Windgrove

Throughout my 30 years living in Tasmania, my painting friends have constantly talked of the quality “light” found only in Tasmania.

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Not being a painter, nor in tune to the subtle changes of colour during the day, I always assumed this talk of “clarity and brilliance” was little more than… well, just local prejudice and bias.

However, two days ago I twice photographed the same protea blooming in my garden. Once in the early morning light with a thin covering of rain cloud obscuring the sun. (seen above).

And again at the same time the next morning, but this time with the full sun hitting the protea. (see below).

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I don’t know about you, but the difference between the two is rather startling, don’t you think?

In the far recesses of my brain I understand that the full sun would be comprised of a full spectrum of light, whereas, the thinly clouded sun would emit a different spectrum of light. But when I was photographing this protea, I never saw the difference in colour between the two days. The protea just appeared, to me, to be of the same (delightful) colour.

Those pesky painters certainly know something us sculptors don’t.

As an aside, notice how — in 24 hours — the protea opened up a wee bit more.

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The star like mini-sculpture that I’m holding in my hand might look like an intentional artistic endeavour, but it’s nothing more than an off-cut.

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To date there are 126 of these off-cuts.

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They come from the ends of 63 hardwood signage posts varying in length from three feet to four and a half feet (or 900mm to 1400mm).

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To date 15 of these posts — giving the evolutionary periods in millions of years — have been sand blasted.

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And placed along the Gaia Evolution Walk.

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Stay tuned. The Gaia drawings are presently being printed on 1200mm x 1600mm panels.

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Are we ever alone?

February 2, 2015

Old boards are being covered with new ones.

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Portions of the deck in front of the atrium are seriously decaying and, therefore, the whole deck is being topped up with new hardwood before someone falls through and breaks an ankle.

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However to fit the first row snugly into the atrium wall, it was necessary to remove a board from each of the vertical sections between the door and the windows to either side of it.

And what an interesting surprise when, after taking off one of the boards, a tiny nest of fresh eucalypt leaves were found. Who lives here?

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A pigmy possum, that’s who.

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And think of this. The oil of the eucalypt leaves acts as a natural deterrent for mites and ticks. How smart is this?

I sleep easier at night now, knowing there is a guardian out the front door.

PS. Steve and I made sure the entrance to the pig possum’s home was kept clear.

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The (good) blues of summer

January 19, 2015

Between the house and the tennis court I have two blueberry domes totally enclosed to keep the possums out and the blueberries safe.

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Today, and for the next few weeks, whenever I walk past these domes I will peek through the protective wire netting and check on the progress of their ripening.

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These aren’t the same sort of berries I picked as a kid in northern Michigan during those lazy days of late July, early August. Those were huckleberries.

But a berry is a berry. And a handful picked of either berry is a handful of deliciousness none-the-less.

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I’m fully aware that these berries are somewhat “tame” berries as they grow in cages; cages that, like any cage, offer protection but nowhere near the “wildness” of berries grown in the wild.

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Still….. when I crouch down inside the dome and nibble on a few of the riper ones — even those that have fallen to the ground — I can close my eyes and find myself, once again, in the pine forests, on my knees, putting one huckleberry in the bucket for every three eaten.

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Blueberries

I’m living in a warm place now, where
you can purchase fresh blueberries all
year long. Labor free. From various
countries in South America. They’re
as sweet as any, and compared with the
berries I used to pick in the fields
outside Provincetown, they’re
enormous. But berries are berries. They
don’t speak any language I can’t
understand. Neither do I find ticks or
small spiders crawling among them. So,
generally speaking, I’m very satisfied.

There are limits, however. What they
don’t have is the field. The field they
belonged to and through the years I
began to feel I belonged to. Well,
there’s life, and then there’s later.
Maybe it’s myself that I miss. The
field, and the sparrow singing at the
edge of the woods. And the doe that one
morning came upon me unaware, all
tense and gorgeous. She stamped her hoof
as you would to any intruder. Then gave
me a long look, as if to say, Okay, you
stay in your patch, I’ll stay in mine.
Which is what we did. Try packing that
up, South America.

Mary Oliver

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We four friends went looking for hints of Christmas on an island so far from the North Pole that snow and Santa’s sleigh could only be dreamt of between smudgy clouds and icy grey water.

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In my Detroit childhood, wintry nights of going door-to-door singing carols with my younger brother in a somewhat vain attempt to seduce a few coins out of the stingy pockets of our neighbours with our repertoire of only two songs — “We wish you a Merry Christmas”, and, “Silent Night” — the dominate colours we observed on the homemade wreaths and decorations gracing the thresholds of the neighbourhood doors was green and red.

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But what about today? Here in Tasmania? Can Christmas be found?

Of course.

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One only has to walk around to find the greens and reds so associated with Christmas and the Christmas spirit.

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Even the hakea bush with its needle like Christmas tree feel, is adorned with decorative balls of its own making

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And looking down into the flower head of the protea bush, one can certainly sense the star that guided the three wise women to the new born social activist sage being swaddled in a manger surrounded by animals and the beauty of nature.

How apt then to post this Wendell Berry poem as a meaningful message during this festive season.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

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The face of death

November 24, 2014

It is not much discussed, but one of the pluses in living close to nature on a daily basis — especially for children —is becoming intimate with the cyclic process of life and death.

All around me are the skeletal and fleshy remains of the once living. With all this exposure, eventually the face of death becomes nothing to be feared; even humorous with a toothy sort of grin.

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Sometimes, though, there is no humour and we, instead, have to make hard choices in this cyclic dance.

Choosing between the life and death of one in order to save the life of another/others is never a simple or pain free decision.

Poet William Stafford writes of this:

Traveling through the Dark

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason —
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all — my only swerving –,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

William Stafford

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A human introduced the kookaburra into Tasmania, most likely because of its unique laughter. Who doesn’t love this raucous sound?

However, with its massive bill and highly developed hunting skills, this bird is no match for the smaller Tasmanian birds hiding in shrubs trying their best to protect their nest of fledglings.

For two reasons: One, is that they have not evolved along with the kookaburra to develop defensive strategies, and, Two, there is no natural predator in Tasmania — as opposed to mainland Australia — to help keep the Kookaburra in check from over populating their flocks.

The little birds eat the smaller insects that can infect tree populations. A flock of kookaburras will rid my grove of trees from these “protective” little birds.

My 20 gauge shotgun plays god. The ravins pick over the bones.

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Likewise for feral cats (who seem to remain definite even in death).

Children brought up in the bush know all about the cycles of life and death. And, as importantly, when it is appropriate to use or not use a gun.

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