tarkanya, is a space of hope
is a space of hope amidst destruction.
Tarkanya is primal - raw earth energy raging.
Raging to be listened to, to be respected. Except it isn’t, mostly. My friend and I have spent the last days experiencing the intense juxtapositions of this place. Transitioning quickly from the stark burned heaps of a logging coupe into ancient sacred rainforest plays havoc with my body’s system. I don’t know whether to laugh in ecstatic joy at the beauty of this place or cry hot angry tears at the war raging all around me. I end up releasing both emotions several times over during the course of this journey.
Driving into the Tarkanya Sumac Camp is like a breath of fresh air. The place glows with the hope of the beautiful people living in this camp and excitement of creating a space where the forest is respected everyday; not bulldozed and burned for yet another unnecessary logging road.
It shows a space where common-unity develops. The camp provides connections between people, and breaks down the barriers between humans and the space we are entwined with.
Sumac Camp lies on the main Tarkanya tourist drive, and, we were told, a lot of passing travellers have called in for a cuppa and to walk into the rainforest this camp is protecting. We are invited to sit around the central campfire, a space to shelter from the incesant wind and rain, and to share stories of our different journeys to this place and time.
In the sharing of stories arises connections – the same places people have lived, the uncommon interests that some of us somehow share. In these connections and sharing there is an incredible strength. While I may have only met these people for an evening my horizons have been broadened through our conversations, new ideas were sparked, and I now have a deep trust in the work and feeling of these people. This process of sharing is a process of opening up myself, sharing the honest feelings in my heart about the state of the world, and having those ideas be heard and validated by others.
While Sumac Camp is right next to ancient rainforest, the camp itself is in a clearfell – gaping war wounds of forest razed to the ground and fire-bombed. The evening I arrive at camp we walk a few paces from the kitchen tarp to discover a clump of luminescent mushrooms – translucent glow in the dark creatures. These mushrooms are so breathtakingly beautiful, like beings from another planet. We sit in the refreshing drizzle and gaze in wonder.
As I sit mushroom-gazing I am brushing past a stand of myrtle beech sapplings that miraculously survived in the soil’s seed-bank, despite the intense heat of the fire-bombing. These sapplings are symbols of hope – they are the beings that could one day be the ancient 200 year old trees guarding the rest of a regenerated rainforest. These clearfell areas are spaces often overlooked and dismissed. But this space is one of potential of regrowth and transformation. The luminescant fungi are crafting the way for this regeneration, through recycling forest nutrients to allow more of the sapplings to sprout. This clearfell is teaching us how to transition, survive, and thrive in our crazy world.
The folks at camp have constructed a discrete walking trail winding through ancient rainforest. We walk this trail, following the tales of the forest. What will the forest teach us this day? As we walk we introduce ourselves to this ancient place: ‘I am Lara, I have traveled from Manalargena’s Country. I am here to hear, to listen to what it is you need me to do.’
We follow the twisty path, our skin tingling with vibrancy, breathing the crystaline energy of the forest’s breath. Not far down the journey we meet an ancient being, rooted deep in the soul of this place. Knarled branches entwined with mossy species, decaying soil housing mammoth worms, and hollowed enclaves cosy nests for twittering birds. I sit and listen for a while to the lesson of this ancient being. This is not so much a lesson of words, even though I write words here, but a lesson of sudden realisations, tingles along my spine, warm bursts of light coarsing through my body as I reach out to this forest being.
‘You are but a sappling in the forest,’ they said. ‘You are rooted like us, deep into the earth. Your breath is our breath as we cycle oxygen and carbon through the atmosphere. Your dance is guided by the songs of the wind rustling through the tree tops. Every step you take is sacred, because with each step your body moves through ancient space, moves through our home.’
These understandings are profound. As I thank this ancient being and continue along the winding path I realise we humans are the younglings of this landscape. As a sappling in the forest we do not have the all the answers, if any. Rather, we have the ability to ask our questions, and listen deeply and humbly for the reply, if any may emerge. The lessons our elders, the forest, can teach us, the sappings, are many if we care to listen.
A little further along the path I meet another ancient being, this one so enmeshed with the beings around that I can hardly tell where the tree begins and the rest of the forest continues.
‘We are not seperate beings that make up this forest’, this being teaches me, as I curl up at the base of their trunk. ‘We are a community. A common-unity that cares for each other, that gives and takes nutrients in an endless cycle. I live because the whole forest lives, just as you live because the whole world lives.’
I ponder the reality of these words as I continue to explore this forest, and slowly make my way back to camp. I see the collaborations of the forest – the birds nesting in the tree trunks, the insects turning over the soil, the soil giving to the tree, and the insects providing food to the birds.
There is such hope in listening and learning from the forest. We are not alone, and solutions do not need to come out of thin air. The forest Sumac Camp is protecting already has the solutions to protect itself, and it is us who can learn from this place. We can learn how to thrive with diversity, how to live in balance, and perhaps most importantly, how to connect – connect with ourselves, with each other, and with the transformative potential of the ancient beings around us.
As I drive away from Sumac Camp the next day I am revitalised by the energy of hope. I know that wherever I go, and whichever forest blockade I might end up at next, I will remember the lessons I have learnt in this place. Instead of despairing, I will choose to learn, to listen from our ancient teachers, the oldest transformational activists on Earth – our forests.
I am walking deep within the mossy forests of north-east Tasmania - Mannalagena’s Country, opening my heart to the tales of the forest beings.
The thrum of the forest echoes around me as I carefully tread each foot. This is not a simple task. As I walk I am also ducking and weaving through branches and brambles, fungi and fermenting leaves. I can smell burgundy – the distinctive taste of a decomposing forest floor. This decay breathes new life, gently nurturing little seedlings as they are released from their parent’s arms. I can feel the tingling moisture in the air. The hairs on my arms communicate as they stand as upright as possible, feeling, sensing, the subtle temperature changes and the thousand messages that are sent through the forest air. I can hear ... so much more than I consciously know! Birds are singing, leaves are rustling, and little ants are scurrying up tree trunks tapping out rhythms through their marching miniature drum beats. These sensations interweave in a polyphony of musical parts: a forest symphony that is vibrating life in all beings.
A deeper melody can also be heard: sound waves on a slower frequency. The spirits of Mannalagena’s Country sing ancient songs, and these are the backbone of the symphony. To listen to this music is to listen to the stories of Country, the timeless lore of the universe. Here, spirit music always has, and always will play fortissimo. My body can only just hear this fortissimo: Lara is really only a newborn forest sapling, learning to listen. This symphony was never part of my culture or education. Being guided through the symphony is a blessing beyond compare, and comes with response-ability: listen, learn, understand with humility, and then do everything I can to help Country on its terms.
I have walked for what seems like eternity, and gradually my senses begin to pick up a different set of sounds. These sounds are not “out of place”, but are like jarring discordant chords. I hear the rumble of an engine, I smell petrol fumes and eventually, and I emerge from rainforest canopy into direct sunlight. I have stumbled out of the forest symphony, and onto a highway verge. This highway cuts through the landscape like some bizarre razor wire cutting off circulation.
But I am not yet ready to leave the embrace of the forest world. In desperation I lie down on the grassy verge. The forest symphony has abruptly faded to a barely audible few notes - but it is still there. I feel the faint pulse of the brown grass and smell the trace of fox dung. Overhead I hear the calling of black cockatoos as they fly through space, ignoring the highway and heralding this afternoon’s rain. As my body connects with soil I can sense underground the deep booming of geology’s voice, that constant ancient rumble of Earth’s ancient history.
Nowhere on earth is truly dead (yet), nowhere the song doesn’t sing in its own way, and nowhere we humans cannot hear the song, if we listen deeply enough.
Back in town later that day, I feel as if my ears have been opened – as if listening to such an overwhelming forest symphony has made it easier to hear the subtle piannissimos of the flowers growing through the concrete cracks, and the soil of the mud in the bricks of the house. I do not blame the piannisimos – rather, I know that by listening to them I am helping them thrive, lending them the ears that all musicians so desperately need. So tomorrow, I will not go to hear the forest symphony, but will walk around this little city and find the beauty in the concrete cracks. For as long as we can hear the beauty in all things, the discordant jarring chords will not have won.