Earth Hour 2014

March 29, 2014 at 10:05 pm | Posted in Destroying nature, Nature, Philosophy, Social Responsibility, Special Occasions, Ways of Living | 2 Comments
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Tonight is Earth Hour, the time to reflect on the damage that we are causing to our planet.

I wrote this in my journal in fifteen minutes.  I enjoyed a glass of wine and some chocolate, and wondered as I did so, how much longer an ordinary person like myself would be able to enjoy something like that.

 

I am writing this in pen in my journal in the almost-dark, lights off.

It is quiet tonight – unusual for Saturday;

just an occasional car in the distance.

Dogs bark as something disturbs them,

street lights shine on

tall, slender spotted gums

whose high-set branches

are silhouetted against silver-grey clouds

lit by reflected street lights.

 

The only noise apart from distant traffic

and barking dogs is the buzzing I hear –

either crickets, or the tinnitus in my head.

I think of the reason for the lights out –

Earth Hour – a symbol and a reminder

of what we face if we do nothing,

if we do not change our ways –

for Climate Change has begun,

and it is quicker than we are.

 

I think of those who are steadfast

in their refusal to acknowledge any problem

or that we are an integral part of it.

I wonder if millions of minds

meditating on one thought, one desire –

to save our world –

can influence and change those other minds.

But I know that we cannot change minds

that are shuttered and barred,

locked tight against anything

that threatens their grasping hands

or their wilful disregard of what they do.

 

I think of our Earth, ravaged

by Nature so often in the past,

but even more threatened now

by the greed and lust for power

of a disbelieving and dishonest humanity.

I grieve for the damage we have already done

and I grieve for that which is to come.

 

I can do nothing in the Big Picture,

but I can do something

in my own little part of the world.

I will continue to do what I can,

hoping that my small efforts,

joined with those of others with like minds

can be enough to halt the rape

of the only planet we have.

 

(c) Linda Visman

Dairy Country – under threat from development

April 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Posted in Australia, Destroying nature, History, Nature, Society, Tourism, Travel, Ways of Living | 7 Comments
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I love the area in which I grew up – the Illawarra area of New South Wales, Australia. However there is less and less of it to love these days as housing and industrial developments reach out into the lush and productive dairy lands that were once among the best in the country.

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We took a drive through the remaining pasturelands last week, while we were in the area visiting family (especially my 91-year-old father). The lush grasslands and areas of bush are beautiful.

The ocean in the distance

The ocean in the distance

 

We took quite a few photographs so that we can look back at them one day when the productive dairy country is covered in houses and industrial sheds.

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The area lies between the mountains of the Great Dividing Range and the Pacific Ocean, visible in the distance.

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Housing estates are growing around the towns to the north, south and east.

Houses encroach on the dairy lands.

Houses encroach on the dairy lands.

Dry-stone walls, a relic of the British heritage of the region, are seen less and less. But this one is proudly maintained.

Stone walls

Stone walls

 

A sense of humour is essential in this industry, where prices for milk are low, but the work to produce it is hard and long.

Rue de Moo Poo

Rue de Moo Poo

When Europeans first came to this district in the nineteenth century, cabbage tree palms were in abundance. They provided a vital source of food for the indigenous people. However, clearing of the land, heavy tractors, and the hard hooves of cattle, all of which pack down the soil and make seed growth almost impossible, have reduced their numbers considerably. Most farming areas are now bare of these palms, though they do grow in gullies and better soil parts of the mountainsides.

Cabbage tree palms

Cabbage tree palms

These days, it is not economically worthwhile to maintain many dairy farms to a level needed to keep them viable. The developer’s dollars become more and more attractive to families that have farmed for several generations.

A decaying farm

A decaying farm

I wonder just how much longer these farms will be able to remain, fighting against cheaper imports and low prices for milk at the farm gate. I know that we will be very upset by the loss of this beautiful and productive dairy country to the destructive dollars of the developers.

 

 

(c) Linda Visman April 2013

Photographs by Dirk Visman

Birds and Trees

October 31, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Posted in Gardens, Nature | 2 Comments
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You may wonder what kind of birds those are at the top of my blog page. You may also be wondering what country of the world they, and I, live in.

Rainbow lorikeets

Well, the birds are Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus), and the photo was taken on my verandah a few months ago. The birds are on our feeder, eating the seeds that we occasionally stock the feed-tray with. We don’t do it too often because they need to be able to forage for themselves.

At present – spring and summer – the lorikeets feed on nectar from the native plants around the district. The main blossoms they feed on now, mid spring, are bottlebrush trees (various varieties of Callistemon), and we have about half a dozen in our yard. Thus, we get to see lots of Rainbow Lorikeets.

And where in the world are we? We are in Australia; in the state of New South Wales; near the east coast, about forty-five km south of Newcastle and a hundred km north of the state capital, Sydney. We are on the western side of the largest coastal lake in the country, beautiful Lake Macquarie.

Eastern rosella

We love trees and birds, and so we make every effort to provide a habitat that is friendly to both. That means mostly native species of trees and bushes that will attract native birds. The lorikeets are not the only brightly coloured birds we have around here. We also have the much shyer Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius), a small parrot with a bright red head and breast and colourful wings and tail.

There are many song birds too, the main ones being the magpie (Cracticus tibicen) and the butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus), with their beautiful warbling songs. 

Kookaburra

It is the kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) that tells us, by its raucous laughing call, that the sun is about to rise in the early morning, and it also farewells the sun each evening.

These are just a sample of the great variety of birdlife that abounds in our area. We love our trees and our birds, and will continue planting those trees and shrubs that bring the birdlife into our yard – for their benefit and for ours.

© Linda Visman

In the Background

July 9, 2010 at 4:01 am | Posted in Nature | 1 Comment
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It could be a jetliner taking off in the distance, or the muted roar of a freeway, but it is neither. The sound is not constant in tone but surges and ebbs continuously, an underlying motif.

During the daytime, I hear many other sounds as people go about their lives: traffic passes, dogs bark; mowers, garden-edgers and saws whine; hammers resound across our gully. The underlying noise is pushed further into the background and often appears to have gone completely. But at night and in this winter season, it is clear, providing a deep-throated background to the occasional bark of a dog, or the passing of a vehicle on the road nearby. 

When I lie in bed I can hear it, even though the bedroom window is closed against the cold. I would love to go and see the power that produces this constant roar, but, although it is only a dozen kilometres away, across the lake as the pelican flies, it is almost sixty by road. It would take three-quarters of an hour to drive there, and sleeping time is precious for insomniacs. 

Perhaps we will drive there on the weekend. It is a place we love to visit anyway. The beach at Catherine Hill Bay is beautiful, whether it is bathed in summer sunlight or covered in misty autumn rain. But when it is pounded by south-easterly gale-driven waves, the roar of the surf is relentless and invigorating in its power.

For now, I will lie in bed and fade away into sleep, lulled by the distant, soothing bass.

© Linda Visman

Light Through My Window

June 26, 2010 at 4:38 am | Posted in Writing and Life | Leave a comment
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I sit at my desk and look out of my window, at different times of the day, and marvel at the way the changing light creates different textures, shades and moods.

Right now, the light is fading on a wet winter evening. Behind rain-laden clouds, the sky is lilac, and yet trees, houses, the road, grass, and even the bright lemons, are overlaid by a soft, brown filter. Edges soften and meld, as in an old Dutch Master.

Just a few minutes later, darkness quickly overtakes the scene. Tree trunks become tall, black slashes against a darkening grey; leaves and grass have lost their various greens, and houses their solidity. Soon, I will not be able to see outside at all.

The view changes as the seasons pass. Still, sunny autumn days bring crispness and clarity to shapes and colours. Sometimes, there is a golden glow over everything, and the garden has a surreal, almost eerie atmosphere. The winter scene can be soft grey, blurred by rain, or coldly clear and stark, despite the evergreen eucalypts.

On summer mornings, when the sun rises in a dusty sky, the scene takes on an orange cast, promising a warm day. Later in the day, the light may be rich and vibrant, or, leached of colour by a heatwave. After a cleansing summer shower, light sparkles on spider-webs, on shining leaves and on crystal drops of water. There are more shades of green that you could imagine, and even dull greys and browns take on an unaccustomed brightness.

Light changes the world, or at least our perception of it. I love to watch those changes, and see how many beautiful pictures nature can provide me in one simple, window-framed view.

© Linda Visman

Trees

January 18, 2010 at 9:25 am | Posted in Writing and Life | 6 Comments
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I love trees. In particular, I love Australian trees.

I love the bold, majestic river red gums of the Murray. The eerie white ghost gums, the desert oaks and the stunted mulga of central Australia delight me. The cypress pine forests of Central West NSW and the sighing river oaks of the east coast are bewitching. I love to look out over miles and miles of blue-green eucalypt forest, or follow a winding watercourse across a wide plain, dark with trees against the yellow of cropped or grazed paddocks. I haven’t seen the towering jarrah or karri of Western Australia, or the mighty swamp gums of Tasmania, one of which has been declared the tallest hardwood in the world – but I have plenty of trees around me to look at.

Trees needn’t be enormous to possess character and distinction. The straight smooth grey trunks of the spotted gums in my yard are beautiful, as is the coarse, dark brown stringy-bark at my back door. If not for the bottlebrush and banksias and all our other trees, we wouldn’t have the number of birds we have in our garden. However, there are some individuals that really catch the eye.

Along the Awaba road, there is a distinctive eucalypt that has a spiral trunk, rough dark brown and smooth light grey bark alternating like a candy stick. There are trees along busy city and suburban roads, where branches on the roadside form a cut-away square, their growth constantly trimmed to shape by passing trucks and buses. And who can ignore the aerial roots of the thick-trunked figs of central Newcastle and Brisbane?

There is a great Moreton Bay fig on the south side of Wollongong city – there used to be two. The little settlement nearby took its name from those trees. I rode my motor scooter through Figtree on my way to Teachers College in the 1960s, and was always intrigued that a village could be named thus. The remaining tree now stands in the middle of the industrial sites, retail businesses and relentless traffic that have grown up around it. I hope it can withstand the growing urban pressure.

Illawarra Flame trees were abundant where I grew up. Their brilliant red flowers provided a splash of colour among the eucalypts along the escarpment. Then there are jacarandas. I know jacarandas aren’t Australian, but they might as well be. They have been widely adopted here, and in spring, their purple canopies grace many a garden and suburban street. Mum planted a jacaranda in our front yard when I was young. As the tree grew, its display of purple blossoms brought the promise of summer to our home. Then, when the carpet of fallen blossoms was gone, we welcomed its leafy shade. In our sixtieth year, my husband and I planted a young jacaranda in our yard. I look forward to the time when we can enjoy its show and its shade. But I must return to our natives.

Recently, we drove along the Old Putty Road. It isn’t as narrow and winding as it used to be, but you can still see and feel and hear the natural bush as you pass through. We stopped here and there to look at sandstone formations, flowers and trees. There had been a fire through a large area of bush, probably last summer. The trees were blackened, many of the saplings had died and the grasses were only just emerging from the charcoal-littered sandy soil. But the majority of the trees, having lost their foliage in the conflagration, were well on their way back to life. Green leafy twigs sprouted from trunks and branches everywhere, fed by winter rains and the spring surge of life-giving sap.

One tree stood out among all the others. It caught and held my attention. We didn’t stop, but even now, I can see that stark, blackened shape, clear among the smaller trees. A huge eucalypt, it had been shorn of foliage. Not a single secondary branch was left. They had been burned off, not just this time, but in many other fires over perhaps two hundred years. Only the trunk and thickest branches remained. If you wanted to draw the bare outline of a tree, it would be your perfect model. And yet, it was not dead, for from each black branch sprouted a veritable forest of small leafy twigs, giving it a lacy, shimmering green coat.

I will probably never see that tree again. I didn’t get a photo of it either. But in a way, I’m glad. To have it on camera would not have captured its magnificence. Instead, it would have been taken from its proper context, reduced to an isolated image, a trite phoenix-from-the-ashes cliché. And that’s not what it was – at least not entirely. In those brief moments, that blackened tree, bursting with new life, gave me a vision of nature’s spirit, a sense of life’s tenacity, and a glow of wonder and inspiration that remains with me.

(c) Linda Visman 2010

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