Welcome to this week’s editorial, New Years Eve 2020. Across the media platforms today are story after story of the year that was. For so many in our community it has been, to quote the Queen, an “Annus horribilis”. Each and all of us have our own stories, our own memories of what was. Rather than to drag all that back up and reopen wounds that are beginning to heal I would like to celebrate the twenty six Untold Eurobodallians who, in their own way, represent us all. This year has seen many in the community deservedly recognised for their efforts in their chosen roles. I would now like to pay tribute to the rest of the community who stepped up, who supported their families during the most difficult of times, who reached out to neighbours, who offered a hand. The thousands who stood under blood red skies and recognised their neighbours and gave when able, in what ever way they could, even if it was just a reassuring smile. Currently on exhibition in Moruya is “Untold Eurobodalla”, featuring the work of Lee Grant and Amadis Lacheta. Described as “Untold Eurobodalla takes a lateral approach to examining the multitude of ways that local residents contribute to the place they call home”. I was asked to write a piece on The Spirit of Place for the Postface Spirit of place or genius loci refers to the unique, distinctive and cherished aspects of a place. It is something our Aboriginal ancestors understood intimately and lived on a daily basis. As we have become more separate from the earth in our modern lives, coming to know and genuinely appreciate the spirit of place that exists here in the Eurobodalla provides an opportunity for healing, stewardship and deepening our connection to both this place and each other.
For many to recognise a spirit of place often requires leaving that place for some time. Memories begin to reduce, as if making a rich stock, leaving you with the pure essence. It is that essence that you yearn to return to, and when you do, it is with new eyes. You see the small details, you remember the smells, the sounds, the little vignettes that characterise the uniqueness of place. A spirit of place is much like the soul of a treasured old friend. Irrespective of how long you have been apart the coming together once again requires no words. There is an immediate understanding and recognition. The same applies to a special place, whether it be a headland, a beach, a creek, river or forest; and equally to the plants and wildlife that are as essential to the place as its geology, landform and history. Generation upon generation of people have come to the Eurobodalla to make their livelihoods and give birth to their dreams. While the area can simply be seen as a region on a map, delving deeper it contains many places that are each precious and unique. All have subtle differences yet form part of the bigger whole that comprises our region. As people have come to reside here, they have chosen to make their homes in a particular part of the shire. Some love the coast, others the rivers and valleys. Each brings with them a memory of where they have come from, whether it be a city, other country areas or from afar, each from a place with its own unique spirit. And that spirit can be one they miss, yearn for and want to recreate. It takes time to quieten the mind and recognise a new place and to respect it for what it is. To become part of that place, to find unity and connection with the land and community. The recent bushfires forced all of us to think about and endeavour to protect our special places. Initially and understandably there was a focus on the human cost; people, homes and livelihoods, but then came the realisation of the dramatic and significant loss suffered by our environment. Our wildlife and bush, the impact on our creeks, rivers and sea. The very fabric of our place was decimated. Yet the spirit of our place endures, and in hope, our natural and human communities will heal and be reborn as part of the ongoing cycle of life. As a region we have been sorely impacted, but as a community we have hopefully grown. There may still be parochialism between our towns and Batemans Bay may never see eye to eye with Moruya or Narooma but this year we saw the three towns recognise each other under the same banner, and stand shoulder to shoulder. In recent weeks we have seen residents come together with rakes on their own beaches cleaning up debris with a Pride of Place. Neighbours have reunited with neighbours and, to a certain degree, we have returned to “new normal”. I hope that the “new normal” is a “better normal” and that 2021 is the year we are able to apply the many learnings of 2020. until next—lei
Above: Beagle Editor, Lei Parker Photo: Lee Grant