002 Being Invited by Derbarl Yerrigan: Why imagination is vital

19 August 2019

We would like to acknowledge that this walk takes place on and with Noongar Country, in what is also now known as Perth, Western Australia, and with Derbarl Yerrigan, in what is also now known as the Swan River. 

It was a crisp morning, and the sky was blue. Standing in the sunshine felt nice, almost needed with the cold air of the morning. Derbarl Yerrigan greeted us quietly today. No gusts of wind, no high tide, no waves, and no bubbles. Instead, she was understated. Her surface was smooth, with the slightest of rhythmic ripples. 

When we arrived at the river, we sat on the wall, with feet dangling, watching the smooth surface. We waited for an invitation. The invitation this week was hard to hear and difficult to notice, but we waited. Waiting is something we need to practice. Waiting makes room for invitations.  It took a while, but it was a feather that first caught our attention. A small white feather was bobbing on the water’s surface. While sitting on the wall we wondered together about these feathers. Where were all of these feathers coming from and why were they here? 

We walked along the river, noticing feathers and picking them up, out of the water. There were different sizes and kinds of feathers. We wondered who they belonged to and if they were from Silver Gull? This was an invitation from Derbarl Yerrigan and feathers. This invitation had us looking around and call for Silver Gull. Where was she today? Would she be visiting us?

The small group of children did various things on this walk. Some walked along the edge of Derbarl Yerrigan, a few sat on the ledge looking through binoculars watching Maali, Pacific Black Duck, and Australian Shelduck, one gathered shells, a few looked and made sounds into the sewer drains, and some walked through the clear and sometimes mucky water, splashing. Soon gumboots were taken off. We wonder, how was Derbarl Yerrigan inviting this group of children? Which children were open to her invitations? 

Derbarl Yerrigan invited a few of the girls to examine Moon Jelly jellyfish. With the end of a feather, one child poked jellyfish, turned jellyfish, and carried jellyfish. I asked if they thought jellyfish was dead or alive? I wasn’t trying to find out their knowledge about the jellyfish, but was curious to know if they would have been handling jellyfish like this if he was alive. I asked,

“How do you know if jellyfish are alive, dead, or hurt?”

I wondered: 

How do children know? Why might this matter? Should it matter? 

I have so many questions. What might happen if we were to imagine otherwise? I asked two of the children if they thought jellyfish had a good life, out in the river? They shrugged their shoulders. I think we need to imagine good relations. I think this is why I tried asking different kinds of questions about jellyfish. 

But the question that I couldn’t quite shake was, why not care for jellyfish or try to put jellyfish back out to Derbarl Yerrigan? 

Child-Jellyfish Relations 

Children were moving, holding, covering, and bathing jellyfish. They were imagining and finding a home for jellyfish, a rock decorated in algae with nooks for jelly to fit in, and digging a bath for jelly to be cleaned after being sprinkled with or dropped in the sand. Though, her actual home is Derbarl Yerrigan. How might children and jellyfish be in good relation? How does this kind of play make room for good relations?

Educators were able to tell me that they find two kinds of jellyfish; clear ones and brown ones. But what else would be good to know about jellyfish? What is jellyfish in Noongar language? Are there any Noongar stories about jellyfish? How might new or different kinds of knowledges and histories help us to situate Derbarl Yerrigan invitations? What kinds of knowledges are needed to help us be in good relations with each other?

Water Stories/Memories

Our water story and memories from today’s walk were again collected and are stored in a jar. How might keeping/displaying these jars at the centre develop our relations with Derbarl Yerrigan? What/whose stories are shared and what/whose memories are recalled when the jars are used as a provocation?

2 Replies to “002 Being Invited by Derbarl Yerrigan: Why imagination is vital”

  1. One of the children made a path from the little pool of water to the river and said that it’s for the jellyfish to go to its mummy and daddy.

    1. What these words remind me, again and again, are that children have these relations with the world, but so often they get overlooked (or thought of as simply ‘child’s play’). But these relations matter. We have much to learn by focusing on children’s relations with water, jellyfish, silver gulls, shells, etc., and water, jellyfish, silver gulls, shells, etc. relations with children.

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