Two aspects within the hour

August 20, 2018

Don’t let the blue sky with its billowy white clouds — that appear to be floating serenely on a sunny afternoon — deceive you into thinking you might want to sit down on the Dropstone Bench and meditate quietly for awhile in perfect equilibrium with Nature.

In truth there is a howling gale blowing and the temperature near freezing. Those clouds were flying past, straight out of the south and an Antarctic low. It is winter here, you know, even though the trees and shrubbery are evergreen and are deceptive in such a photo; giving false clues that green foliage means summer warmth.

I had to huddle behind a tree to take the photo such was the force of the wind.

Within a few minutes of brisk walking, I was in the shelter of my veggie patch and came across a lone tomato clinging tenaciously to last summer’s vine.

Death was all around, but the blood red passion of hope prevailed; metaphor for what will cycle around again.


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


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).


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.


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.


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.


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

Of course.


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


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


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


Caged memories

May 20, 2014

Tasmanian only has one small deciduous shrub — nothofagus gunnii / Deciduous Beech — whose tiny leaves turn golden yellow in the autumn of our southern hemisphere year. It is alpine and grows far from where I live on the coast.

If I want to witness a change of colour at Windgrove, I must go inside the three caged sanctuaries of the possum proof—wallaby proof gardens.


The large garden has two apple trees and they are now beginning to drop their leaves in preparation for their winter dormancy. What few leaves there are at the base of the tree is enough to spark my imagination and I’m back on my childhood street of Grixdale in Detroit sixty years ago kicking and running through mountainous piles of elm leaves that had been first raked off the lawn and then placed ceremoniously at the street’s curb before being ritually set afire. Smoke lingers in my clothes for days.


In a smaller dome, the leaves of the blueberry bushes are nothing if not vibrant even though their startling reds signal each leaf’s death throe. May I go out in such grandeur, visibly standing proud in the autumn of my years.

Knelling down and touching these leaves, my imagination once again carries me back into the Michigan forest where dormant blueberry bushes (we called them huckleberry) were trod upon as my mother and I went searching for deer with our bow and arrows. She, Artemis, with a 55 pound bow; me, the novice in training, barely able to pull back a 25 pound bow.

During deer season, the smell of rain moistened decay of the deciduous undergrowth is etched upon one’s sensory memories never to be forgotten. Even now, when I take an autumn walk beneath the Hobart Botantical Garden’s avenue of birch trees, I’m fifty years younger.


Oh, the flag of autumn. How glorious you are.


Changing perspective

April 8, 2014

Take more time, cover less ground.
Thomas Merton

One thing about growing older is that a consolation prize for a weakening body is that I’m — whether I like it or not — forced to move along at a slower gait.

Instead of trudging up the hill behind the house, head down, non-stop, in a hurry to get to the top as I would have done ten years ago, my lungs now cause me to pause, catch my breath a third of the way up, then half way up, then again and again. I never make it.


Not because I “couldn’t” make it, but the view “sort of” near the 2/3 mark (who’s counting?) is so breathtaking I have to stop.

The distant horizon hints at the vast curvature of the beautiful round ball we call Earth.

Standing there at the cliff edge looking down at the forest below — a forest never logged or disturbed by humans — brings home to me the exquisite nature that is my home.


Glancing up, Wedge Island is aptly wedged between a she-oak, the horizon and the cliff face.


Growing older into mindfulness is not a bad thing. One’s perspective on life certainly changes.

And it is not only a perspective of the “larger view”.


Looking down at my feet, I see the miniature beauty in the thrusting red, lacy tipped native cranberry bush.

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If there is a God, my guess is that God has no other option but to be fairly pissed off with us humans.

“I send you to my wondrous Earth and you spend your allotted life of 70 or so years warring among yourselves over who I am. Instead of witnessing the grandeur that took me 4.5 billion years to create, you squabble about money and other trite issues and, somehow, seem to derive pleasure in destroying this home I’ve created for you. Therefore, my most important commandment to you two legged creatures is to drive out of your shopping malls, not the money changers, but yourselves and explore my stunning world before you return to the star dust from whence you came and float for eternity, yet again, in the vastness of my universe.”


When I received the latest issue of EarthLines this week — an ecoliterature magazine published in the UK — I was pleasantly surprised to see there was an article based on a winning author’s two week residency at Lake St. Clair National Park, courtesy of being the recipient of the 2009 Wildcare Tasmanian International Nature Writing Prize. Along with the residency, $5,000 and a return airfare, the opportunity here is for a nature writer to bear witness to the particular beauty of this small section of the earth. God would be happy.

Initially, I was a bit bemused that the author never seemed to have left the “parking lot”, so to speak, for what she wrote about all centered around her walks near the Visitors’ Centre; the sort of short walks tourists for a day would partake in. Sort of like going to Hobart for two weeks and only writing about the Botantical Gardens there; beautiful though they are.

Had she, at least, taken the ferry to the far end of Lake St. Clair? Having been there several times (see above photo) I can attest that the depth, richness, diversity and immense grandeur of the area just simply cannot be felt or even seen around the Visitors’ Centre.

Lost opportunity if she didn’t venture out too far? Maybe. But, maybe not.

Firstly, I’ve had 29 years to explore my state of Tasmania and there are still areas I “should have” visited by now. Have I not also spent too many days squabbling over money and other trite issues instead of finding the time to see every thing of beauty in my own backyard?

Secondly, what does “backyard” mean? Relative to an international visitor, is my backyard all of Tasmania? Or, just what the word implies: a tiny plot of land next to one’s own house?


“There are a thousand ways to knell and kiss the ground”, a wise person once said. Maybe, like the above author did, I only have to stumble out of my abode to experience deep transformative beauty rich in significance.

To have a closer look at my own backyard, and to see if there was something that held the proverbial “universe in a grain of sand”, I set out on an extremely short venture of no more than a few steps.

Just outside the front door entrance is a sprawling prostrate shrub presently in flower, kuniza ambigua. A nice, small carpet of white flowers whose perfume is more impressive than its flattened appearance.


Bending down on knees and with magnifying glass in hand, I got up close and personal and discovered a whole other world of startling beauty.


I think I’ll spend two weeks here.