SHARE, HOLD, KNOW by Kirli Saunders

Illustration of a person with grey hair hugging a person with long black hairOn the eve of being an Aunty, my Nan and Great Aunt – two of our strongest, have been unwell. So, I’ve been sitting with them as time folds, listening to their stories, hearing them as they pass over the pieces I need to carry for now and always. I memorise the tips and tricks, and hear the hardships they’ve overcome. I categorise the knowledge into parts ‘to share’, ‘to hold’, ‘to know’.

These visits have left me with a lot of lonely car rides, and contemplations of my role as a Matriarch in our family. On the silent drives up and down the coast and over the mountains, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a Dad-Sis, another Mother to a little one.

As trees blur into one another, I picture my own Mum, how we’ve inherited her strength, and that of her Nan and so on. I ponder how we could raise a child in this world like she/they did. I ask her questions, and likewise, store her wisdom as share | hold | know. 

I’ve been wondering how I might raise my own daughter – whose name has been gifted by a bird. I’ve been dreaming of ways to keep her strong, and ancestrally grounded, dreaming of ways to remind her that she was carved from Mother Earth and embodies Mother’s creative ferocity, her intuition, beauty, power and calm. I’ve been finding ways to ensure that her sisters, cousins and brothers know all of this of themselves too.

As I round blind corners, I wonder if the babies in our family will be born as storytellers, medicine people, healers, creators, change makers, and leaders, or if they’d watch our family and grow into themselves. I think that I’d love them even if they didn’t. I know that our love is grounded in things other than what is done. That Mob’s love is founded in gratitude for a spirit, no matter its embodiment or action.

I watch the world pass and witness the bodies of spirits everywhere- trees, birds, creatures, people. I wonder how many lives they’ve lived, how old they are, what stories and truths they carry. I say their names in language, greet them and thank them for being on this path, for shaping mine today.

I shave the headland and return to my Brother and the little spirit en route. I mouth baby’s name and tell the Old People I can’t wait to meet him soon. I picture them bringing him to us safely, I picture the women singing him.

And in those moments on the road, between the joy of a new arrival, and the inevitable loss of our loved ones in the process of cyclical incarnation – I’m overcome.

As I weep, I make promises to our babies and to every Matriarch that has come before us.

I pledge that like them, I will share the wisdom and stories, handed down through the ages, the language words, with which to speak to Country and all of her spirits and the awareness that we are one with them all. I’ll share the Dreaming, as it was told to me, so that our babies can be true to Mother, themselves and Community, so that their hearts can be full.

I promise that like Nan and Aunt and Mum, I will hold the parts of our history that have harmed, so our babies don’t have to. The stories, not meant to fall on ears and the space for our bubs to grow without hesitation or fears.

I vow that like our Ancestors, I will know deeply, the ways that we are birthed from, live for and return to Mother Earth. I vow that I will live in alignment with my own Dreaming, so that I can keep change making, storytelling, healing and creating, laying down a path so that our young ones know the way.

I smile knowing that our Old People have always known the way, knowing that like them, I am a Matriarch, shaping stones for little feet to fall softly.

Kirli Saunders is a proud Gunai Woman and award-winning international writer of poetry, plays and picture books. She is a teacher, cultural consultant and artist. In 2020, Kirli was named the NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year. Kirli created Poetry in First Languages, delivered by Red Room Poetry. Her works include The Incredible Freedom Machines, Kindred and forthcoming Bindi (Magabala Books). Kirli is the inaugural winner of the WA Premiers, Daisy Utemorrah Award and the University of Canberra ATSI Poetry prize (2019). She is an esteemed judge for the 2020 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and QPF Val Vallis Award 2020. 



© Kirli Saunders 2020

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