Posted in Contemplative Practice, Djadjawurrung People, Leanganook (Mt Alexander), Little Habitat Heroes, Mystery Art Making Writing Tours, Nature Fix, Stone People

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.

Posted in Mystery Art Making Writing Tours, Old Australian Roadside stops, Old Roadside Stops, Popular Picnic Grounds, Sniff Mappers are Us, Sniff Mapping

Remembering Old Roadside Stops

When travelling long distances which is common in Australia (given the size and isolation of the country) sometimes it’s best just to pull over and have a rest.

 

While waiting for Godot I decided to head out and wander up to Leaganook (Mt Alexander). Coming back on the old highway between Harcourt and Taradale I came across one of those old road stops, in the style that I remember from trips to Melbourne with my parents from Gippsland. It was a long trip to Melbourne and Mum had invariably packed a thermos and her tin with the fruit cake we loved.

As I wandered about a flood of memories rose! I also remembered those carefree days in the early sixties when my parents had their first portable bar-b-que and we stopped at places like this picnic ground at Leanganook  on the slopes of Mt Alexander (Leanganook). I think we mainly had sausages wrapped in white bread with tomato sauce, but somehow it tasted so much better than sausages cooked on the wood burning fire, or under one of the earliest portable, electric cookers at home. Life changed for Mum when she afforded that household luxury.

When I take people out on my mystery writing/art making tours I will remember to include time at places like this.

Posted in Djadjawurrung People, Finnish Lapphunds, It is ALL about US, It is ALL about US and Our Life in Castlemaine, Mystery Art Making Writing Tours, Nature Fix

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!

Posted in Archie, Neeks and Me, Finnish Lapphunds, Gower School Ruins Maldon, It is ALL about US, It is ALL about US and Our Life in Castlemaine, Just Killing Time, Nature Fix

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!

Posted in Archie, Neeks and Me, Finnish Lapphunds, Forest Creek Diggings, It is ALL about US, It is ALL about US and Our Life in Castlemaine

Forest Creek Diggings

Forest Creek Historic Gold diggings is situated mid-way between Castlemaine and Chewton. This historic mining site is in the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park, and there is to do free of charge. A 400-metre walk allows you to discover how miners won gold from Forest Creek. The walk commences at a small shed below which is a dam.The dam has clean beach and is a great place to learn to pan for gold. At the waters edge you will find gravel which has been put there for you to try your luck at panning.

The Forest Creek Diggings caused quite a stir in 1851. As more and more newcomers pegged their claims, they followed the deposits of gold up the eroded flats and valleys feeding the creek. It soon dawned on the crowd that gold washed into the river flats came from the surrounding rises.

In March of 1852, White Hill was the scene of a rush within a rush, and a month later the adjacent rise known as Red Hill was swarming with hopefuls, some lying stretched out on the ground to secure their eight foot by eight foot claim (about two metres by two metres).

Today, the Forest Creek Gold Diggings occupies the remains of White Hill and Red Hill. There have been nearly 150 years of continuous mining here, and a remarkable range of techniques has been used to extract the alluvial (river deposited) gold. All of these techniques were versions of the panning process, whereby clay and gravel are washed away from the heavier gold, and all have left their traces.

At first, miners of the 1850s dug shafts through the layers of the ancient riverbed, and carried gravel and clay to the creek below to be washed in pans or wooden ‘cradles’.

Sometimes miners digging a shaft would be tricked by a layer of sediment `as hard as the pyramids’, and abandon their shaft before reaching richer deposits below. A number of 1850s shafts remain on White Hill today.

Later mining methods included puddling, a process of washing and working clay to release fine particles of gold. This could either be done by hand in a small trough, or with the help of a horse working a large circular puddling trough. In times of abundant water, surfacing was practised. It was a process of flooding the surface of a hill to remove the gold-bearing topsoil, and directing the flow through a series of barriers, known as a ground sluice, to collect the gold. Source: Friends of Mount Alexander Diggings

The Forest Creek Geo Maze is constructed from eight concentric circles of rocks. The six types of rocks are representative of the main periods of geological activity in the goldfields region. The oldest rocks are placed around the outer circle and the younger rocks are in the centre.

Posted in It is ALL about US, Scar Trees, Sniff Mapping

Scar Trees and Battle Coats

Scarred trees are trees which have had bark removed by indigenous Australians for the creation of bark canoes, shelters, shields and containers, such as coolamons. They are among the easiest-to-find archaeological sites in Australia.

I have been out and about with the dogs and while they sniff map I am capturing images of some (modified) scar trees. The scars on these trees, as they age, have a poignancy.

I have always been fascinated by Clarissa Pinkola Estes idea of making a full length scapecoat to detail one’s scars in painting, writing, with all manner of things pinned and stitched inside. It is the perfect place to pin all that one has endured, “all the insults, the slurs, all the traumas, all the wounds”. Such a coat is a way of visually portraying one’s endurance and the victory of still standing tall.

I really love what Alice Wellinger has done here. This beautiful piece truly resonates and fuels the desire to do something using a grey coat that I have had hanging, unworn for many years.

Posted in Chewton Central Victoria, Finnish Lapphunds, It is ALL about US, It is ALL about US and Our Life in Castlemaine, Just Killing Time

If I Do It All Over Again

My shipmates and I liked the sea lions, and envied their lives. They were all either fat or dead; there was no half way. By day they played in the shallows, alone or together, greeting each other and us with great noises of joy, or they took a turn offshore and body-surfed in the breakers, exultant… Everyone joked, often, that when he “came back” he would just as soon do it all over again as a sea lion.
Annie Dillard

I have thought of that if I am called upon to do it all over again I would ask to be a lappie, beamed down to a home where I would be taken out three times a day to run, frolic joyfully and sniff map. But I do understand why Dillard, upon returning to the Galapagos, realised that, rather than returning as a sea lion she would come back as a palo santo tree, standing on the weather side of the island. Standing there she could be “a perfect witness”, able to simply look, be mute, wave her arms a lot and be a source of holy wood.

If I do return it will be a bit like returning after having lived with fairies! Nothing will be as it is now! Everything changes! But that is nothing new! I have not always lived alone with lapphunds! I reinvented myself when multiple deaths changed the world I had known. Perhaps I will come back in a very different form. I might come as an iconic Boab Tree and silently dispense creative bush medicine to those who understand. Of course, unless I end up in some kind of alternative universe, that will not shield me from the loss and grief so much a part of life on this planet.

Who will you be and how will you live if you do come back for another round on planet earth?

Posted in It is ALL about US, Nature Fix

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.

 

Posted in Archie, Neeks and Me, Finnish Lapphunds, It is ALL about US, It is ALL about US and Our Life in Castlemaine, Just Killing Time, Nature Fix, Sniff Mappers are Us, Sniff Mapping, Troll Corner Chewton

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.

Posted in Archie, Neeks and Me, Finnish Lapphunds, It is ALL about US, It is ALL about US and Our Life in Castlemaine, Pennyweight Cemetery, Winter Frost in Castlemaine

Memories of the Old Country

My car is white and glistening
the frost is on the ground
the only thing thats missing
is the beautiful chirping sound,
Irene Neville

Frost bathing brings back genetic memories of the old country! There is nothing to compare with rolling joyfully and frolicking in the heavy frost.

Posted in Archie, Neeks and Me, Finnish Lapphunds, It is ALL about US, It is ALL about US and Our Life in Castlemaine, Just Killing Time, Killing Time

Just Killing Time

A working dog is a canine working animal, i.e., a type of dog that is not merely a pet but learns and performs tasks to assist and/or entertain its human companions, or a breed of such origin. In Australia and New Zealand, a working dog is one which has been trained to work livestock, irrespective of its breeding. Truffle hunting dogs, for example, are worth their weight in gold to modern farmers. Some dogs in this district make themselves useful sniffing out truffles.

 

This lot are reputed to be skilled at herding reindeer but with few reindeer in these parts they do not have to work – unless you count maintaining vigilant watch of property boundaries as work. No one gets onto the property without me knowing and they do provide companionship and even comfort when they perceive it is needed!

However most of the time these spoiled fluffy hounds get to lounge around, killing time, barking at anything that moves. Alternatively they wait, not always patiently, for their human hunter gatherer to take them out or, preferably, bring back the food.

Posted in Jesse Pomeranian X ACT, Killing Time, Sniff Mappers are Us, Sniff Mapping

Global Sniff Mappers

“It perhaps comes down to us locating ourselves in an inconceivably vast universe on one hand, and in our own complicated lives as well.”
Katherine Harmon

Cartography, or mapmaking, has been an integral part of the human history for thousands of years. From cave paintings to ancient maps of Babylon, Greece, and Asia, through the Age of Exploration, and on into the 21st century, people have created and used maps as essential tools to help them define, explain, and navigate their way through the world.

Drawn in England in about 1290 Mappa Mundi (“map of the world”) is the only complete wall map of Earth to have survived from the Middle Ages.

The world is depicted as round and flat. It’s populated with such diverse creatures as Adam and Eve, Noah and his beasts, Emperor Caesar Augustus, a man riding a very unrealistic crocodile, and an imaginary being called a Sciapod who shelters himself from the burning sun with one huge foot. Mythological beasts jostle for space. The 12 winds are named and represented by dragons and grotesque squatting figures.

East, not north, is at the map’s top. Jerusalem is the center of the world. Countries and oceans are squeezed and stretched to fit into the map’s circle. Short descriptions offer such wisdom as, “Here are strong and fierce camels. (From A Medieval Look at Time and Place)

Fast forward to the twenty first century and Katherine Harmon took an inventive approach to mapping. Her book, You Are Here  highlights that maps need not just show continents and oceans: there are maps to heaven and hell; to happiness and despair; maps of moods, matrimony, and mythological places. There are maps to popular culture, from Gulliver’s Island to Gilligan’s Island. There are speculative maps of the world before it was known, and maps to secret places known only to the mapmaker.

Canberra resident: Jesse 8 year old Pomeranian X sniff mapping in Evatt parkland.

Think of the potential of a collective of dogs sniff mapping the globe! It would offer another perspective to the stunning images, taken from space of our home planet.

Jesse, an 8 year old Pomeranian X is certainly up for the challenge. This photo was taken at a parkland area in Evatt ACT. A beautiful area with lots of trees, grass, birds and a creek, it is a place Jesse and her human companion regularly walk.

Posted in Archie, Neeks and Me, Cemetery Road Castlemaine, It is ALL about US, It is ALL about US and Our Life in Castlemaine, Just Killing Time, Killing Time, Time's Killing Me

Crumbling Tennis Courts

“In my beginning is my end. In succession
House rise and fall, crumble, are extended.
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new buildings, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to earth
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Houses live and die; there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation
And a time for the wind to break a loosened pane
And to shake the wainscot where the field mouse trots….
T.S. Elliot “Four Quartets’

 

On Cemetery Road, Campbell’s Creek, opposite the historic Castlemaine Cemetery, lies crumbling tennis courts. There are quite a few deserted tennis courts around town, a reminder of the days when people played more sport. I have always been partial to romancing ruins! We have had this space in our GPS for some time. Generally we have it to ourselves!

Icy air has engulfed Castlemaine this week as we move into mid winter. The ominous forecast of more bleak weather approaching will curtail sniff mapping. Rather we will be variously sprawled out in front of the fire killing time. I will spend time revisiting Dark Passages and the work of Shaun O’Boyle. Stories lie waiting to be told in each of these places.

For All that has been
And All that is
All that’s to be
Lord, I’m just killing time
And time’s killing me

Posted in Archie, Neeks and Me, It is ALL about US, Nature Fix, Oak Forest Harcourt, Sniff Mapping

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.

Posted in Archie, Neeks and Me, It is ALL about US, It is ALL about US and Our Life in Castlemaine, Muckleford South, Sniff Mapping

Muckleford South Primary School

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is a vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of a child.” Carl Jung

What a find! Akari (the car with a mind of its own that leads mystery tours) talked me into going to Newstead via the Yapeen/Muckleford Road. It was a Eureka moment when we arrived at the Napson and Timmins oval. Arch and Neeky loved exploring this well kept oval and Muckford State School grounds.

This photograph was not taken at the Muckleford School House but the photograph is representative of the time when classes operated here.

Old School House is a stone school erected in 1871 as the South Muckleford State School No 1124. Rectangular in plan the structure is constructed in random course masonry with brick quoins, window and door surrounds. There is a gabled porch non-axially located. The gabled roofs are clad in corrugated iron and there is a finial. A chimnmey, roundel, plinth and multi-pane sashes are other features.

Old School House, Muckleford South, is a fairly typical building in overall form, but is of importance in the history of the district and notable architecturally for the use of stone and unrendered brick details and also for the unusual location of the porch. Stylistically the former school is in a vernacular style typical of much school architecture during the nineteenth century. Old School House is in good condition and is reasonably intact.

School Days Exhibition