Wongan Hills

Photo: Cissi Tsang.

Wongan Hills – or, kwongan katta, the Whispering Hills.

The whispering became all-encompassing as I stood at the start of the Mount Matilda Trail. It was the sound of the wind passing through the thousands of trees that watch over the hills. The rustling cascade was an elegant backdrop to the many birds who call the place home.

Wongan Hills contains the largest remaining single area of natural habitat in the northern Wheatbelt. The fractured nature of the Wheatbelt’s landscape means that places like Wongan Hills are, essentially, precious islands of habitat within a sea of human intervention.

All around these islands are signs of humanity’s heavy marks – from the vibrantly yellow canola fields that back against the hills, to the roads and fences that crossed the land. What struck me is that, despite the fractured landscape, these islands are still in contact. The narrow strips of connections chaining these islands together allows the inhabitants from each to mingle, as a sign on the trail noted.

The trees are still singing to each other, whispering age-old secrets.

As I made my way around the trail, connection was the prevailing idea in my mind. We all yearn for some form of meaningful connection, because nothing in the world exists in a vacuum.  What connection that we need, and how to obtain this connection, is the burning question.

Communication. That becomes an integral part of the puzzle towards finding yearned-for connection. Broadly speaking, communication exists on two planes – communication within, and communication with others. Neither exists properly without acknowledgement of each other.

Why do people act the way they do? Why do they seek the people they do? This might not always be conscious, but it is greatly influenced by their internal monologue. How do you view yourself? How would you like to be treated?

This introspection can be wholly uncomfortable, because it can expose memories and emotions that the mind and heart would rather keep hidden. Yet, attempts at isolating these islands of discontent from the self is a battle that can never be won. Like the thick roots of the trees on Wongan Hills, they will find ways to penetrate though the rock-hard exterior of denial.

I thought of my own recent experiences, where my attempts at ignoring my discontent resulted in pain. In hindsight, my discontent was as loud as the trees whispering around me, and as deep as the roots digging between the rocks. It was as bright as the lakes below, glimmering in the sunlight. Despite the growing cacophony, I chose to close my ears.

Yet it took a sharp severing, like the road that slices between the tracts of bush, to finally wake me up.

I had to learn to listen.