Updated: Jul 5, 2021
I’ve spoken before about my experiences of cultural immersion in a beautiful place called Santa Teresa in the Northern Territory. After short visits in 2015 and 2016, I’d developed an appreciation for aboriginal culture, something that was lacking in my education in the 70s. It wasn’t until my stay in 2018 that I found a deep understanding.
I’d heard the stories and thought I understood the spirit of the community. I thought I had listened well. It’s amazing how the spirit moves to make us hear better. Something happened to me in 2018 that forced me to stop and listen.
Leading up to that trip, I’d had some internal battles – issues I didn’t address and chose to swallow whole. Then, while walking in a region known for it's stories and superstitions, where the local aboriginal healer would pick the bush she used for smoking ceremonies, I slid on a gravelly decline and my body broke. My tibia snapped and fibula shattered with a spiral fracture, displacing my whole ankle joint. So the internal brokenness I had ignored, was now a brokenness matched by my outer body.
I wrote a story about my stay in Alice Springs Hospital that was published in eMagazine, SheSociety in September 2018 (https://shesociety.com.au/news/alice-and-georgy-pleased-to-meet-you/)
Part of that story was about Georgy, an aboriginal man down the hospital corridor who yelled morning and night, sometimes at 3am for ‘help’ and ‘water’, other times he’d just scream. He’d yell in his own language and when the nurse came to help, Georgy would tell her to eff off.
On day four, when they wheeled me to surgery, I recognized Georgy’s grey beard after passing his room the night I arrived. But this time I saw him in a wheelchair, his bare feet on the cold shiny floor. He was parked at the end of the corridor, where an enormous plate glass window yielded a stunning view of the McDonnell Ranges. During my 6-day stay in Alice Springs Hospital, the only time Georgy was silent was when his wheelchair was parked in front of that window, staring at the mountain range. In those seconds when I passed Georgy, I heard his stillness, his inner deep listening and yearning for country. It was then that I stopped and listened with him. Some of the greatest lessons can be learnt in a few fleeting seconds.
He had probably never set eyes on me, but in that moment I connected with Georgy.
In a reflection by Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr, she speaks of Dadirri (pronounced da-did-ee), an aboriginal word meaning inner deep listening and quiet, still awareness. I know now that Georgy was practicing Dadirri – listening to the spirit speaking through the land, that same land he longed to feel under his feet, to bring him peace. If only we could all practice Dadirri, we could as a nation learn with our first people, inner deep listening. To listen deeply is to connect.
Experience the peace and beauty of Dadirri for yourself by following this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tow2tR_ezL8
[Names were changed in “Alice and Georgy, Pleased to Meet You”, to protect the privacy of those in my story. Even Mr Ed’s name was changed to ‘Kev’ – Kevin Costner, of course. For that explanation, refer to my blog – Quills and Cowboys.]