As the deep green reflections merge with the purple greys of mud and decaying branches, my kayak edges in beneath this majestic Water Gum Tree. Above is fresh foliage in the new canopy as the rains have come, after a year of harsh drought and all are grateful. In front of me is a gnarled, twisted and arched limb (or is it trunk) shaped and thickened over generations of surging flood waters. The River caresses me with its gentle, bobbing movement as I intermingle within riparian habitat. I am with Tree and River and the gifts are given and etched in a moment and felt deeply in my heart.

These feelings I have, are only a hint at the depths of what First Nations feel so very deeply towards their significant cultural connections on Country. I thank them deeply; the Bundjalung, Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl nations here in Northern NSW, and who have offered me glimpses of their depth of knowledge and care for Country.

I am part of a small and fluid group of friends, artists, musicians and makers called ‘Hopeful Disruptions’. The core group are four people: Deborah Taylor, a painter and Gumbaynggirr/Bundjalung woman, Will Rodgers, sound ecologist, cheesemaker and musician, Tracy Pateman a silversmith and small metalworker, and myself, drawing and installation artist. We do as much on-ground regeneration works that focus on weed control, seed gathering and supporting regrowth work with deep conversations around this beautiful landscape that in turn inspires our creative making. There is not one without the other.

This group came about during a phone conversation when two of us (Tracy and me) were lamenting the terrible state of the river bank. We couldn’t see how two people, with only a pair of secateurs, could make much difference to the 100 kilometres of weed-infested and eroded riverbank between us that is the Clarence River. There is a slow and dreadful relationship between weed infestation and mature native tree loss. The weed vines engulf and smother even the tallest and oldest trees. The vines catch debris during floods, this creates resistance to the water flow, so that the tree and surrounding vegetation is pulled away from the bank by the strength of the water, leading to large, scalloped areas of erosion. The loss of trees along the bank and throughout the catchment has led to faster and more dangerous floods and lower water quality. We felt a responsibility to do something about the loss of these important old trees but making art alone is not enough. From this discussion we became committed to aligning our creative practice with practical on-ground works that focus on weed control, and seed gathering from these original old trees.

Hopeful Disruptions have been offered a place at the RAD x Earth Canvas in September, 2024 with regenerative farmers. Included in our Hopeful Band are two Regenerative farming practitioners: Barbara Linley and Jane Beattie. We are all very excited and slightly overwhelmed by this very awesome opportunity.

Our group will create a coherent, multidisciplinary body of work that expresses the key tenets of regenerative farming in a way that ignites curiosity and is targeted at farming families. Our work will focus on biodiversity and ecology, waterflows and soils, and the creative and symbiotic relationship between humans and country. Through our creative engagement with the whole farm ecology, including non-human farm animals and vegetation, we seek a deep understanding of how regenerative farming techniques align with natural systems and patterns. We will investigate the relationship between the long-range stewardship of Country by its Traditional Owners and contemporary regenerative farming techniques. How exciting and what a dynamic springboard of creativity, conversations, and learning.

Meanwhile back home, I stay real and grounded as I keep chopping back the fast weed growth and grasses, protecting the native sedges and regrowth like the Callistemon baby tree, new Black Bean babies, the sandpaper figs stoic in their new horizontal placement post-flood, and planting lots of Forest Red Gums for the hardy flood resistant growth.

During my visits down the steep slope to the River, particularly early morning I often see the small heads of turtles, small fish and the ripples of plopping sounds of mullet. The dawn chorus, the wrens and quails are really a treat for me. The critters are curious if you are quiet and still, and come closer. So much that nature offers us is a glimpse into life and its lessons. Embrace it and care for it, as we need nature more than nature needs us.

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