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.
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