Friday, October 9, 2009

Song Lines


Song Lines

Out looking for whales
this morning
I thought about
Song Lines

Song Lines
are an ancient
cultural concept and motif
of the Australian Aboriginals


which are perpetuated through
oral lore
and story telling modalities
such as dance and painting


The song lines are an intricate series
of song cycles
that identify landmarks -
a subtle tracking mechanism
for navigation


 Our eye followed
the arc of white wash
across the bay


to where it ended
at the yacht
in the distance


and as we looked
an enormous tail fluke
rose out of the water


To the Aboriginals
all land is sacred and alive
the ancestors gave them singing
gave them life through song
and dwell in the land still


the song must be continually sung
to keep the land alive


the singing preserves the land
the story
the dreaming of their ancestors
and recreates it
in their oneness
of past
and future


song lines were used
to navigate vast distances
through the deserts
of the Australian interior,
over hundreds of kilometres
of varied terrain
and lands of many different
tribal groups
with different languages
and cultural traditions


song lines often followed ridge lines
and that is where
much of the sacred Aboriginal art is located
Sometimes they followed valleys
where water is more easily found


We leave the bay
to sit in the coffee shop
overlooking this beautiful tree


which may be a crepe myrtle


then fortified
we make our way back
and low and behold


a group


a family of travellers
resting in the calm waters
of the bay


making their way southwards
down the coast
of Queensland
to New South Wales

and beyond...


 look how close
the family group is
to the boat


 In 1987 Bruce Chatwin
wrote a book
entitled Song Lines
which tells very beautifully
of these ancient sung
highways and byways
of the Australian continent


with whale sightings
we walk up the road
to my friend's home


Bruce Chatwin says:

The labyrinth of individual pathways
which meander all over Australia
are known to Europeans
as dreaming tracks or Song Lines
-to the Aboriginals
as the Footprints of the Ancestors
or the Way of the Law...

The Whales,
I have learned,
seem to have their own
heritage of song lines
that are sung
from one pole to another

and heard over great distances
the whale communities
and maintaining group identities...

of time
of place
of the land
of peoples
of the oceans



  1. The wisdom of the aboriginals and the wisdom of whales is doubtless unfathomable. You've had some great success seeing whales of late. Are they Humpbacks?

    Sing on!

  2. Hi there Dan

    yes they are humpbacks and all on the move southwards back to Antarctica...and a good meal when they arrive to break their three month fast...

    And yes, both the whale songs and the aboriginal songs are ancient and mysterious...

    Happy days

  3. This is so much in tune (no pun intended) with what I've been mulling over today, how the ability to sing in any situation is perhaps the greatest expression of freedom. This post brings me to a different angle and emphasis within the substance and purpose of song.

    In the college Reading class that I teach, we've been reading The Pearl by Steinbeck, which ties in with this theme as well. The Song of the Family, the music of The Pearl of the World, the Song of Evil all thread through the narrative, subtly, mysteriously.

    We both live in beautiful places, but seeing your photos so makes me miss the ocean.

  4. Hi Polly

    this singing of the songlines is interesting as a form of history telling, keeping history alive, a transmission of information and of culture, as a way of honouring the ancestors, of keeping the land alive and a means of passing on to the next generation the laws, beliefs and mores of the people ...

    thanks for coming over and sharing your very interesting observations Polly

    Happy days

  5. When I started reading this, I immediately thought of Bruce Chatwin's Songlines. My favourite of his books.

    I find the idea of oral history so fascinating. Maybe because we are fast losing the technique and the love of storytelling. We don't take the time anymore and that is so sad.

    And how amazing to get such sightings of the whales.

  6. Hi Violet

    I'm glad you are familiar with this lovely book. It is a long time since I have read it. I will have to read it again...

    We do a lot of it here through this medium don't we... Of the past and that is a good thing...

    Happy days

  7. Another idyllic post, Delwyn. Thank you. :)

    I saw whales only once, years ago in Hawaii, and it is an experience I will never forget.

  8. ooh, great photos Delwyn, particularly the whales.

  9. The Aboriginals's cultural traditions are similar to the traditions of the American Indian here...who also believe all land is sacred and alive...both being the original inbabitants of each of our countries...and both so in tune with nature and song.

    Whales and the mystery of their far reaching songs and travels have been of interest to me. Glad they were in your camera's view Delwyn!

    Smiles Always,

  10. Thank you Willow

    there is something very magical and mysterious about the great is always exciting to see a spout...

    Happy days

  11. Hi Gleaner

    thanks, all I want for now is a nice close up...I may be lucky...

    Happy days

  12. Hello Wanda

    Yes I can see that you are right in those respects...and unfortunately both displaced by the colonists...

    I am going out around the headland most days so am hopeful of more sightings while they all make their way southwards...

    Happy days

  13. Delwyn: A lovely interlacing of two types of songs. Very informative! Have you ever walked a song line? Are you walking one alongside the ocean?

    The colour of the water by the shore is so beautiful.

    And the whales! They came to reward you for your persistence and faith that they would come.

    Isn't it amazing how we are so enthralled and excited by the tiniest flower to these immense creatures that hold so many secrets. What a world. How blessed we are!

    I so appreciate your opening up 'pages', 'lines', 'songs', ways of the world I would not otherwise see.

  14. Great shots of the whales...I would loved to have been there!

  15. I so enjoy your photos of the ocean and whales. I haven't been to the sea since I moved to Colorado. I didn't think that I missed it - but seeing your photos makes me think that I should visit again.

    I like the analogy between people's songlines and whale songlines.

  16. What a stark contrast your world and mine are. I see the blue water and weep over the beauty. I see snow outside my window and icicles clinging to the trees and rooflines, which could be even more wonderful to behold if I had those bulbs planted in the ground already. :)
    You have a wonderful way of expressing yourself.
    Thanks for the lesson on songlines.

  17. Oh What a wonderful world!
    I am totally enchanted by the two types of song lines. How lovely and interesting!! When I was doing the Cousteau series, for the first time I read about the Australian Aboriginals in the volume of Australia. But no song lines there. The beautiful blue sea, whales, pink crepe myrtles and the yacht's trail! Nature offers her bounty in your country!! And I love the way you tell it to us!! Thank you for sharing all these beautiful photos!!

  18. I am thinking 'Free Willy', nature is amazing and beautiful isn't it? Thank you for sharing, had another lovely walk.

  19. I am always in learning mode when I come to your blog. How fascinating the story of the songlines by the Aboriginals of the area..something I have never heard. There is so much culture and lore out there that seems to meld within all of us. What a thrill to have seen the whales!

  20. I've been a bit under the weather but so happy to be back on your delightful walks.
    Your pictures are so wonderful and your narrative is so interesting.
    Sunny :)

  21. Hurrah! You saw them!! So exciting!! What a neat way to enfold all the info about songlines in your post. Very fascinating to learn about them! You expose me to so much new and always leave me wanting more :)

    What a treasure of a day you had!

  22. I love the concept of aboriginal song lines and the way your related that tradition to the whales. Well done.

  23. Hi Delwyn, I love your pictures of the blowing, breaching, singing whales and how you tied them into the story about song lines. I suspect there must be some emotional healing behind these stories and lines. Another day in paradise! xxox

  24. Good morning Margaret

    I love the way that stories and experiences are drawn together in the unconscious and seem to form together, melding of their own accord...the songs of the land and the songs of the oceans did just that...

    Happy days

  25. Hi Janie

    thanks. it just seem to fall in step...

    Happy days

  26. Hi Vicky

    thanks for being an enthusiastic audience...I love you for that...

    Happy days

  27. Hi Sunny

    I hope you are now feeling brighter...

    thanks for coming along on this very pleasant of walks...

    Happy days

  28. Hi Alicia

    I am too..I always do a bit of research before writing these stories so am learning something new every day....

    Happy days

  29. Hi gaia

    I'm glad you came along today...
    Nature is just wonderful..

    Happy days

  30. Sapphire

    Hi there...indeed what a wonderful world...

    I'm glad I have added something to your knowledge of Australia

    Happy days

  31. Hi Rosey

    Thanks for visiting today and sharing your world of bulbs and snow with me...
    thanks you for your kind words

    Happy days

  32. Hi KB

    The sea was so clear that morning I couldn't resist photographing through the greenish waves ...

    the whales songs and aboriginal songlines seem to have something in common...a perpetuation of connections and links...

    Happy days

  33. Hi Betsy

    I think of you all when I am walking and snapping the in a way you are...I am your eyes and ears..

    Happy days

  34. Hello Bonnie

    This area was inhabited by a number of aboriginal groups and it must have been a paradise for them...there remains an aboriginal community inland a few hours from here. The numbers have been decimated and the culture eroded by western influence and other indigenous peoples they have suffered terribly at the hand of European colonisation...

    You are right...from the teensy little wild violet on the dry path way to the mammoth whale and all creatures in between, they are wondrous...

    Happy days

  35. How wonderful to connect with the ancient song lines, oral histories that were known by all. We lost these connections.

  36. Why is it always the native peoples like aboriginals and native americans who have the most love, respect and care for the land-- the words are beautiful. so are the whales..

  37. Beautiful post.Great book this one, shame he died it would have been interesting to see what he did next.The Songlines I've always taken to be similar to Leylines.No wonder we're in trouble if not enough people are left to sing them.
    Whales know about these things which is why it is so criminal for them to be hunted for 'research' or any other reason.The whales you're seeing are I believe the same ones we see further down the coast in SA.So good to see that they are back in numbers to the place they were once hunted.

  38. Hi Elizabeth

    It was good and so was 'In Patagonia.'

    Yes these will be the same whales that migrate to and from the Antarctic, passing New Zealand too...
    We had a family from Dunedin for dinner during the week and they too see a few passing on their epic annual voyage...

    It is good to know that the numbers have increased significantly...

    Happy days

  39. Hello Donna

    They were more in tune with the natural world because they had not been distracted by modern life...and also their religion or spirituality was based upon a reverence for the land and its spirits...

    Happy days

  40. Hello Rosaria

    we have come from man made spiritual institutions rather than natural ones and the faith of technology and mechanization and have lost touch with the land and its inhabitants...

    Happy days

  41. Your ocean is so tropical looking, colorwise. Gorgeous!

  42. Delwyn
    What beautiful pictures! I cannot imagine being that close to whales-especially in a small boat or canoe.

  43. Wonders indeed - the lines of the surf, the lines of the boats, the lines of the whales, the lines of the leaf - all the sight lines and song lines of the Natural world right there in your photos. We all sing our songs so others may know the way.

  44. Hi Barb

    the more I hear from you Barb the more I feel that we are on the same line, on the same page, singing a similar song...loving each other's song...

    Happy days

  45. Hi tracy

    thank you ,
    we have a beautiful coastline and many wonders...the whales seem to know exactly where the boats are...

    Happy days

  46. Hi GW

    the ocean was particularly beautiful, transparent and green that day...

    Happy days

  47. The color of the ocean is the definition of aquamarine. It reminds me of the Caribbean.

    I'm glad you got to see whales!

  48. This is a beautiful moment for you and then to us. How fortunate we are to have this special beauty. The scope of the Song lines you discussed reached far into my soul in the totality of all of us interwoven together. I appreciate this post. It was beautiful.

  49. Hi Amy

    It was a very special day...

    Happy days

  50. Hi Jennifer

    thank you for your found a place in your heart ...

    Happy days


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