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When the Land Dreams in Music ~

Updated: Mar 26

Sarah West

with Earthsongwave's 30th Conversation!

Sarah West's compelling dance, a self-portrait with Canyonlands, Moab, Utah


Beneath the veil of thought, when my mind is quiet, I can hear the land dreaming in music. For Australian Aboriginals, the earth is filled with song. They have a name for this inherent wild music: Songlines. The Songlines follow sacred ancestral pathways that spread across vast distances over the land and sky. 

Songlines, also called dreaming tracks, are a central part of Aborignal cosmology. These dreaming tracks trace over the ecology, creating the musical and symbolic language of the land. The melodic shape of the song reflects the nature of the land over which the dream passes. 

I first learned about Songlines from an Australian Aboriginal grandmother while collecting wild foods together. She spoke of them with reverence, and sang to the plants as we gathered them, honoring the nourishment they provide. Witnessing her deep respect for the earth, the beauty of her reciprocal relationship with it, and her gentle wisdom has stayed with me through the years. 

Noel Pearson, a respected Australian Aboriginal leader and activist, describes Songlines as richly complex, connected to Creation stories, the Dreamtime, sacred sites, the ancestors, and dreaming spirits. He believes the songlines must be continuously nurtured - through listening, singing, dancing, and creating art. These acts keep the land and stories alive, fostering a deep kinship with all life. 

When I hear the land's music, I feel compelled to sing or dance in response. It’s an offer of reciprocity, my way of celebrating the astonishing beauty I hear all around me. 

Wherever we may call home, we can all create a sacred bond with the earth. By listening to the land's music and offering a gift in reply, we open ourselves to a deeper understanding and a more meaningful connection with the world around us.

Hear the Earth's first breath on April 1st, as we gather for Earthsongwave Dawn Chorus. Let your voice braid with the wild music of the land, nurturing the songs that trace across the land and sky. Together, we weave a dawn tapestry of song, a testament to the Earth's wild music that connects us all.

Sources: Pearson, Noel, “A Rightful Place: Race, Recognition and a More Complete Commonwealth”. Quarterly Essay, September 2014 

Sarah West is a therapist, nature guide, writer, artist, and naturalist living in the wild beauty of Moab, Utah, USA


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