… is the nick-name they gave this road – an incursion into forested wilderness heading north-west from Corinna. For a while, construction was stalled… hence the name ‘The Road to Nowhere.’
As one of Australia’s great poets, Bill Neidjie, said:
Land got to stay,
always stay same.
No matter little track,
grass still grow, bush can grow.
But soon as bitumen there,
Grass don’t grow, maybe little bit side,
but middle… nothing.
You look where timber
Bulldozer rip it out.
Well, you feel it in your body.
You say, ‘That tree same as me.’
This piece of ground he grow you.
Well, “the road to nowhere” now goes all the way through to Arthur River township, but it isn’t bitumen. However, it has made a great deal of forest very vulnerable to human activity… like me and Em and Dan going in for a look see and a camp. But more frighteningly, it has opened up ancient forests and grasslands for proposed logging and mining ventures.
When we first entered the forest from a button-grass plateau, Dan spotted a Tiger quoll (a spot-tailed quoll). This was just before we drove into burnt country. We saw no more mammals after that, just wallaby footprints in the sand on beaches at “the edge of the world”, and in the scorched earth near our camp in a forest burnt by lightening strike.
Photo by Daniel Haley: Emily Sheppard (violin), Anne Norman (shakuhachi)
threnody for felled giants
chainsaw joins the tune
After a couple of nights in the small township of Arthur River, and fabulous walks on the beach at the Edge of the World, we were keen to leave the company of others and get out into the forest. Dan did some filming in burnt forests of Em and me wearing white clothes and lacy white curtains that we’d picked up from the tip-shop in Hobart.
The RSI pain in my forearms and right shoulder prevented me from doing much playing, but it gave me a beautiful opportunity to quietly listen to the subtle and brittle sounds of a forest recently burnt by lightening strike, and to listen to the wonderful creativity of Emily Sheppard developing her new music by detuning her violin and viola strings and experimenting with fabulous tone colours and the addition of her sung voice.
Around the camp fire in the evenings we shared music, poetry, philosophy, yummy food… and tea in small Chinese soup bowls that we’d also found at the tip-shop (Hobart’s rubbish dump). I read some poetry by Bill Neidjie to Em and Dan, and was delighted that they too loved his words and way of expressing himself. Bill Neidjie (c. 1920 – 2002) was of the Bunitj clan of the Gagudju people from the Northern Territory. I first traveled to NT in 2003 and bought a copy of his book Gagudju Man when visiting Kakadu – a National Park on the land of Bill’s people, which he opened up for all to visit, in order to help us appreciate its beauty, and hopefully curb the uranium mining in that region.
I read Gagadju Man on that first trip to NT and then put it on my shelf, and didn’t give it much thought again. In hindsight, I realise his words have been percolating in my heart and mind and have influenced many things I’ve written and done since. Last year, when visiting Nhulumbuy in Arnhem Land for the first time, I found another small book of Bill’s wisdom and poetic words: Story About Feeling.
Before leaving home for my Tassie adventure a few weeks ago, I made some notes from these two books, and in a blackened forest in the Tarkine, I shared them with Dan and Emily. Their enthusiasm for Bill’s poems encouraged me to include some of his beautiful words in our shows . Husshh… hearing takayna . in Launceston and Hobart.
From p.78 of Gagadju Man:
You just listen careful… slow.
Tree. He watching you.
You look at tree, he listen to you.
He got no finger, he can’t speak.
But that leaf, he pumping, growing,
Growing in the night.
While you sleeping,
you dream something.
Tree and grass same thing.
They grow with your body,
with your feeling.
The next chapter in my Tarkine Adventure: -–> .Sculpture Park
Lake Burbury..<–- The previous chapter