towering
You
Who saw the rise
Of ancient suns,
Chris Magadaza

I would like to learn or remember how to live. I come to Troll Corner not so much to learn how to live as to learn from this giant yellow box, long separated from any kin. Friends estimate this old man’s age age at around 600 but I am not sure if this is true.

600 years ago the Chachapoyas, a tall, fair-haired, light-skinned race had  one of the more advanced ancient civilisations in the South America. Adept at fighting, they commanded a large kingdom from the year 800 to 1500 that stretched across the Andes.

Joan of Arc was born 600 years ago. Six centuries is a long time to continue to mark the birth of a girl who, according to her family and friends, knew little more than spinning and watching over her father’s flocks.

Everyone in Fiji lived close to the sea from the time of first settlement 3,100 years ago until about 600 years ago —when, suddenly, everything changed profoundly. According to scientists Fiji has experienced climate change at least once. Within a couple of generations, most coastal settlements in Fiji appear to have been abandoned in favor of new ones in upland, inland locations.

Little is written about what was happening here 600 years ago! Many have suggested that this was the ’empty country’ and that the great southern country lay sleeping while the world turned. This is not a very likely scenario! The indigenous people who loved this ancient land have something quite different to say.

It is winter in this quiet corner of the world but the birds still sing and dance here.

Here at troll corner this proud tree stands a silent witness to ancient dawns! If I sit here, Waiting for Godot, gently encouraging this tree to talk, I might learn about who passed by 600 years ago. I don’t expect the tree to speak in the way I speak, or describe its long life in the traditional way. But I know it has stored much knowledge about the past within its bark and roots.

This old yellow box has nothing to say to me about the insanity of the gold fever that bought hoards here and even less about the people who lived in the nearby ruins. But maybe, if I come visiting often enough, he might just reveal something about how to live alone through times of loss and change.

A Golden Forest

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
John Keats To Autumn

Mount Alexander Regional Park sits magnificently above the Harcourt valley. Called “Lanjanuc” by the Jaara Jaara people, this mountain was important as a sacred ceremonial ground. Rising 746 metres above sea level it was also used as a point of orientation for miners heading towards the goldfields of the 1850’s. In the 1860’s the first quarries opened here and provided stone for the Northern Railway. Stone quarried from this area was also used for buildings in Melbourne and monuments such as the base of the Burke and Wills memorial.

At the foothills of Mount Alexander and within the Mount Alexander Park boundary there is an oak forest which was established by the tanning industry for the acorns. It is a great example of biodiversity, with Algerian oaks, bristle-tipped oaks, cork oaks and English oak trees. Seedling oaks will most likely be crossbreeds as a result from fertilisation of the flowers by wind-blown pollen. It is a popular picnicking area especially in summer and autumn and is also used as a venue for jazz concerts.