The Long Now—Bunya Time

The Long Now


I have joined the faculty at The Fifth Direction! I’ll be hosting the Elder Wisdom Circle online every fourth Monday of the month at 7.30pm (Sydney, NSW). You are most welcome to join me in the company of a beautiful group of women. Thank you to Ash Packman for inviting me to facilitate this program.

On Monday, I chose the theme, the Long Now; and shared the poem that I wrote called Bunya Time. The insights and stories that flowed from all the women were both nourishing and insightful.

The Long Now Foundation* “encourages imagination at the timescale of civilisation — the next and last 10,000 years — a timespan we call the long now.” In this light, it is a clarion call for us to foster long term thinking for the wellbeing of all beings—human and other than human. I wrote the poem, Bunya Time while visiting an island just off Australia’s east coast. An island that was once part of the mainland. I was sitting quietly in the forest mesmerised by a large goanna crawl up a tree: slow and steady, old and wrinkled, peaceful and in a world of its own.
I was looking for a metaphor for the concept of Long Now… and the Bunya came to mind. They are an evergreen coniferous tree in the ancient plant family of Araucariaceae. Native to the subtropical regions of Australia’s east coast. During the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, they were found almost worldwide. Everything about them looks prehistoric!
A haibun — a series of prose and haiku.

Bunya Time—A Haibun

Imagine the earth’s history as the height of a mature
bunya tree—45 metres. Our human history corresponds
to the spiky end of the uppermost leaf at the tip of the tree. 


IT IS 02022.  As the firelight dies down, the constellations in the southern sky appear. The Milky Way, that Emu in the Sky, and the Southern Cross sing old songs to those who listen in the night. Tall bunya trees stand watch and breathe very slowly. Beyond the island, which lies these days just off the coast, ancestors walked on dry land towards the sunrise in the east. Where the sea sparkles now, old stories tell of sandbanks, scrub, animals, birds and people who lived and loved here. Tales of swelling tides and ocean currents that broke through grass-covered dunes and engulfed the land—magnificent blues, greens and deep dark watery depths. And now those waters and the sea’s edge, and where ancestors walked, now there live corals, seaweed, turtles, migrating whales, grey nurse sharks, and whiting chased by dolphins.

10,000 years past

Breathe deep-time humility*

Here: a bunya tree

IN THE YEAR 12022, will our descendants gather evidence from deep ocean depths that, once upon a time, humans travel from this coast to the mountain hinterland by road? Will they stand and marvel at the sunrise as waves crash upon red cliffs—sea cliffs now, of what was then was inland plateau? Will fossils found on seabeds hint at lorikeets, kangaroos, bunya cones, plastic spoons and iPhones? Ten thousand years from now, will our descendants look for us in hidden places?

Strata morph and move—

petrified and beautiful,

bunya seeds sprout

IN 22022, mountains and valleys within the Great Dividing Range shift. Vast plains and dry sclerophyll scrub, rainforests and fast rivers, yawning caves and granite tors, sand and layers of silt—all are upended, turned and tossed. Tides and oceans seep and creep inland—waves lap over hills and plateaus and wear them away. Beings who have no being yet call this place on earth their home. Deep-time rolls on.

Life’s mysteries—now

And then and those yet to come:

Bunya roots hold firm

TODAY IN 02022, a rocky path leads to the headland lookout through open stands of eucalypt, acacia, and casuarinas. Spiderwebs catch light, and for a brief moment diamonds shine in the grass as the kookaburra’s laughter cracks open the early morning stillness. At the edge of the cliffs—folded and forced into distorted shapes over countless millions of years––I stand under a vast sky, and look to the island offshore that crouches like a green tree frog on the ocean floor. I lean forward into the timeless breeze. Behind me, a tiny black scaled lizard darts up the dinosaur trunk of the bunya tree and disappears.

Deep-time—blue planet.

Black cockatoos wail above.

Look—the day is young!

  Bunya—evergreen coniferous tree in the ancient plant family of Araucariaceae. Native to the subtropical regions of Australia’s east coast. During the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, they were found almost worldwide., The Long Now Foundation.

*  Deep-time humility—Roman Krznaric, The Good Ancestor (Penguin 2020) p39.


©Wendy Haynes 2022

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Geraldine Hughes
Geraldine Hughes
1 year ago

Interpretation matters dear Wendy, you are a reflection of source. Geraldine