Rewilding Through Learning the Land

Lionel Lauch Living Culture website
Logo from Lionel Lauch Living Culture website.

I admit to spending a good deal of time thinking about different ways to rewild that will strengthen my connection to the natural world.  Ways in which I might learn how to become a part of the wild landscape that I am so drawn to, and in so doing, discover how it might change me; make me a little wilder, a little wiser, and allow my roots to anchor a little more deeply into the earth beneath my feet in such a way that I might begin to remember from where I did come.   Today, I was privileged to engage in such an opportunity, with the help of Lionel Lauch Living Culture.

Lionel is a Gunditjmara Kirrae Wurrung-Bundjalung man, who shares his intimate knowledge of the land and traditions to educate others so that they may learn from, and begin to understand, his cultural background and strong connection to the earth.  Lionel facilitates this learning process through guided walks on the Mornington Peninsula, in which he shares his knowledge of indigenous plant food and bush medicines in areas that have strong cultural significance to his people.  The walks conclude with a Didgeridoo lead meditation in a natural bush setting.   Today I joined Lionel, and his niece, Tanya, on a guide walk through the McCrae Foreshore Reserve, and was both humbled and moved by the insights I gained into Lionel’s cultural heritage.

As a no-longer-practicing, but fully-trained horticulturist, I was familiar with many of the plants that featured on our walk, but today I saw them through different eyes.  I was not looking at these plants from a horticultural perspective; not considering how they would look in a garden setting, nor what their botanical name might be.  In fact, I began to wonder if all that knowledge I had gained through my TAFE studies years ago was now particularly relevant.  But now, I was looking at these plants through the eyes of one indigenous individual who was not only sharing his own knowledge, but the knowledge of his ancestors who lived on the land for thousands of years before him.  This was shared, collective knowledge of place, people and ancient culture being passed on to me, and to the rest of the group, by way of story-telling to keep this culture alive, and weave it back into the land.  I felt an enormous sense of privilege, and gratitude the moment this realisation hit me, on top of which sat an undeniable sense of ignorance, almost an emptiness, for the knowledge I did not possess, had not possessed all my life, yet I called myself an Australian.

While listening to Lionel’s stories of the cultural practices of his ancestors, not for the first time did I have the feeling that I needed to know more.  Not just know it, but feel it somehow; by direct engagement in a cultural experience that would truly ground me, allow my feet to settle in the earth so that I might find my true place in the wild.  A place where nature and culture were inextricably woven together to create a rich and meaningful way of living.  I knew then, that this invitation to learn more about indigenous culture was changing me, beginning to crack the mold I had been cast in.  While I didn’t have any answers to how I might proceed in this endeavour, I knew that I needed to open myself up to new possibilities.

If all that was not enough to shift my perspective a little, then the guided mediation with Lionel playing the didgeridoo was the clincher.  Sitting crossed-legged on the ground under the canopy of a large Eucalyptus tree, the primal vibrations emanating from this ancient instrument were both powerfully moving, yet grounding, all at the same time.  With eyes closed I let myself drift into a time of long ago, and imagined the land around me as it once was; steeped in culture, rituals and ceremonies.  For a while, silence fell around us, as our meditation progressed into its next phase, and I settled in to that familiar, comfy void with ease.  All too soon, the earthy, primal sounds of the didgeridoo could be heard again, reverberating through the overhead tree canopy; our signal to rejoin the ‘everyday world’.

At the end of the session, I left with what I like to call a ‘thread’.  In its early stage, it is just a thread; a single new idea or lead that I have grabbed hold of; in this case it’s something to do with learning indigenous culture, but it’s still a bit vague.  But, bit by bit, that thread thickens and begins to get woven into the fabric of who I am.  Over time, the thread is strengthened; reinforced with other threads, until eventually it begins to form a tapestry.  And that tapestry is always evolving, and being added to, one thread at a time, until it is complete.  When it is complete, a new part of me emerges.  And then, of course, its time to begin looking for a new thread.

So today, I was changed.  I did become a little wilder, and a little wiser, and I did begin to feel my roots anchor into the ground beneath me. And, over time, if I continue to grab hold of more ‘threads’, I will begin to understand from where I did come.






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