Ashes to Ashes

Building slash piles
in the woods
bending to broken limbs
we haul and drag, pile and stash

our muscles stretch in fluid motion
limbs become extensions
of gnarled root bound undergrowth
woodsy moss, ferns and powdery

mushrooms leave a decaying
dirt odor in the air – ashes to ashes
leaves to dust
at the ends of our lives

we recycle our bodies
never ending resurrection
transgressions and souls,
mired into cool silent forests

By Sharon Harmon

moss on trees and branch pile in forest


I have lived deep in the woods of Royalston, Massachusetts, USA, for the last 28 years. Every morning I awake to a beautiful natural setting which changes daily, keeping me tuned in to the many wonders around me and the ones yet to be discovered. I am a poet and a freelance writer who writes for The Uniquely Quabbin Magazine. Contact Sharon Ann Harmon Publishing.

Photo by Aleksander Bołbot

Last Night I Tore Down This City

Last night, sleeping with my eyes open, I tore down this city—
every brick, every window, every signpost, every street, every
wall.

I pushed it all aside and kept going down until I was standing
waist deep in soil that hadn’t seen the sun for years. And beside
me a full tree grew in a minute, and I watched as it turned space
that was once space into space that is now life and I blinked and
there was a forest and finally I smiled and let myself blink
longer this time.

When the light flowed back in, the trees were gone. I had
trusted it all too much, and what I had left safely in shambles
had been re-membered piece by piece and all of the walls are
back. But I swear—I saw it. There is soil underneath us. There
was once a forest here.

By Taylor Winchell

Backlit oak tree by forest


Taylor Winchell was born and raised in San Diego, California. He received a BS from University of California Berkeley and an MS from Colorado University Boulder. He currently works as a water resources engineer, focusing on development planning in the Southeast Asia region. His writing has appeared in The Jetset Times, KQED Public Radio, The Boulder Weekly, and the journal of Geophysical Research Letters. He can be reached at taylorwinchell@gmail.com

Photo by the author

Starry Sky

Starry Sky – I

countless angels
fluttered by my
child like mind
by night, playing
same tune, taking
same twirl like
dancers do, nicely,
so nicely that made me
remember their steps
all along the day.

My father was
amazed. Delighted
to know that
his words could carry
such divine images, he
sat by me relating
a story for each bunch
of stars, till my neck
hurt to look up at such
a wide starry sky.

two decades have
passed by, not a single
angel have I seen, with
father, no longer by
my side, or the wide
starry sky above,
tears blur my vision
that tries to search for
animated smile of
my story-teller.

 

Starry Sky – II

I stare piteously
at my son,
jumping with
aggressive joy at
each completed level of
a mindless game
displayed on the
computer screen, played
by hitting a key
repeatedly.

Involuntarily
i craned my neck
to look upwards
through rows of
buildings,
all i could see was
a handful of stars in
hazy, un-naturally
lit-up bright
night sky.

By Thriveni C Mysore

city of Mysore, India, at night


Thriveni C Mysore is a science teacher from Karnataka, India.
She loves Philosophy and finds solace in Nature Poetry.

Photo of the night sky of Mysore from Chamundi hill top.

The Loss of Small Things

She cries at the drop of a hat,
my mother once told a therapist,
as if already knowing the diagnosis:
easily upset by insignificant things.

I remember this while weeping,
knees damp in the mower’s wake
hands cupping the shimmering frenzy
of an owlet moth with shredded wings.

How do we measure the loss
of something so small – a moth wing,
woodland snail, bruised peppermint leaf?
To reconcile, do we spare one moth

or two, continue to look away, wonder
why the world lashes back?

By Mary Katherine Creel

small snail near dead leaf


M K Creel Author PhotoMary Katherine Creel lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she has worked as a journalist, family counselor and copywriter. Her poems have been published in Paper Rabbit, Tar River Poetry, Pittsburgh Poetry Review and Avocet.

Photo by the author

Written in the Land: Rock Art in Australia’s Arnhem Land

“Our story is in the land.
It is written in those sacred places.”
— Bill Neidjie

Hand Stencil Rock Art

I gaze in wonder at the faded handprint on a rock cave wall here at Nourlangie, in Australia’s Arnhem Land. Who was the ancient aboriginal painter who signed his rock art in this unique way?

His right hand has been placed palm down against the rock surface with his fingers spread. A stream of red ochre paint was blown from his mouth onto the back of his hand to produce this stencil image. Part of the image of his index finger has been eroded, as have several of his other paintings on the walls of this rock gallery.

Early aboriginal people had no written language and their laws, cultural beliefs and creation myths were preserved through stories, dances, songs and paintings. Their long history of environmental and social change is found here in more than 5,000 rock art sites. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of over 25,000 years of Aboriginal occupation within this area, and Kakadu’s rock art (gunbim) represents the longest historical record of any group of people in the world.

Kakadu National Park is a vast and timeless place―a landscape of exceptional natural beauty and diversity. I love its stillness and intense colours. There are many regions here: mangrove-fringed coastal areas blend into expansive flood plains; low-lying hills are flanked by tall sandstone escarpments to the east and are interwoven between open bush woodlands and forest habitats. The park is teeming with wildlife in its waters, on the land and in the air. With the daily passing of the sun overhead and the changing of the seasons, the land also assumes constantly shifting forms and colours. In this context a knowledge and appreciation of nature is fundamental to understanding the culture of Kakadu and its people.

Mimih spirits Rock Art

The Mimi spirits are fairy-like beings of Arnhem Land in the folklore of the indigenous people of northern Australia. Westerners would equate them with elementals and nature spirits. They are depicted as having thin and elongated bodies―so thin as to be in danger of breaking in case of a high wind. To avoid this fate, the Mimis spend much of their time living in rock crevices. As creation spirits, they are like humans but exist in a different dimension. It was the Mimis who first taught the people how to hunt, cook and paint.

Ochre was the most valuable painting material used traditionally by the people. Red ochre was available for mining from many sites, from crumbly to hard in texture rock, heavily coloured by iron oxide. The rock was washed, then pounded into a pigment powder and blended with water, saliva, orchid sap or turtle egg yolks to create a sticky fluid paint. When a deeper ceremonial red colour was desired, kangaroo blood was mixed into the pigment. Red ochre was particularly important as its use symbolized the blood of ancestral beings.

Ochre also comes in a variety of hues from yellow to dark reddish-brown and these ores lend a rich, warm colour to the traditional rock paintings. Charcoal provided black pigment, pipe clay―a fine white river clay―was worked and moulded into small blocks to make white pigment. Thus haematite (red), limonite (yellow), charcoal (black), and pipe clay (white), expanded the artist’s palette. Ochre was also traded extensively across Australia, the precious commodity travelling many hundreds or even thousands of kilometres from where it was mined, to where it was used.

The traditional materials were applied in several ways. The oldest included blowing a fine spray of paint from the mouth to produce stencils or silhouettes on the rock’s surface. Paint was also applied directly to the rock by brushing it with a small crushed stick. Bodies were also painted using leaves, fingers and hands to beautify and decorate the participants for important ceremonial dances and songs.

In Arnhem Land bark and wood surfaces were also painted with great care using various brushes and styles for different effects. After covering a background with a coat of red ochre, the main forms of the design were outlined in black, yellow or white by using a brush made from a stick with fine grass or fibres tied to the end. Next a distinctive cross-hatched pattern is produced with a special fine brush made from a stick tipped with human hair tightly bound to it. The final step filled in the cross-hatched areas with white ochre, again using the hair tipped brush. The figure below is of Nabulwinjbulwinj, (nabul-win-bul-win) a dangerous and malevolent ghost spirit who ate women after striking them dead with a yam.

Nabulwinj

Because of its great age rock art can be damaged by natural processes. Rangers do what they can to remove or redirect these events by building boardwalks and handrails to prevent visitors from touching or rubbing the paintings. Silicon drip lines redirect water flow away from the paintings while the boardwalks prevent dust from becoming stirred up and coating valuable art. Occasionally a contemporary aboriginal artist, using traditional brushes and ochres, will repaint early art works to prevent them from fading. Just before his death in 1964, Nayombolmi, also known as ‘Barramundi Charlie,’ repainted the following magnificent group picture.

several rock art images

The large figure at the top is that of Namondjok, (nar-mon-jock). He is a Creation Ancestor who now lives in the sky and can be seen only at night when he appears as a dark spot in the Milky Way.

To the right of Namondjok is Namarrgon, (narm-arr-gon) the Lightning Man. He creates the violent lightning storms that begin in November, during the north Australian monsoon season. The band around him from his left ankle, joining his hands and head, and down to his right ankle represents the lightning he creates.

Below him and to the left is Barrginj, (barr-jeen) Namarrrgon’s wife, painted in white with black outline and decoration. Beneath these three Creation Ancestors is a large group of men and women elaborately dressed and possibly on their way to a ceremony. Several women have dashes painted across their breasts indicating that they are breastfeeding.

Images both sacred and secular adorn the many caves here at Nourlangie Rock, often represented through the artist’s unusual perspective that views the images from above, while looking down on them. Painters from this area show a preference for open spaces with a concentration on the main figures where there is an expression of suddenly arrested motion.

Language, ceremonies, kinship and caring for the land are aspects of cultural responsibility that have been passed from one generation to the next. Aboriginals all believe that they do not own the land―rather the land owns them―thus the land and its people have always been linked. This spiritual connection, spanning tens of thousands of years, has been recognized globally in Kakadu’s World Heritage listing, which honours one of the oldest living societies on earth.

“Our land has a big story.
Sometimes we tell a little bit at a time.
Come and hear our stories and see our land.
A little bit might stay in your hearts and if you want more
You can come back.”

—Jacob Nayinggul
(Manilakarr Clan)


Written and photographed by Mary Mageau
Samford, Queensland, Australia (©2012 Mary Mageau)

Visit Mary’s Website: Nature As Art and Inspiration


Notes:
Quotes sourced from Neidgie, B. (2002) Gagadiu Man, JB Books Pty. Ltd:
Marleston, p32.

Courtesy of Nayinggul, J. (2008) Kakadu National Park, Australian Government:
Canberra ACT, p6.