Our landscapes have a practical element that can’t be denied. They respond to and reflect back the physical forces of nature—drought, storms and temperatures certainly all have their impact on the health of the land.
But we sometimes forget that nature seems to have spiritual influences, a fact that native cultures still recognize.
In southeast Australia in 2010, after a decade-long drought, the country’s greatest river basin, the Murray-Darling, dried up. Climate change, the use of the Murray and Darling Rivers for irrigation and power production, and the destruction of lagoons, wetlands and forests had all taken their toll on the basin.
That’s when aboriginal elders decided to take matters into their own hands. The Ngarrindjeri people, a nation of 18 tribes, traveled the length of the basin for two weeks, performing the Murrundi Ruwe Pangari Ringbalin (River Country Spirit Ceremony) at various sacred places, hoping to dance the spirit back into the land and heal the waters. The result was the largest flood surge in a hundred years.
The Ringbalin has been performed every year since 2010, and today there is water again at the mouth of the Murray River. As Ngarrindjeri elder Major Sumner implies at the end of the short video below, perhaps there are times when the land needs us to give it not only a practical respect, but a little spiritual appreciation, as well.