The pace on Flinders Island is something that takes even a country mouse like me a few days to slow to. No one locks their car and everyone (everyone!) waves as they pass on the road. Constructs like ‘timeframe’ and ‘deadline’ are unfamiliar. Verbal directions often replace signposts. You know, just after that turn off, past farmer-John’s shed on the right, you’ll see a dirt road off to the left… you’ll find it! No worries. Off we go down seemingly endless dirts roads for a small island in the middle of Bass Straight.
I’d heard tales of island life before, but in March this year I was invited to experience it first hand by my good friend Ali. Under the banner of her floral design studio Lokale Blumen, she, along with a handful of island folk, curated a weekend experience centred around the love of foraging and botanical styling, great local food, good company and a desire to slow down and connect with nature. In the week I spent with Ali on Flinders, we did all of these things in spades.
We met locals who grow fresh produce, garlic and grass-fed beef, catch cray, distill whisky made with peat from the island, who grow and distill Kunzea (Kunzea ambigua) essential oil and who make more ferments, sauces, and condiments than one could possible try in one week on the island. We foraged for wild coastal foods with local chef, Mikey, and ate rather well. We took brisk walks and slow rambles, poked about, pondered over the map, and looked up this native plant and that native bird. We cooked damper on tea-tree sticks over a fire pit, with whisky in hand.
Woven throughout our week on Flinders was an intentional botanical theme. Ali makes an art of crafting local blooms, foliage, branches, and whole wind-fallen limbs of trees into incredible large scale hanging clouds, meaningful tablescapes and stunning vignettes. She teaches her skills generously, and opens space for her guests to share their knowledge and passion with the gathering.
Later this year, Ali is hosting a similar gathering, this time in Orange, NSW. You can read more about it here. It’s a perfect opportunity to connect, or in fact re-connect our souls to wild nature after a long stint of being cooped up during the pandemic. The weekend is for slowing down, foraging, making, learning, eating, and allowing your shoulders to relax and your breath to deepen.
Paying attention is a form of reciprocity with the living world, receiving the gifts with open eyes and open heart.Robin Wall Kimmerer, ‘Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants’