It is amazing how quickly things change here in Canberra. Only a few weeks ago I was delighting in the green of the countryside and the wonderful winter light. Even last week everything around here was still green. How I love that green and the light shafting through the clouds to light it up like emeralds. Now the hot weather and the drying north-west winds from the hot interior are with us and almost overnight the countryside has turned brown, well, no, not really brown, but more golden, shining in the light. Despite the heat and the burning sun, there is a beauty about the seared land. The sky is deep blue and the mountains to the west of Canberra become a hazy, lazy blue without any detail. Against these two blues is the shining golden-ochre of the waving, tall grasses. It is extremely beautiful. With the heat comes the crackling, dry eucalyptus scent of the bush, distinctly different from its winter scent. We can only hope that this beauty does not erupt into terrible fires for the milder weather of winter and early spring has promoted a huge growth in the vegetation, now rapidly turning into a tinder box.
From the Green to the Gold
During the spring I have enjoyed many delightful hours rambling through the bush on Black Mountain and Mt Taylor, as I do most springs. Canberra may not have the spectacular backdrop of some cities such as Cape Town or Rio, but even so it is one of the loveliest and most liveable cities of the world. Black Mountain is all but in the city, while Mt Taylor is not far away from it and surrounded by suburbs, yet except for the few fire trails one can wander off-track and be anywhere deep in the bush. Even on the trails one does not see many people.
Black Mountain calls me because I love wandering through the bush looking for orchids to photograph, of which we have over 80 species in the A.C.T. It is extremely lovely to wander through the bush in the early mornings when the dew is still on the vegetation, the air is clear and crisp, the sunlight is slanting through the trees and the birds are calling.
I notice the progression of various species of orchids according to the progression of the season, their height and position on Black Mountain. At the same time, I notice the incredible variety of other wildflowers. Unconsciously I am absorbing the peace and beauty of the bush.
The orchids are all ground orchids, and mostly are very small. I never cease to marvel at their delicate beauty and fragility, while growing in the harshest of environments.
On Mt Taylor I see more flowers because it is more open, there is more grassland, and so I tend to photograph more wildflowers there.
I have learned to love the Australian bush and find great beauty in it, despite its harshness and aridity. Always there are the sounds and the scents, the play of the strong white light, unique to inland Australia, on the trees and understorywhich glows and sparkles like no other, and the insects and beauty of wildflowers. When one has walked in the Australian wilderness as I have, one realises how unique it is and how it must be protected whatever else we have to give up. And so with “wildness” everywhere.
When colour goes home into the eyes
And lights that shine are shut again
With dancing girls and sweet bird’s cries
Behind the gateways of the brain
And that no-place which gave them birth
The Rainbow and the Rose
Still may Time hold some golden space
Where I’ll unpack that scented store
Of song and flower and sky and face….