Ilka Blue Nelson: Creative Ecologist

Ilka Blue Nelson,

Nudgee Beach, Brisbane. Ilka Blue Nelson, 2015

Dear Wilderness,

My friend, you have changed, we have changed you. I write with disgust, embarrassment, sorrow and shame. But I know you, you have already forgiven me such is the difference between us.

Forgiven yes, but changed forever.

Forgiven, still, I have committed my life to remembering you back even if anew. It’s a deep, long process, requiring mirror and heart.

As you know, a few years ago I was enlivened by Tim DeChristopher, the ‘activist’ sentenced to two years gaol for remembering you in public with a fierce courage and real vulnerability. I was so shocked and propelled by Tim’s story that I printed a t-shirt with his words “Tyranny can never be complete as long as there is wilderness”.[i] That t-shirt became a strong symbol for me, I wore it as my own public testament to remembering you. What a surface I skated on, what a depth I had and still have to go.

A good friend Marcelle saw me wearing that t-shirt and challenged me for naming you so. Marcelle is a radiant Biripi Woman who expressed, as I have heard elsewhere, that the term ‘wilderness’ is a colonial construct: if we remember then there is no separation between human and nature, matter and spirit. And I agree with Marcelle. You are within and without me. When I fence you in I cage myself, as I cut and burn and empty you of life, I am forgetting myself.

I’ll wait
Even if I must sit five lifetimes,
To remember you.

It is with great sadness that I admit I have not yet remembered how to call you. So for a little time longer, until I remember, I will call you Wilderness. I do so in way that describes the space that is lost but ever present, recognising the multi-dimensional ecologies threading through me and beyond me.

It is hard to remember you when I dwell in urban habitats. But I keep circling back to what Marcelle said, about there being no separation. You are inner memory and outer function, even here in the place of aesthetic severance. It seems so foolish now, taking long trips to visit you, when you’ve been here with me all along, wherever I am. My favourite myth-teller Martin Shaw, returns some sense:

“The progression – from a severance from society to a profound experience of challenge, liminality, and sacred wildness, followed by a return to the community as confirmed and vital, is falling apart. The reasoning behind this that I believe societally we are actually addicted to the act of severance – we sever from relationships, places, jobs – in anticipation of some degree of grief we do not want to feel. The challenge to go deeper arrives, but we leave the girlfriend, challenge, or community and head off somewhere we can feel remote or pristine. The result of this is there is ultimately no community to return to, no confirmation of our journey. This experience ultimately leads us to malignancy or disappointment – something we see all around us. ‘If we leave the orbit of grief too early’ we do not get to hear what our real name is, and so the initiation does not work.”[ii]

Is it possible that my abandonment and persecution of you has been an act of wanting to abolish the grief and suffering that comes with my own mortality? So much has been broken. And yet you remind me that nothing is fixed! So I begin to understand and accept that it won’t look like it did but nor will it look like it does.

Life, you are with shadow, and everywhere!

The wisdom of others is helping me remember you into the future. At a campfire in the wheatbelt of Western Australia, I listened to Nyoongar Elder Dr Noel Nannup tell the story of humans becoming ‘the Carers of Everything’.[iii] Then back in the city as if moments later, I listened to a podcast of Clarissa Pinkola Estes from the other side of the world, telling how Homo sapiens are the only species with the ability to care for all other species. This is how I want to remember you into me, not as hard edges, square screens or toxic chemicals, but as a life to be cared for.

I hope to, this is how you are remembered in Paris.

With heart-led decisions rather than thought-taught ones; through wise counsel and not instruments of civilisation; employing hands to care for you instead of minds atop inert muscles.

This is how we must remember you, no longer severing but welcoming our death.[iv]

In metaphor and Truth,

Ilka Blue.

DEDICATION: I’d proposed to write this piece in dialogue with Bimblebox Reserve, an 8,000 hectare property of remnant habitat in the Desert Uplands Bioregion of Central West Queensland.[v] Bimblebox is a significant refuge for species, which is currently threatened by a massive new coal development known as the ‘Galilee Coal Project’ – it was the perfect setting for thinking wilderness!

However an unexpected death in my family, my Mother’s 35 year old horse Dusk, changed things.

So now I’m writing this piece with Nudgee Beach, quite a different context being on the fringe of Brisbane City. Here, my pen and I meander the shoreline of Moreton Bay, a wetland of international importance and one of Australia’s largest sites listed under the Ramsar Convention.[vi] This piece is dedicated to my Mum and her horse Dusk – theirs was a friendship replete with the spirit that connects self and other.

Moreton Bay, Brisbane Ilka Blue Nelson, 2015

Nudgee Beach, Brisbane Ilka Blue Nelson, 2015


[ii] Shaw, Martin. ‘Snowy Tower, White Cloud Press, 2014, pg 53.
[v] and

ilka_blue_picMy name is Ilka Blue Nelson. I do not belong to a watershed but come from generations of wanderers. I call myself a Creative Ecologist and work at the intersections of cultural & biological diversity, favouring river locales. My studio Latorica seeks methods for strengthening ecological health through re-enchantment. I have a transdisciplinary, dialogic and experiential practice, informed by Mythology, systems thinking and the Sacred. I like working in respect of the Other and writing is my preferred wand. You can follow my adventures and rummage through my words at where you’ll also find my thesis ‘Storytelling Beyond the Anthropocene: a quest through the crisis of ecocide toward new ecological paradigms’.[i]