The land is divided, an open plain contrasting against a solid forest, the trees tall and packed in their growth together. With the trees within arms reach, she breathes deeply and bends from the waist, pulling at the laces of her boots. Shoes left to one side, socks pushed into the soles, her bare feet press into the soil, toes curling into the damp dark ground. Her face, which was previously tense, relaxes slightly, mouth unclenching and eyes pressing closed, tears clinging to her pale lashes.
From within the forest her name rings, a female voice calling clearly to gain her attention and focus. Wind whips around branches and goosebumps raise on her bare arms. She straightens the straps on her plain black dress, preparing to enter.
Treading into the canopied space, her feet tread mindfully through fallen branches and boroughs, accepting small scrapes and foreign textures on the skin. The caller’s face sharpens in front of her, familiar in their large brown almond eyes, thick and wispy brown hair, soft lips and slender form. Upon locking eyes they both smile in unison, connected through their shared solitude. Their hands clasp together in friendship before making their way further into the dense surroundings.
The caller leads her to a clearing, the last remnants of sunlight streaming through the canopy. The underbrush is full of vines and plants with spines, curling and intertwining around trunks over a metre wide. She acknowledges the presence of five more women, shoulders pushing down her back, straightening her torso, tucking her chin and making contact with their gazes. Each of them are confident in their purpose, grazed in dirt and scratches, eyes gleaming, holding tools for digging and foraging. All are adorned with semi-precious gems and layers of cotton clothing, in shades of black, brown and grey. Within their circle is a trunk that bares no leaves, it’s bark decaying and it’s withering state allowing light to enter the forest. Before them a long, shallow hole has been carved from the ground, the roots of the tree hanging over the hollow space.
She stands and waits, her decision hanging nervously in the air.
One by one, each of the women gather their supplies, and place themselves in front of her, brushing away the clutter of her fringe and pressing their lips to her own, or her forehead.
Their feet press into fallen branches and audibly recede, leaving her to the forest.
Mindfully, she draws a long breath through her nose, filling her chest and clearing her head.
Clutching at the bottom of her dress, she lifts the fabric over her head and allows it to fall to the ground beside her. There are two bracelets on her left arm, made of small stones. A silver claw sits in the centre of her chest, cast from the bone of a wolf. Dropping to her knees in front of the hollow ground, she drags her palms over the sodden earth, bringing away clay-like mud. Her hands drag over her face, draw flat against her chest and across her collarbones, sweeping out and over her head. For a time, she remains still in this shape.
When the light is a cold highlight on the land, she pushes herself over the shallow grave and lowers her body down. There are tears streaming through the mud on her cheeks, salt on her lips and her tongue. She lies prone, her hands palm down by her sides.
With no light left, there is only sound. Roots creep over her face, tightening around her neck, chest, wrists, ankles and thighs. With a slow and damp embrace, Mother Earth envelopes her.
Auralen encompasses the photography, videography and writing of Melbourne artist Candice Hopkins. Her works speak of deep seated emotions, desires and the need to connect with others and nature, specifically through the beauty of the Australian landscape.