A study in brown

February 25, 2013

During a drive to Hobart last week and while passing through 50 kilometers of burnt out landscape, I couldn’t help but notice the many exquisite panoramas of brown beauty blurring by.


When one sees the spray of a rainbow off the end of a hose on a summer’s day, or is intrigued by the magic that takes place inside a clear glass prism when an entering beam of white light exits as a neat array of colours, the eye’s fancy is nearly always tickled by the vibrancy of colours revealed: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.

Brown, however, is no where to be seen. Why? It is certainly a colour, but like pink is not found in the spectrum.

And strangely enough, when one looks at the linguistic history of language formation, those human societies that have words for colour (all but two), the hierarchal ordering goes something like this: languages with just three colours have black, white and red; those with four or five colours add green and yellow, and then, the following sixth colour is always blue. Even in agricultural societies where the earth might seem to be more closely observed than the sky, linguistic acknowledgement of brown is always placed seventh.


Most people know that combining blue and yellow creates green, and, that mixing yellow with red creates orange. But what colours are used to create brown? The answer is a mixture of yellow, red and black. These are the same three colours in the The Australian Aboriginal Flag — where black symbolizes Aboriginal people, yellow represents the sun and red depicts the earth and peoples’s relationship to the land as well as representing ochre which is used in ceremonies.

Instead of calling mainland Australia the “sunburnt country”, perhaps it should be the “brown country”.


Another interesting question is whether or not people have heard of the term “brown study”? Although not frequently used, it means: to be in a state or mood of deep thought; sometimes associated with gloomy meditation or melancholy.

Looking at the photos I took of the burnt out landscape last week — a landscape most certainly a study in brown — I have to ask myself whether or not the land itself was presently in a Gaian mental state of “brown study”, pensive, perhaps moody?

One thing is certain: If I can put away any thoughts of the destructive qualities of the fires, there is a peculiar beauty to this browned off, seemingly lifeless landscape.


Ultimately, if I personally have to make a choice, I would place a brown landscape seventh on my list of places I would chose to inhabit.

Upon reaching home and driving down the mile and half driveway I created with a bulldozer 20 years ago, the green sidelines are evidence enough to me of the appropriateness of this decision.



Who opens the door?

April 4, 2011

Whenever I am outdoors tasting and savoring the deliciousness of air, earth, fire and water, the door to happiness cracks opens. And, if not lasting, at least long enough to rekindle the heart’s engine of desire for life and the pursuit of a sustainable, global peace.

This past week it was a ferry boat ride to the northern end of Lake St. Clair whose cold deep waters nestled among the peaks of middle Tasmania that provided this moment of grace.

The haunting quality of grey trunked trees mirrored in black water so still the landscape, though seemingly mute, spoke with such force my head rang and I felt almost dizzy surrounded by such beauty. A beauty so touching, one cannot help but beg for forgiveness for ever doubting its magnificence.

Tilicho Lake

In this high place
it is as simple as this,
leave everything you know behind.

Step toward the cold surface,
say the old prayer of rough love
and open both arms.

Those who come with empty hands
will stare into the lake astonished,
there, in the old light
reflecting pure snow

the true shape of you own face.

David Whyte

And later, stepping onto the shore beneath the myrtle tree with its own branching arms opened wide, I sensed a school room quality of “teacher with students” while standing among four tree ferns.

Immersing myself into the surrounds of Lake St. Clair allowed for the urgency of the world to abate for a moment. The day’s doors to happiness opened just enough to grant entry to the peace of wild things.

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



I walked through a myrtle, sassafras and wattle rainforest last week and it was akin to swimming through green light. A rare clear day allowed the sun to penetrate the umbrella’d canopy and make translucent and reflective the many thousands of leaves it bounced off of on its way down to the forest floor. Such magic. Such a change from the wind blown and stunted trees found at Windgrove; trees, that although beautiful in their fiercely gnarled way, don’t posess the soft, moist green quality that emanates from within a rainforest.


The path was along the shore line of Lake St. Clair (the last section of the famous Overland Track). After taking the ferry the full length of the lake, I returned a third way back and got off at Echo Point for a shorter 12 kilometer distance. The sign read that my portion of the walk would take three hours. It took me six. The knees were only a tiny part of my slowness as it was the green beauty I found myself immersed in that kept flooring me and to crawl along any faster was impossible.  I just didn’t want to leave this bearable lightness of green. Most certainly, I felt like the bee in the haiku:

The bee emerging
from deep within the peony
departs reluctantly




Remarkable Cave

March 31, 2003

About a twenty minute drive from Windgrove is Remarkable Cave, a sea tunnel that is entered into from the back side at low tide in order to gain access to the ocean.


While standing in it yesterday two much used phrases came to mind: “tunnel vision” and “the light at the end of the tunnel”.

Am I guilty of the former when I constantly seek to have the clear felled logging of old growth forests stopped? Is the pain of the thousands of animals poisened during these operations, along with the deliberate destruction of their ancient ecosystems, blinding me to a wider, more encompassing and tolerant vision?

Likewise, is the ‘Future Perfect’ exhibition which opened last week in Hobart (showcasing the work by more than 60 writers and artists) pointing to a vision that offers some light at the end of today’s dark age mentality of forestry mismanagement?

It is a constant struggle to stay informed and fully aware of all that is happening around us when government and corporate spin doctors are relentless in their paid occupation to hide the full truth of their actions.

It is enough to make one crawl into a cave and hide.