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A sense of place

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When the time eventually comes for me to leave this little farm which has been my home for a quarter of a century I will feel great sadness.

I have an affinity with, and attachment to this small part of Australia which has provided my livelihood, and been a safe haven for family life.
There is also a sense of history knowing that we are the first human family ever to have used it as a permanent place of abode.
Previously only the Noongyanbudda Ngadjon Aborigines sporadically wandered over this land during hunting and collecting expeditions.

I could quite easily be tempted to romanticise and suggest that for me this Earth was, as it is for many native peoples, my Mother, but I would be fooling myself because I am descended from generations of conquerors, travellers, invaders and transients who knew not how to send down deep roots.

It is therefore beyond my ability to completely understand the attachment to sky, land, flora and fauna which anchors the true indigenous societies on earth.

Some Australian Aboriginal tribes have a connection to place going back perhaps one thousand generations. Traditions and events archived through art, and kept alive by oral history.
I can only begin to imagine the pain of disconnection from Mother Earth that they feel in light of the last 220 years of our history.  
Firstly removed from their land at the point of a gun, then more recently suffering from Government policy which forcibly removed aboriginal children from their parents.

The Hmong people from the mountain areas of Laos, with their own ancient culture, were loyal supporters of our allies during the Vietnam conflict.  In appreciation, and for their own safety, many were assisted to migrate to the USA after the end of the war.

Many eventually settled in Minnesota, and they must have been severely traumatised by such an extreme cultural, climatic and topographical relocation.
The story is now told that many of the Hmong men died in their sleep soon after the relocation.  Others were awoken when they were on the doorstep of death, and revealed that they were in the middle of a dream where they were flying back over the oceans to the land of their birth.
Each man was having an apparently similar dream.

The men who had died had done so from broken hearts and spirits, and from the pain of severance from "place".

Some traditional patrilineal communities in New Guinea have a parable which the elders tell for the benefit of girls who are leaving it, by tradition, to marry into distant villages.

Boys are symbolically represented by the fruit stalk of the breadfruit tree.  When ripe, it falls directly back to the earth below.

Girls, are the leaves, which, upon maturity, fall from the branch to be gently dispersed on the breeze.

Humanity forfeits some of its accumulated wisdom, knowledge and appreciation of "place" every time any ancient culture or language is lost in our relentless pursuit of "progress". 

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About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

16 responses »

  1. I can relate to that sense of place. I never feel as relaxed as when I go back to the little bush town I grew up in.

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  2. The sense of place is a remarkable thing. Mine is a tiny village called Great Ormside near Appleby in the Lake District. I've never permanently lived there but I've spent a lot of time there over the years as my family have had a holiday home there since before I was born and it's the place I run to when things go wrong in order to straighten my head out and get myself together. It's where I want to be scattered when I die.

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  3. How beautifully written! I acknowledge the connection that the Aborignals have with the land, but I don't think that it is unique. I just have to watch Mr FD salivating over a field of loam "good enough to eat" to understand that even someone from a European background can experience the connection. I feel it myself. We were all hunter and gathers at some time, and I am sure that it is part of our genetic make-up. I'd like to believe that anyway…Sadly some people just have lust for other things.

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  4. See your point about place but I think there's a great deal to be said of traditions passed.When I went to Ireland, I did a blood ritual. I could've gone (geographically close a handful of times) years earlier but refused because I wasn't ready yet. That sounds far more dramatic (and mental) than I'd like to make public! It was that important to return something of the family to that land.Like you, the humans where I grew up prior to our 40 years there were hunting parties. Of course I'm connected to that land…not just having spent time but so much of my body was built by it (the animals we hunt or raised and slaughtered to eat and raising virtually all of our food, including sugar cane as a child–no wheat). My "dust" is this dust. I assume my ashes will be returned to it to fertilize whatever grows there after I'm gone.

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  5. I can relate to that sense of place.I think I missed out a little on that feeling you have for the township where you were raised. We kept moving around….not far….but the longest we stayed in one place was 7 years. Your thoughts on this subject when you revisited your childhood town last year were memorable and gave me something to think about too.

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  6. That's a really nice story Vicola. Thanks for sharing it.It is a comforting thing to have some familiar quiet place to return to occasionally and simply ponder life's difficulties and achievements ….a place to readjust the direction we are heading in life. A place that provides are yardstick to measure how we are travelling.

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  7. Thank you FD.I know the feeling you and Mr FD have for the earth. It is something that I also value….that on our farm we converted unproductive leached soil into something that grew our livelihood for all these years.But indigenous societies have something more than that. Having lived in a PNG village where every large rock, spring, creek, hill and mountain has a story…..a deeper spiritual significance, places where generations of ancestors are buried not in a formal cemetary but near the houses or gardens where people live their everyday lives. They are never distant from their ancestry and stories from the past. I just think that deeper connection is something we have lost.

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  8. Thank you m-t for your story about traditions. It is interesting that you retain some Irish connections. Many Australians I suspect have lost any traditions relating to the country of origin of their ancestors. Mine were Scottish and I retain nothing from there even though it is only 4 generations in the past.

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  9. We're 2nd gen (bro), so maybe we're simply closely-enough through time? My grandparents were born in the 1880s and lived in seclusion. That probably helped but it seems like if one made an effort, the connections would stick.

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  10. Lovely. Looking forward to reading more…

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  11. I'm 4th generation Irish and finally got to Clonmel (southern end of Ireland) a couple of years ago. Loved the place but I may have been influenced by all the lush green grass (and the attempt to have an irish coffee in as many towns as possible).We are currently living only an hour from my birth place but I don't feel much of a connection. I'm more impressed by the really arid areas of the North West in Western Australia. It took a while to get the vibe but now it looks starkly beautiful. It's as close as I'll ever get to a religion.Lovely post GOF.

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  12. Thank you jebuff for visiting and taking the time to comment.

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  13. Thank you Pete.When you went back to Ireland did you get any feelings of "belonging" or history of your ancestors?I've never been to WA but every time I see film of Broome I get an urge to go and have a look.

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  14. I did feel like I belonged especially when dropping into their excellent pubs. Things that facinated and inspired me were everywhere. In Dublin a huge book store about 4 storeys high. In the cafeteria they had photos of award winning writers instead of footballers hanging from the walls.They appreciate their intellectuals. Much more welcoming and helpful than the Poms we encountered.Seeing the family name on ancient headstones in church graveyards had me hankering for the missing family history. Apparently the older material was destroyed in a church fire.The castles had the imagination running wild. It certainly feels older. Now I have an interest in family history, I couldn't escape feeling like there were links.Lovely place Broome. The main shopping center has a view straight down the air strip which I think unsettled Liz a little. She didn't like it as much as I did.

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  15. That is really interesting. I love watching TV programs like Time Team where they dig down into the UK and find progressively older relics from human occupation going back many centuries. We just don't have that history here.It is also amazing that there is so much information held in churches etc for people looking into their ancestry. I would imagine that seeing the names of ancestors on gravestones would bring a lump to your throat and inspire you to find out more.Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  16. Time Team is a real winner and reminds me of travelling in Ireland. On one occasion we visited a restored castle that had been beautifully done including an arched ceiling built the traditional way with bracken support before it firmed up. Must have taken them ages.One stark difference between Ireland and Oz. This castle had ancient chairs in some of the furnished rooms. No sign saying "Do not sit" and no dumb Aussies trying to.

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