October 20, 2017

Songlines of the Heart



Some dozen years ago, I learned about the Native Australian songlines, the dreaming tracks that range across the long red land. They are a beautiful way for people to travel, but they are also a sacred gift and duty. The Creators first walked the world, singing it and all its life forms into existence, and now people must sing them on without ceasing in order to keep the world alive.

A songline maps the way ahead, but as such it is also inherently the way that has been. It is future and past interwoven. I have been thinking lately about how each of us must surely have private songlines through our own hearts. The ways we have been guide us to the ways we might move within ourselves, through the dreaming and the wishing, both remembering and creating as we go.

I've long believed that our names can encapsulate our heart-songs, except that we have the strange custom of letting others name us before they even know us, and then abiding by those names whether we like them or not. If I had my way, I'd be like the Kesh in Ursula le Guin's Always Coming Home, changing my name like a change in the rhythm of a song, to echo where I was within myself at a particular time. Only my name wouldn't just be a sound but a movement also - perhaps a swaying hand, a pointing of the foot.

These days, I am not Sarah. I am travelling a way I have gone before, a richer and more quiet way through bark-shadow and leaf-stained light - a way I first walked as a child in the forest, on the breast of an old hill. My name, my songline, for now is slow and it meanders around trees, like a bunyip's ancient, sad dream. It has fairytales in its consonants and owl feathers between words. I am a woman walking; I am a shadow on a hill where I never step again; I am a treeshadow and what the trees saw of me.

And another day I might take a different way. There is a song for that too. Always, our hearts are singing, and the world is singing of us.