Moving on

The woman was stuck.   She knew it.   Her life was going nowhere.  Struggling to accept that she wondered if going nowhere was what happened when you reached a certain age.   Maybe after the post retirement trips overseas (almost a rite of passage for newly retired Australians in these days of global tourism) the next step was to settle for a life in the shadows – a gradual fading into the background – into invisibility.

Thinking these things she drove to a local bushland re serve.   It was one of the few local places in the area where she felt a connection to the wild – the wild of nature and, more importantly, the wildness that still burned within her heart and mind despite outward appearances.

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When the aboriginal man in the Visitor Centre accused of her trying to take his stories when she’d expressed an interest in making glue from tree resin like the aboriginals did she was taken aback.

While he made the coffee she’d ordered the man ranted that he could teach her to make the glue if she proved to him that she wasn’t going to misuse the knowledge.  Disturbed by his aggressive manner the woman had submissively taken the coffee and retreated outside to a table under the trees.

There she felt her own anger mounting.    She attempted to rationalise it away by thinking that perhaps the sight of her had awoken some old anger in the man – maybe some older white woman had once acted in a racist way towards him.  Even so, that woman was not her.   She had simply read about the glue on a notice board in the Visitor Centre and wondered out loud how it was made because synthetic chemical glues gave her a headache.

The coffee was lousy, she realised.   As bitter and unpleasant as the man.   She tipped it out on the ground then wondered what to do with the empty takeaway cup.   There were no rubbish bins in sight.  She had a choice, she then realised.   She could take the coffee cup home and dispose of it there while nursing her unexpressed anger or she could go back in the Centre and attempt to have it out with the man.

After a moment’s reflection she chose the latter.

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The man looked disconcerted by the sight of her re-entering the shop.  She held out the empty coffee cup and he curtly told her where the bin was.    She disposed of the cup then politely told the man she had no interest in taking his stories.   She asked him how on earth she was supposed to prove to him that her intentions were honourable.    He said he would know where she was coming from by seeing it in her heart.   She drew herself up straight and replied:  “Well if you can’t tell where my heart is by talking to me there’s nothing I can do to prove to you that I’m on the level.”    There was a flicker of doubt in the man’s face as he computed what she’d said but he quickly resorted to his angry stance.   “How am I supposed to know where you mob are coming from?  I’ve never met you before,”  he snarled.

Resisting the urge to look behind herself and see this mob she was supposed to represent or to argue with the man further the woman made a dignified retreat.

Driving away she found she was shaking.  For days afterwards she kept replaying the incident in her mind.    The man obviously had anger issues but something of what he had said got to her.   Was she unconsciously appropriating aboriginal stuff that didn’t belong to her in an effort to give her life meaning?

Googling cultural appropriation she bought articles written by indigenous people about how cultural stories and artifacts had been taken out of context and turned in commodity items.   She cringed when she read some of it.   That dreamcatcher hanging on the verandah suddenly looked more like cultural appropriation than a boho decoration. The more she looked at certain items in her house, the more she came to question herself.  Just what was she on about?

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She went on a kind of purge of both her house and her own beliefs.   She looked at her own cultural heritage.    Raised a Christian but having left that faith long ago she taken on a hodgepodge of ideas and beliefs from other cultures and traditions.   How much of it really resonated though?    How much of it was hers to take?    To find the answers to those questions she had to dismantle more than the décor she surrounded herself with.   She had to look long and hard at the person she’d become.

In the process the feeling of being stuck dislodged.   Somewhere along the line she began to thank the man.   He’d set her free.  She’d been under a kind of spell.   A spell of her own making in many ways but a spell nonetheless.   That scrap of bush had been a place where she could hide.   Now she no longer felt like going there.   Finally, and at last, she was ready to move on to some other new way of being.   It was time to let that wild woman come out of hiding.   There was nothing to lose but stuckness.

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This post was inspired by Cathy of https://wanderessence.com/ 

Cathy has written in the third person in her recent prose piece  https://wanderessence.com/2018/07/24/chapter-2-missouri-as-it-seemed-part-2/.  Following her lead I have used the device in this post.   I find it gives writing a more objective slant.

38 thoughts on “Moving on

  1. Pingback: things i learned today: on the road to buffalo, new york – ~ wander.essence ~

  2. Pingback: Thursday Thought – “Cultural Appropriation” or “Yindyamarra”? – Memories & Thoughts

    1. Thanks Kate. Someone online said to me this week that they were finding it easier to express their true thoughts since the recent lunar eclipse. I feel I am opening up in a similar way. Keeping the channels open is now the challenge. 🙂

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      1. Yes, you are right. House moving and practical considerations are taking over my life at present though. I’ll try and take some time out over the next few days and do something creative.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A thoughtful piece. So many complications in the way we are with each other. I often wonder how Aboriginal people can be gracious to us as so many of them are after a couple of centuries of savage mistreatment. Appropriation is another issue: I went to a session while I was in Broken Hill about design appropriation – sacred images being turned into floor rugs and tea towels without any acknowledgement. I remember feeling very uneasy years ago at a sweat lodge – this was absolutely not my culture. Nobody is comfortable with aggression, especially not out of the blue like that, but not many people would use it as a stepping stone to re-evaluate a life. You’re exceptional.

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  4. Good post, and important questions and points. I think that sometimes the balance is in the intent, and in the willingness to explore the origins and meaning of beliefs and actions. It may not always need to mean discarding what had become personalized, but it may mean learning the stories to be told alongside those and in giving honor back to where things have come from and the price others had to pay — without credit or respect — by others who’d taken without permission or honor or awareness that permission needed to be given.
    May the balance of who one is, where one comes from, and the wells one had gotten a drink from — with or without awareness of former owners — be one of respect and kindness. In my fantasy, I see the woman (you?) returning to that cafe and thanking the man for his lesson. I find that such thanks can be meaningful even if they aren’t actually done in the physical world, but can become a kind of ‘pay it forward’ where one goes on to live with an awareness one did not have before in the same way.
    And we are, all of us, works in progress. Thank you for a great post.
    Na’ama

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    1. Yes, the woman is me and I did thank the man before I left for I was aware he had shown me some very important lessons.
      I have been processing ideas around cultural appropriation in the weeks since the incident and will write some thoughts in another post this week.
      Thanks for your thoughts. Your idea of weaving old stories into new forms that give value to the original source is very potent. I will add this to my meditations on the subject.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a tough issue, with no easy answer. My ancestors come from many cultures and nations…what is “mine”? None of it really. Even indigenous cultures are not uncontaminated, they have learned from the western world. Are they not allowed to use ideas or inventions of other people? It’s a global world and many of us are not pure anything…where do we fit in? Must we always be afraid to learn from others, must we only think and stay in the boxes where we have been placed? (K)

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    1. These are good points. I spent many years at university writing essays and papers on ideas of cultural hybridity and how we draw ideas from many and varied sources.
      The arguments of the aboriginal man had many holes it’s true. I didn’t really go into them in my post but one that struck me at the time was how he plays the didgeridoo at a local yoga class for people to meditate to! The fact that class is mostly filled with white women and that yoga and meditation have come from Indian cultures seems to have escaped his attention. 🙂
      Like I said in the post, I reached a point where I couldn’t be bothered arguing with him any more.
      At the same time his attitude did make me question myself on a very deep level and I will write some more on the subject soon. Thanks for sharing your insight Kerfe. I love your last sentence. Says it all really. – Suzanne

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  6. Wow, Suzanne, what a powerful piece you’ve written here. I love it written in third person; it’s very effective in creating distance from yourself, yet delving deep into the experience at the same time. It brings tears to my eyes, actually, the conflict with the aboriginal man, and then the character’s realization that she has been guilty of cultural appropriation, and we can all relate, because we’ve all done it. She is shaken by the incident, but it brings about a change in her perceptions, and an understanding of the other culture and herself as well. I love that the character is ready to move on to a new way of being, to become unstuck, to learn and to grow. It’s really amazing what you do here! I’ll be so happy to link this to my next prose piece on August 14. Thank you for sharing this deep piece about yourself, but also about everyone and their struggles. xx

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    1. Thanks Cathy. I agree with you about writing in the third person though it seems to have caused confusion in some readers.
      My post has garnered some great comments and I feel like I want to write a follow up piece. As your blog and your prose post was the catalyst I feel like I would link to a follow up to your blog. It would give continuity. Your insightful blog about travel and ways of blogging about experience in an honest way is a breath of fresh air on WordPress. I guess I will link my follow up to your prose challenge but I am open to suggestions from you if you feel it would tie in with any of your other writings themes. Please let me know what you think. – Suzanne

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t worry, Suzanne, your temporarily confused readers will figure it out soon enough. You should most definitely write a follow-up piece if you feel so inspired, and feel free to link to mine. I think whatever sets your heart afire is certain to set your readers’ hearts afire as well!

        Thank you so much for your kind words; I’ve been trying to figure out how to make blogging more interesting for myself, as I was boring myself to tears with what I was doing. I still bore myself, but at least now I can challenge myself with some variety. I think linking to the prose challenge is best, unless you’re writing specifically about call to place, anticipation & preparation, the journey, or returning home. Or if you’re showcasing mainly photography. 🙂 I look forward to reading more of your thoughtful posts.

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      2. Thanks for explaining your various challenges. Sometimes I need to have things spelled out to me like that. My eyesight means I sometimes find reading online hard. Short, concise bits of information work well for my old addled brain – 🙂
        I will write a piece and send you the link as your blog writing is the catalyst. There’s no need to link it to the prose challenge if you feel it doesn’t fit.
        I like what you are doing on your blog and can relate to feeling bored to tears about some blog writing. It is so easy to skim the surface and write for the reader ( or what we feel the reader wants to hear from us). It’s a very demanding form of writing – one that doesn’t necessarily lead to quality writing. I applaud your efforts to take it all a bit deeper.

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      3. Thanks so much, Suzanne. It makes me happy that I can provide any kind of inspiration, as I so often feel uninspired myself. When others are inspired, and write something meaningful and relatable, then I’m also inspired to push myself as well. It’s a circle of inspiration. By the way, here is my page that tells about my “invitations.” I prefer to call them that rather than challenges, I don’t know why. Maybe because challenge feels more like a competition where invitation sounds more like a community-gathering. https://wanderessence.com/invitation-monthly-calendar/

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      4. I did write another post but didn’t link to your site as it doesn’t fit with any of your prompts. Thanks again for the inspiration to write in the third person. It really helps sometimes 🙂

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  7. This is an issue I have long tangled with too – cultural appropriation. A very thoughtful and timely essay, Suzanne. Also very resonant is the response of using a stranger’s angry assault as a means to begin a phase of self-examination that in turn leads to a grateful liberation. Thank you.

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      1. I so admire the way you have turned a horrible incident to something you can grow and learn from. Sometimes ‘the enemies’ on the path are our biggest teachers, aren’t they, though it’s a tough confrontation all ends up.

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  8. You raise a very significant issue in this story, Suzanne. I plan to write a post on my blog about this very issue, but in the meantime I recommend some research on the Wiradjuri word – yindyamarra. It means, in simple terms, respect, but a lot more is involved. I believe the Koori in your story was acting from a place of deep anger and fear, and was actually not prepared to listen or understand the woman. He was wrong to do that, and many First Nation people welcome our desire to learn more about them. They simply ask us to be yindyamarra. It’s worth a google search.

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    1. It is a true story Jim and.happened to me about a month ago. Many aboriginal people here want to share their knowledge but there is still much suspicion and anger in some. I happened to be the one that man took it all out on. It had a profound effect on me that I am still processing. Now that I have opened up and told the story I will be able to write more on the issues it raises .

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      1. I think I was coming from the position you suggest. You are a new reader on my blog. I have written many posts on my harmonious and educational experiences with the local aboriginal people, the Gunditj tribes. It also true this recent encounter bought up some issues for me. As I said previously, issues I am still processing and will write about in the future.

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