by Sue Edwards
the surprise and honour of having a wombat touch its nose to the tip of
my boot while spending my quiet time near the edge of the bush at Moora
Moora (an intentional community on Melbournes outskirts), I felt
it must be my totem and a worthy mirror from nature.
Wombat was a Common Wombat, Vombatus Ursinus, whose home ground covers
most of Victoria east of Melbourne, a strip inland from the coast and
about half way up New South Wales, as well as the whole of Tasmania, with
a few pockets elsewhere near South Australia and north of Newcastle. it
is a protected species. Before Europeans came to this land, wombats
range probably extended further west into South Australia and right up
NSW into Queensland near Brisbane. These areas happen to cover most of
the parts of this country that I am strongly drawn to. The Common Wombat
has short, stubby but very powerful legs with broad claws which it uses
for digging and a broad behind but very bad eyesight. It has strong front
arms, sometimes glossy dark hair, and prominent front teeth,
but I really think thats as far as I want to go with the physical
analogy, and I may already have pointed out too much!
I searched the Biological Abstracts, as I do like to dig things
out, but found that most of the information was too technical except for
the interesting facts that wombats have occasionally been found in suburban
Melbourne, they like to eat mainly native grasses as well as bark, rushes
and roots, and they prefer to burrow in areas with sandy soil. I have
always loved digging, once aspiring to be an archaeologist, and am currently
digging out the soil from the back room of my house. I have chosen a very
sandy place for my home and for a while I have felt a very strong yearning
to get my hands in the earth. I have decided to honour this call and am
going to pursue it by doing a Permaculture Design Course and enhancing
my garden rather than by plowing through fences and making farmers angry.
Perhaps though I do have, or have had a tendency to like pushing barriers
which is sometimes constructive but sometimes not appropriate for the
context and thus not appreciated. Other times it may not be appreciated
simply because people find it challenging.
Wombats on the one hand tend to be shy and nocturnal. They are also certainly
strong and persistent. Persistence can sometimes border on stubbornness
and both are qualities that I own, the former in particular having seemed
vital for me in responding to the challenges of my life experience. But
if, as Peter Cock says in his paper (1996:6), mirrors from nature are
more likely to be a message about what participants need to work
on to move forward...or to face a troublesome pattern indicated,
then I am drawn towards other insights such as the one above about barriers.
From this perspective I am alerted to remember that I am strong. I think
deep down I know it, but often tend to forget it or doubt it. Perhaps
I sometimes even subconsciously prefer to forget my strength
because I still tend to hide a little bit and dont perhaps want
the responsibility of being strong.
The other important thing that I learn from exploring the nature of Wombat
is the importance of place. According to French (2002), wombats
have an excellent sense of place and can find the best place
in a garden often better than we can, and to do as well as they we need
to use our intuition not just our observation. The latter is a good point,
but I think even more important than using intuition, for me in my life
at the moment, is concentrating on building my sense of place.
Reardon talks of wombats following well-worn paths to spend time at their
favourite sits. I feel that I need this in the simple sense
of needing a routine in my life that takes me to places for which I feel
a strong sense of affinity, having left work recently to pursue my heartfelt
But on an even broader and deeper level I have been struggling with feelings
of being displaced and not really belonging here since I spent nine months
in Asia and thought that I would have a partner, a family, the work and
lifestyle of my dreams in Nepal. I had a very deep affinity for the place
but the overall plan did not work out. I think I still feel grief about
it and have not fully let go.
I have a friend here who when I talk about my yearnings for overseas tells
me We need you here. Perhaps Wombat is calling me back home
to find my path and my place here in this country. I am also drawn to
spend more time just sitting in nature here, and being with it and remembering
that I do love it, and I intend to follow this.
For more information on wombats, go to:
Cock, Peter H. (1996), Ecological Practice for Nature Carers: Work
in Progress, Paper presented to the Social Ecology Colloquium: Sense
of Place: Depth Perspectives on Australian Landscapes and Environmental
Values, University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury, Dec. 1996.
French, Jackie (2002) Diary of a Wombat. Pymble, N.S.W: Angus&Robertson.