The Boab has been a bounteous tree to the Aboriginal people. Almost every part of the tree is used in one way or another. The seed pods have a woody casing with a velvety covering that is scraped off to create artwork on the pod. The seed kernels are eaten raw or roasted, and are a highly nutritious food source. Leaves and roots are used for medicinal purposes, primarily gastric and chest complaints. The Boab's bark is used to make string, rope and twine, and the gum of the tree can be used as glue.

Dimensions: 23cm x 13cm Artist: Barbara Backstrom Material: Hand Carved Boab nut A$129.80



The Creative Spirit Never Evaporates

The Waterhole by Arthur Boyd 1954

The interior of Australia is totally unpredictable. Depending upon the season it was entirely possible for explorers to return to find an entirely different world to what they had passed through just a few months earlier. Stretches of land deemed suitable for pasture during a good season are turned to savage desolation during prolonged dry seasons.

Ernest Giles, who traversed the continent in 1874-6, once wrote, 'exploration of a thousand miles in Australia is equal to ten thousand miles in any other part of the earth's surface, always excepting arctic and antarctic travel.' Sturt was unfortunate in that 1844 and 1845 proved to be drought years, amongst the most intense on record and 'even areas which in normal years nowadays are considered excellent pastural lands were blazing deserts. He was the first white man to enter the terrible district known as the Simpson Desert, and for six months he was trapped alongside the receding waters of a fast evaporating creek.

Sarah Murgatroyd, author of The Dig Tree, noted how dismayed William Wright was to find that, waterholes that had sustained Burke's party on his journey north just months before, had shrunk into undrinkable sludge. His horses "became so thirst-crazed that they burned their lips trying to sift through the embers of the fire looking for water."

Wright, who was trying to bring relief to the Cooper's Creek, believed that all native life had died in the interim. Murgatroyd explains that this impression was an illusion, a rather clever drought defying strategy perfected by inhabitants of the desert. In fact "the spinifex had thrust its roots deep into the soil and shivelled its razor-sharp stems to prevent evaporation. The giant gum trees had dropped many of their giant limbs to concentrate their nutrients and the acacias began to use water stored in a special taproot. The kangaroos halted reproduction, leaving their embryos in a state of suspended animation to await more favourable conditions."

For thousands of years the Aborigines used every part of the distinctive Boab Gourd Gourd tree. This tree, affectionately known as the Bounteous tree, because of the diverse bounty it provides for aboriginals and other travellers, grows in Northern Australia. The trunk stores water, and it has been estimated that up to 120,000 litres of water may be stored by one tree. The gallons of good, sweet water are stored by the tree for the dry season and was used by roving aborigines, birds and other travellers during dry seasons.

Neither William Wright's team, nor Burke and Wills for that matter, possessed drought defying strategies such as those of the Boab tree, and, perhaps more significantly, their lack of bushcraft meant that they were oblivious to nature's secret supplies. Heat and thirst took a toll on all the expeditions that set out to cross the interior of Australia and the suffering of the men who walked these areas is extraordinary.

Caught in the wasteland of modern society an individual can feel parched and drained of all creativity. However, the artist needs to remember that just as the kangaroo is able to leave their embryos in a state of suspended animation, creativity can be suspended and drawn upon in more favourable conditions. The creative waters do not evaporate from the eternal waterhole within. Those willing to tap these sweet waters will testify to the bounteous supply.

Keeping the Creative Flame Alive

Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes stands alone as far as providing a mannual for those who need to nourish the creative life and keep their creative flame alive. Clarissa Pinkola Estes not only searches out the scorched and fragmented land of our psyches, but brings back the lost parts which would make us whole. My well marked copy rests, like a Bible, on my night table.

Pinkola Estes says that "being with real people who warm us, who endorse and exalt our creatitivity, is essential to the flow of creative life. Nurture is a chorus of voices both from within and without that notices the state of a woman's being, takes care to encourage it, and if necessary, gives comfort as well. I'm not certain how many friends one needs, but definitely one or two who think your gift, whatever it may be, is the pan de cielo, the bread of heaven. Every woman is entitled to an Allelujia Chorus."

Try some of the following simple daily strategies to fill the well and ensure that there is gallons of good, sweet water to sustain you during 'drought periods.'

Prepare a special psychic place where the creative force knows it can find you and regularly inhabit that place.

Be careful not to allow over responsibility to steal your time. Put your foot down and say no to things that you know you do not have to do.

Art is not meant to be created in stolen time so set aside time for your art each day.

Read some poetry every day. Take a line and just write without thinking. This is called stream of consciousness writing.

Alter your perspective by taking a piece of broccoli from the refrigerator. Talk to it about the meaning of life.

Go for long walks in tree filled parks and just gaze up through the leaves, or walk watching what is happening at ground level.

Visit the Daily Grind and use one of the fun tools to kick start some writing. Make sure you keep the fun in the fun-damentals.

Have you used the Writer's Digest daily prompts.

Observe life and write about it.

Have races with yourself to see how many words you can get on to the page. Take a visual symbol from a magazine and then write for ten minutes without stopping.

Train yourself by doing short writing sprints every day. Julia Cameron gives a good outline in her book 'The Artists Way'. Imitate others, snatch lines from poetry books to get yourself started. Take a news item and use a few words to get started. Pop into the Writing Directory and find a link and a writing suggestion. Sign up for one of the Soul Food mailing lists and make it a practice to write when you open the e-mail. Always write for at least ten minutes but makes sure you don't think. Write stream of consciousness writing.

Go to an interesting place or change your route to and from work each day. Be a regular visitor at the library, organic fruit and coffee shop, a quiet church, a peaceful park. Walk bare foot and renew your sense of touch. Hug a tree and establish a close relationship with it.

Amble through the centuries and read a book. Books improve your colour sense and your ideas about character. List some of your all time favourite characters and consider why you liked them so much. It was possibly that they lived passionately.

Get a packet of Tarot cards, shuffle and lay out some cards. Meditate upon them and begin to write without thinking.

Be a bit eccentric and dress to please yourself. Wear flamboyant, ecclectic accessories.

Drape a fur coat, from a recycled clothes shop, around yourself and write sensuously and erotically

Give up ideas of glory. The Muse will rush away in terror if she suspects that you are only in it for instant fame, money or name.

Regularly post on one of the Soul Food Forums.

This template has used elements of the famous Burke and Wills painting by Sidney Nolan (19171992) Collection Nolan Gallery, Cultural Facilities Corporation Canberra