Collecting Colour Reveals Hidden Treasures

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My journey to the Northern Territory (2016) promised to be an adventure but turned out to be so much more than I ever could have imagined or hoped for.

The outward purpose of the journey was to learn about how fibre is processed and weaving techniques while immersed in indigenous culture, but the purpose for my world within would be another powerful outcome of the journey.

The Hidden Benefits of Collecting Colour.

Did you know that plants, animals and all aspects of nature are connected? From our experiences and observations, we can derive meaning that will support us on our life’s journey. So it is with collecting colour; that we connect with Mother Nature and learn from her.

Digging for yellow dye roots

Collecting Colour in the Bush.

My adventure begins with collecting colour. Priscilla is our guide and as she sits in the front seat of the four-wheel drive, her sharp and practised eyes are scanning the bush for signs of plants that will become dyes for our fibre. The bushland here is different from where I live in Queensland and the types of trees seem to be in pockets; changing as we drive along.


Priscilla directs us to the visitor centre where she knows there are some ‘pink dye’ plants. Armed with bags, we set off into long spindly dry looking grass with bunches of tiny seeds at the top. This is what we are collecting to make pink dye. When we have collected as much as we can find, Priscilla uses the shovel to show us how to harvest the roots. As they are lifted, the shovel grazes the surface to reveal a rich red/orange colour. Such beauty hidden in the earth! These roots will make ‘brown dye’.


This is only our first stop in collecting colour, but already I have the sense that this is so much more than the ‘outer world’ story I am telling here. I am aware that whereas before I wouldn’t have noticed the little black seeds, my eyes are open and are keenly seeking them out. I am aware of the environment around me and how my body feels as I work with my companions. I am grateful for the feeling of awe when I see the truth of the colour of the roots as they are lifted from the earth.


Driving on towards Gunbalanya eyes are peeled for kapok trees with their spindly tall thin trunks with green pods riding at the ends of the branches. “There’s some! … and some more!” …  but I can’t see them! It isn’t until we stop and walk a little way from the road that I see what has been described to me and now they appear everywhere.


Harvesting is as easy as shaking the tree or pulling the branches down and plucking the pods – that is, unless they have been colonised by stinging green ants. I noticed that the pods on this kapok plant look rather ‘hairy’, being covered with the ants, and Priscilla is timely in rescuing me from their stings as she says it’s better to choose one with no ants!


With a dilly bag full of kapok, we are now looking for yellow dye; the root of another spindly looking plant with yellow flowers. In the Northern Territory heat digging out the roots is no easy task, but we dig down to the roots and follow their contours to chop out the biggest parts. Black dye comes more easily in the shape of shiny green leaves nearby.


Dyes simmering over the fire - photo Renee Bahloo
Dyes simmering over the fire – photo Renee Bahloo
Crushing kapok seeds turns the white fibre inside bright yellow.
Crushing kapok seeds turns the white fibre inside bright yellow. – photo Ingrid Brooker
Kapok pods - photo Ingrid Brooker
Kapok pods – photo Ingrid Brooker
Dyed fibres
Dyed fibres – photo Betsy Mills


Connections are being made. With the Earth, the plants, each part of the plants and so too we are connecting with each other; local women, guide and adventurers. Helping each other, watching, listening, learning, accepting, enjoying each other’s joy and enthusiasm; sharing heart connection.


Treasures Revealed

Being out in the bush collecting these resources was new to me; different from the walks I love to take in the bush. We were there with a clear intention, and the dyes we would be able to make depended upon what we found and could collect. But it wasn’t only the feeling of achieving our purpose and learning about the plants and how to collect.

Driving past non-descript bush and taking it for granted is no longer an option. I know there is a treasure trove of things to be discovered there! I have acquired an acute awareness of ‘being’, of feeling grounded and feeling connected to the land and people. It is as though the very earth has become ingrained in my spirit and will stay with me forever.


Treasures in Every Day Life

How can we all experience these treasures in everyday life? Upon my return from my adventure, I’ve thought about how I can retain these feelings of connection and groundedness in my day to day life. Here are some of the ideas I have come up with and they may help you to reap the benefits.


Whatever you are doing from moment to moment, whether it is finishing a blog, washing up, digging in the garden, walking the bike track or in the National Park, experiment with the following ideas and see how they enhance your moment to moment experience.

  1. Bring your attention out of your head and into your heart and feel your energy expanding from there to your surroundings.
  2. Be aware that negative vibrations – colour, sound, sensations created by your surroundings can drain your energy while positive vibrations energise you.
  3. Breathe in the scents and sounds and sensations and if these aren’t pleasing, then it is time to either transform this environment – a pot plant, fragrant herbs in a pot, and essential oils, beautiful music or nature sounds, colours that energise for example, or choose another place to be.
  4. In the same way colours explode from the seeds and roots found in nature, so too does beauty explode when we ‘crack open’ the ideas and thoughts we have to discover the creativity within.
  5. As you work and ‘be’ notice the energy connections that are extending between you and those around you and those who are your audience or recipients of your labour or thoughts. These are heart connections to be honoured and nurtured with love.
  6. Plan to go into nature with purpose and intention on a regular basis. Instead of simply walking go a step further. Explore the sounds you hear to see what made them. Break a leaf and inhale the scent. Brush away the dirt to see the pattern of a rock or the colour of a root. Absorb the Earth energy.



It is astounding to realise how easy it is to go through life taking everything for granted. Through my adventure I have learnt that by breaking through the surface of the outward reality of what I’m experiencing, I will reveal the colour; the creativity that is encapsulated within. By being fully aware, I connect with nature, with spirit and with others; and we are one.


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