Sunday, August 22, 2010


The rain had not long stopped.  The forest was glistening and plump drops were still falling off the leaves onto the litter beneath.  Fallen branches, twigs, leaves and flowers were fast returning to the hungry earth.  As I breathed in the sweet smell of green life, I felt at peace.

~ ~ ~
Urban forest
silent walk
a whipbird calls
~ ~ ~

It had been too long since I had last walked in the forest.  I had almost forgotten how it uplifted my spirit.  There was little about life in suburbia that did that.

~ ~ ~
Silence of the bush
broken only by a rustling
in the undergrowth
~ ~ ~

The sun came out and I sat down to read a book.  A big old goanna lumbered out of the bush and headed towards where I was sitting very still in the clearing.  At the last moment, it saw me and changed direction ... but very slowly.

~ ~ ~
Between the dry bush
and the rainforest
~ ~ ~

As the day grew hotter, the smell of eucalyptus joined that of the wet vegetation.  An Australian smell.  How I had missed it when I was overseas so many years ago.  I had been in countries where the trees were green, very green, Sherwood Forest green.  On my return to Oz, I saw the grey-green of the bush, it seemed, for the very first time.  Its peculiar beauty took me unawares and my eyes were opened to what newcomers to the country must see.

My forebears had come from Europe in the 19th century, but I couldn't imagine living anywhere else but Australia, not because of the culture or the people, but mainly because of the land itself.  More particularly, it was the sub-tropics I felt at home in, not the dry inland or the temperate climate down south.  But that was probably just because I was born here.

There is much I love about the culture and the people, but there is an unsavoury element.  Since World War II, Australia had become a more multicultural society and that had knocked some of the edges off its "ocker" culture.  But it could still raise its head and make me want to crawl into a hole.  Like the time in a Cairns pub when this guy, by way of introduction, grabbed my travelling companion's breasts.  He described me as "the nun" because I wasn't amused by this type of behaviour.  But my companion was impressed and she went home with the creep.  The next morning, she said he was a drug runner and "a nice man".  Heaven help me if I should ever become so desperate.  I realised that she was the kind of female ocker that I thought had disappeared years ago with the arrival of feminism.  We parted ways.  Yes, the ugly Australian still exists.

The clash of cultures hit me while walking in a nearby riverside park full of Sunday picnickers.  The first group I walked past consisted of a few "Mediterranean" families - mums, dads, grandparents, teenagers, kids.  Some of the fathers were playing cricket with the youngsters.  There was lots of food on the table and not a bottle of beer in sight.  It was almost like a Norman Rockwell painting of perfect family life.  The next group were two "Anglos", and all they had was a carton of stubbies.  Admittedly, they were just a young couple, but the contrast affected me deeply.

(to be continued)

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As I walk by the river or sit in my tiny garden, not thinking of anything in particular, thoughts sometimes seep into my brain. If you'd like to read my seepage, here it is ...