The children seemed to enjoy our first walk, despite the unseasonal autumn heatwave. We were all keen to get to know each other and the wildlife that lives in the grassy woodlands where we will regularly walk. There was much enthusiastic spotting of birds, insects, and rabbits, as well as following clues and tracings – like spiders’ webs, animal scratchings, mysterious holes and poo.
How lucky are we to have such rich nature-culture environs so close to the centre. The grassy woodlands are heritage listed for their high environmental value. According to the ANU site inventory, this is a rare remnant ecology, resembling pre-colonial times, and very bio-diverse. The area is also full of amazing landscape sculptures that speak directly to this place and its entangled human and nonhuman past-presents.
To set the scene, we stopped at the sculpture: ‘Ngaraka: Shrine for the Lost Koori’. The first thing that grabbed the children’s attention was the pile of bones on the ground – so many of them. Clearly confronted by the realisation that they were standing on bones, they picked them up to feel them and take a closer look. They asked lots of questions about whose bones and how they got to be there. The children seemed to be variously impressed, relieved and concerned to learn that they’re actually kangaroo bones. Someone asked if the artists had killed the kangaroos to make the sculpture. This encounter with bones triggered memories of finding dead animals on other walks. There were lots of stories.
Some children started striking the bones against the rusted metal frame. The haunting sounds of bones on tubular metal seemed to momentarily toll these past events into the here-and-now. Click here to hear the children’s tolling sounds …
We spoke about the fact that Kooris have lived in this country for a very a long time and that the shrine sculpture is here to remind us of this. We’ll keep returning to it at the beginning of our walks, and keep remembering.
Reflections upon the scale of both time and space featured in this first walk. Some children intently zeroed in on the micro-worlds of small creatures and felt the enormity of their own bodies in comparison to those of tiny bugs. Others noted that ants themselves vary in size and how even a small ant can carry an object much larger than itself.
A sudden loud explosion, that reverberated across the lake, took us all by surprise. It prompted the birds to fly away shrieking and provoked the children to speculate once again. Some of the theories included dynamite, road works, an alien spaceship, a volcano erupting and asteroids or meteors hitting the earth. Quite a seismic jolt beyond the world of ants!
Affrica and Tonya