Utako Shindo
Entry #2


My second attempt to climb Mt. Bogong was accompanied by Madelynne, the woman who is believed to be guarded by the mountain spirits. She is extremely capable and equipped contemporarily, and at the same time she stays along side nature humbly and closely. In the mountain, the way she sat on the log appeared to me as being almost a mountain spirit itself, or a hermit who lives with the spirit.

It is known that the mountain was originally called Warkawoolowler, meaning the mountain where people collected the Bogong moth in Waywurru and Dhudhuroa languages. The current name is after the word Bugung, meaning the brown moth in Dhudhuroa language. In continuation of this context, we followed the track, which would have traced how the aboriginal people had travelled to feast the bogong moths on the peak. Or it has always been the path drawn by the wind since the beginning. The evening before our walk was indeed memorably windy.

While climbing Mt. Bogong, I and Madelynne discovered that both of us like the Japanese animation film, called Totoro (my neighbor Totoro), which depicts the wind as the sign of the spirit passing through the places. In fact, it is considered to be highly appropriate for this form of art, images in motion, to embody ‘what animates the world’. Well, how much do I understand what animate the world?

We walked along the track right up to the rocky area just before the peak, where the cloud and the snow let me cease from looking for the sites: one is supposed to be a key site to an aboriginal people (eg. some say that there are hand prints on the granite) and another is reported to be a moth aestivation site. Instead, we were presented something different, but perhaps similarly awe-inspiring: the seas of mountains, which made me imagine the crowd of the bogong moth flying towards us from the far far away. There presence were held less than a half hour as the cloud cover quickly came to the point where we were. Yet I was left with such a strong impression that the transference of the atmosphere leads the transformation of the place.

Something else also happened in this sacred mountain, called bogong, which in the local Jaimathang language is believed to also mean big-fella. The site of an event was inside of me, as I felt drawing back to my childhood, by being fascinated with ephemeral and intangible things that kept moving around me. In trying to capture them with my extended ears (Zoom 4Hn and Rode NTG1) and eyes (Canon D5 Mark2), my being was becoming absorbed into the shifting nature. Simultaneously, my body was slowly emptied for something else (external) to enter into it. It came through the unaccountable shadow-light plays, and through the indecipherable silence between the sounds of leaves and creeks.

I was not entirely surprised when I noticed myself bleeding like how the white gum tree drips its juices. Though it was early for my usual cycle, a clue might be found in the full moon night three days ago after my first visit to Mt. Bogong where I had experienced an intense ascending and descending. Or, it can be seen as an experiential metaphor for the ‘first’ period, entering into the womanhood from a childhood. In any cases, I was reminded the fact that my body embraces a hollow which is regularly filled and emptied, being ready for a new form to emerge. I wondered if a link can be made between this cycle and the life cycle of an insect: how a larva (the active immature form of an insect) becomes a pupa (inactive immature form of an insect), then metamorphosing to be an adult insect (or moth in this context).

Here let me note the transformative deviation between words, images and sounds by making a link between the ancient-medieval Japan, Greece and Rome. Larva literally meant ‘ghost’ in the medieval Latin, denoting a disembodied spirit or ghost. The Greek word psyche meant both ‘soul’ and ‘pupa’ in the ancient time. It deviated into the Latin word anima, which indicates the spiritual emergence in a hollow. And from this anima, the Latin word imago, which means both image and adult insects, originates. In the ancient time of Japan, there was a sacred bell, worn by Shasrman, called Sanagi, which contained a hollow (utsu, also meaning empty) to mediate transferring of ‘what is to come’ (spirits, gods or unknown information). The world sanagi also means even today, ‘pupa’ in Japan. I found it fascinating how these words are themselves metamorphosing between images and sounds while they indicate such phenomena that prompts multi-modal transferring from one to another.

At this point of residency, I have not seen any bogong moths in real (and likely I will not see them as the timing is a little earlier than their migration season). Yet I have seen the signs of their coming in shadows of trees and in contours of mountains. I have witnessed the boundless sea of the mountains which showed an image of the crowd of moths nearing to me. They have been captured to be audio-visual materials with which I can now start working, and joining images and sounds together. I hope that something will emerge from them, like how imago would fly out quietly. I also expect that in the process of making artwork, my body would embody a life again while it will be metamorphosed into… something perhaps I cannot know at this point yet.

Speaking of my body, this morning it felt emptier than yesterday, almost like being an ecdysis. My soul floated and drifted, bit like a worried fire, looking for somewhere to land. Since all the footages and sound recordings are still digitally stored inside of the hard disk, my soul, instead, temporarily dwelled in the pieces of granite, leaves, barks and stones that I have collected since I started the residency. They are most simple fragments of natural life, which not only reminds us the beauty and the wonder of the world, but actually embodies and holds them. I thought that feeling emptied never be easy but worthwhile if it saves for the life’s metamorphosis and the art’s transformation, for embodying the world that is beautiful and wonderful.

Soon after, I received a message from the hermit lady who wrote in recalling our walk that “how wonderful our world is when we allow nature to exist alongside us”. So I replied, “It is so true that the wonder of the world is in the nature with us.” I then pondered with thoughts: if ‘what animates the world’ would distinguish us and nature, especially in the context of this land whose original people obtain quite different and distinct words, images and sounds. I have just began to learn the indigenous culture here but I hope to be able to touch on it in my next blog entry.

For now, I shall close this entry by introducing the lyrics of the song, Path of the wind, from our favorite film, Totoro. The relics is by Hayao Miyazaki who, the director of the film, who has insistingly expressed and claimed ‘co-living’ between human and nature for the last 40 years. To me, the music carries a sense of romantic wonder, a sense of awe with spirits in nature, and a sense of care and love for others. And I would like to think that all of these sensitivities form the base of ‘human-nature’.

Path of the wind
(music: Joe Hisaishi & lyrics: Hayao Miyazaki)

森の奥で生まれた風が 原っぱにひとり立つ楡の木
フワリかすりやって来た あれは風のとおり道
The wind born in the depths of a forest
softly came skirting an elm tree
standing alone in the filed
That is the the path of the wind

森の奥で生まれた風が 見えない手さしのべて麦の穂
フワリかすめあたなの髪を 揺らして通り過ぎていく
The wind born in the depths of a forest
held out its invisible hand
softly skirting barley
and passed by your hair

はるかな地 旅行く風 道しるべ
ひとり行く あなたに贈る髪の飾り
The wind on a journey to the boundless land is a guide post
or a hair ornament for you walking alone.