New Year’s greetings. This is a bit belated, but I couldn’t write an entry in this blog at the time as I found myself many leagues from the good burghers of internet commerce. I thought it would be an appropriate perspective to start two ten with: air that smells so good you want to gulp it down as it folds its way through a window in your tent, arabesques made by early morning silvereyes, the colour green and the sensation and reality of height. In the 1970s film Rockers the character of Higher is the wise rasta who speaks from the hills of becoming irey and gaining coverage of I-heights, loveful heights. This is the character I’m symbolizing with the red, green and gold in this photo. This is the style in which I commence 2010.
My sense of height changes in karri forests. I stand and watch a karri tree leaf falling from far above in the canopy and spiralling down slowly through the cool, still air. It is so small and falling for so, so long. It is still falling in diminutive delicacy. As I stand and watch the idea of a leaf falling from a tree gets reconfigured in my head. Then this single leaf arrives on the ground
The ground crackles. It has been about five weeks since I was last in the southern forests of Western Australia, and in this short time things have really dried out. It feels like the middle of summer down there.
For some of the time I was in the south I was staying with botanist John Pate near Denmark. I slept in an old 1920s settler’s cottage and one of the first pleasures of being there was the liberation of having so much space around me as I went to sleep at night, with paddock rolling off to the south and a copse of fifty year old karris partly obscuring a beautiful view of the southern ocean in the distance. There aren’t many people you encounter these days who really know their local geography, and the names and history and dynamics of the nonhumans lives around them. John Pate is one such guy. His conversation as we walked his handmade trails through the karri forest was interesting. At one point he told me that in the last ten years or so he’d noticed a drying of the climate which has resulted in some of the karris in front of his house thinning in their canopy. His wife had once asked him to chop some down so that they could have a better view of Wilson’s Inlet, but now it isn’t necessary as the thinning in the canopy lets you glimpse the view between the trunks of the trees. Turning to the latest news from Australia’s bureau of meteorology we see that average temperatures for the whole of this last decade we’ve just been through were 0.48 degrees above the 1961-1990 average, confirming that John’s observations of his forest are very pertinent. On another subject John also expresses the view that, despite the noise made by forestry professionals, forests don’t need to be managed. He does not burn his forest, and if a fire from a lightning strike went through his forest the ecosystem would just start up again as it has for thousands of years. He does not feel like the owner of his forest, just somebody who walks through it and knows it intimately.
He enjoys feeding the superb blue wrens on his verandah with meal worms. They chirp in a high pitched, touchingly insubstantial way, and then hop onto his hand for a bite. The gaunt and affable guardian of the wrens.
I hope your resolutions for the twelve months to come hail from greener and higher places. Happy New Year from an indolent garden guest.