Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.
A couple of years ago I hit a really low point in my life—the consequence, I now realise, of spending too much time in my head trying to contain and downplay what was going on for me. It was a self-preservation technique I’d created: if I was measured and in control, then I could endure the rough patches unscathed and keep things from falling apart. As it happened, things fell apart anyway, probably in a bigger way because I wasn’t fronting up to what was going on. Relationships broke down, work suffered and my sense of wonder and passion diminished.
In a stroke of amazing timing, a trip I’d planned several months earlier to trek
the Camino in northwest Spain had arrived—just as I was finding myself deep
in the mud, struggling to move. I set off on the ancient pilgrimage for two weeks, following the yellow arrows from Porto in Portugal to Santiago de Compostela. As I traversed farmland, coastline, small Spanish villages and deep forest, stopping to sit by little streams and take in the sun, I started to gain clarity and perspective on what had happened. I heard a smarter, wiser version of myself rising in volume, inspiring me with who I still had to become. Perhaps most powerfully, I realised that I didn’t have to keep protecting myself from getting hurt. I could live boldly and feel all my feelings and get hurt and keep getting hurt—as long as I was in my body, passionate and alive, living true to my wild self.
That feeling of aliveness hasn’t always been easy to sustain. We can’t always go on epic adventures in nature to replenish our inner worlds. But the lesson
I learned has endured, and I’m reminded of it every time I’m walking through a park or in my boyfriend’s garden and I see nature doing its thing, resisting all attempts to be domesticated. When we connect with the wild, we remember we are the wild. So what are we doing trying to tame ourselves all the time? Who are we doing it for? And who will we become if we lose the wildness that makes each of us unique and our societies diverse?
This issue pays homage to six legends of our time, all living boldly to preserve our wilderness and keep us connected to each other and the land. Through her hyper-real art, Patricia Piccinini shows us the power of tenderness for fostering empathy between species.
John Marsden builds schools that instil a sense of adventure in young people.
Rick Ridgeway brings his wisdom from climbing the world’s highest peaks to cultivating new business practices that can sustain the planet.
Undoubtedly Australia’s most potent environmental activist, Bob Brown is campaigning to save 500,000 hectares of forest in southern Tasmania.
Victor Steffensen teaches traditional fire practices in order to regenerate dying ecosystems.
And Sylvia Earle has dived to some of the greatest depths, reporting on the beauty of the world beneath our seas.
One of the best experiences I had while walking the Camino was feeling this kinship to everything around me. I remember thinking that it didn’t matter how many times I failed, the land would always be a support. As powerful forces seek to separate us from our ecosystems and impress values of ownership and destruction, we need to tap into our wild hearts more than ever before. We need to be warriors of the wilderness—like each person in this issue—fiercely and lovingly protecting our ecosystems and the inextricable connections that sustain us.