Mt Buffalo NP – July ’15

I guess that’s what it’s like after living on the road..

Think of the variety of your own life. Consider the sheer abundance of everything surrounding you – you’re reading this on an LCD screen either stored in your pocket permanently or fixed to your desk at home, your desk at work, or your coffee table. Your home is adorned with a myriad of collectables, some you use frequently whilst others get dusted off every now-and-again..

Much of what you possess is beyond luxury to most of the human population of earth. Some countries of people struggle to eat, let alone sit down on a frosty sunday morning in a cafe nestled at the foot of the great dividing range to consider how lucky they are. Most of us understand this, yet struggle to maintain a strong appreciation for how fortunate we were to be brought up in the lucky country..

It isn’t something to be ashamed of – I believe it’s a simple human trait that anyone blessed with even minimal luxuries will eventually take them for granted within a generation or two. Think of your grandparents, and how they would use every skerrick of food in the cupboard, never wasting a scrap. Now, each of us own fridges stocked to overflowing and we choose ‘convenient’ eat-out options rather than figure a meal out for ourselves. Our grandparents would kept the lights off unless being in that particular room, to save on electricity and money. Now, we’ll design our houses around permanently alight fixtures – sometimes even on the outside when we’re not even home! Or, consider house sizes – my dad was brought up with five other brothers and sisters, and they shifted around the inner city with their folks from richmond to collingwood, from carlton to fitzroy. that’s eight to a (small inner city) house, and also probably the reason i chose to take up residency in the same areas myself. And, funnily enough, i never ventured further west than north melbourne, nor further south than the yarra river, just like dad. And now these days, homes are built two, three, four times the size as the nuclear family shrinks to four or five to a house..

It may be obvious but it remains important to explore – we live in a permanent state of sheer abundance, and the trend is demanding more on a daily basis. and we take it all for granted..

I’ve come to appreciate the simpler aspects of the world, and most importantly, my own backyard of victoria, by taking to the road and living a simpler, less-materialistic life (if you’d call it such). Take the past weekend – I lived out of the boot of my car, cooking meals on a gas-camp stove in picnic grounds in the ovens valley, sleeping on the back seat (it only takes a night to adjust), and putting off shaving until this evening..

Now, in the aforementioned cafe at the base of the great dividing range, I can sit in complete warmth (still with wet socks I’ll add) and enjoy the first warm drink I’ve had in three days now. Admittedly, this route of life isn’t prime for my dietary choices, but I’m happy as the positives much outweigh the negatives. Come the forty-eight hour mark I’m struck with a revitalised perspective on what it means to be lucky..

This leads me to contemplate the importance of a preserved natural world by first ignoring the biological and ecological significance, which surpasses human needs and instead focuses on the needs of all other living (and non-living) things on earth. Anyway, we know the icons of the australian landscape – the kangaroos, the emus, the echindas, the platypus, the burrunan dolphin – all each depend on a healthy world around them. it’s important to us because our culture depends wholly on a healthy world..

If we all offered ourselves a chance to experience something different that wasn’t a new television show. If instead of waking up in the same bed we do every day of the week we instead opened a tent fly to behold a land cloaked in fog or a river in winter flood. If we could all escape our lives a little more often, and appreciate the beauty (and absolute freedom) offered by the entirety of the great outdoors, then maybe we’d be beyond satisfied with the abundance that we are blessed with..

A cultural revival, as we return to the bush, to the sea, and to the mountains..

Our landscapes don’t teach us anything new, but instead remind us of what we’ve forgotten – that a simple life is such a quality life..

Photos from this trip over the incredibly beautiful plateau of Mt Buffalo can still be viewed here.

Walking One Tree Hill

I took a morning off from working on our video exploring the benefits of mapping marine species movement, and drove out and into the Sugarloaf catchment – Christmas Hills area – and the Warrandyte Kinglake nature conservation reserve (that abuts the Kinglake National Park)..

This is the Happy Valley track – it isn’t a long walk, or even a difficult one, but it is certainly beautiful, ascending up one tree hill through beautiful dry sclerophyll forest. At first, you could think it a place of uniform, consistent bushland. However, taking a refined look will expose a stretch of gully woodland, red box dry grassy forest, herb rich foothills, and messmate damp forest – seamlessly blended together as only nature can..

I’d been here before, and knew exactly where I was going, allowing me to amble knowledgeably uphill. The weather and time of the week provided me one of the best days of the year so far – low twenties, crystal clear blue skies with not a cloud in sight, plus it was a tuesday. perfect..

Pausing for drinks, I pulled out the notepad and started writing: sounds, colours, the absence of immediate personal despair. the sun was painting the world the colour of autumn – that golden wash – amid the returning greens that summer had scorched, and the shadows not yet coated with cold as it soon will be. caught sound of frogs in the distance – water trapped somewhere ahead..

A clearing opens away to your left – unlike the other side of the road where open dry forest stands with little to no under storey, this anthro-gully sits lush with rushes and reeds, quietly fenced with three to four metre ferns. Moss covers the immediate earth, and the layers pile on top of each other until the canopy. Birds weave in and out of the vegetation – wrens, honeyeaters, wagtails, whilst a pair rosellas join in from above, feasting on a growth of mistletoe. Sitting atop the up-turned roots of a rough-barked eucalyptus, i admire and learn from my surroundings..

Much of this vegetation is listed as vulnerable, in that only ten to thirty percent of what existed prior to European settlement remains. Areas like these provided early colonisers with a brilliant selection of timbers, and hence their decimation. Places like happy gulley can help you imagine what the whole outer north/north east of Melbourne used to/could be like: smooth, white trunks of the manna gums, coarse dark barks of the peppermints, or, my personal favourite (the dominant reminder of home) the solid red box..

Last night my sister and I talked our way through a myriad of topics, one of which was the increasing intensity of appreciation that coincides with the gaining of specific knowledge..

One skill I’ve picked up in the past few years, one enhanced remarkably with even a basic knowledge of flora growth, is acknowledging signs of human disturbance – however aged. A mine shaft, or a upturned rusty water tank are somewhat obvious remnants. They may have been there for a couple of decades (or in the case of a mine, a hundred or more years – gold mining begun in christmas hills in the late eighteen-fifties). There’s the remnants of roads once carved into the hillside, now an elongated slope or step in the bush. scarred hills bare of certain vegetation. Or slump piles from the still-operating mine upstream covered in mature, and yet by no means massive, eucalypts. (I wish I could say human disturbance is confined to the past, but unfortunately at times you can still catch the sound of distant farmers, drivers and aeroplanes)..

There’s a tree above the banks of the Yarra River, on the hills where the river cuts through from yarra glen, that is thought to be a few hundred years old. It is massive. Absolutely massive – a size probably non-existent anywhere anymore. Once observed, you can appreciate then the youth of the bush surrounding you, as well as the extent of timber harvesting in the area..

However, disturbance aside, it still remains a brilliant spot in the outer north-east! Remember, there aren’t many places (if any) where you can escape completely from society in the Port Phillip catchment..

With this writing complete, I return to my hot crossed bun, and the thought of a bigger breakfast..

I know a wishmaker..

Merri MS – March ’14

read this along with a simple song – one that evokes the smell of salt in your beach scorched heart. recall your own moments of personal bliss – the times when nothing mattered and it was everything..

in front of a slightly crooked projector they stood. i sat in an uncomfortable chair, most likely slouching to my right – pencil sketching on the same side, with left arm strung over the back of the chair – standard posture. every chair is uncomfortable for the restless. look at me now, i’m half leaning, half sitting on the inner sole of my left foot, with a perfectly able desk at arm’s reach – on a saturday night. i’ve just ducked back in from outside, as i’ve been out to embrace the shift in climate, just to wet the face and shoulders after lying on the floor for three hours, and to freshen up to type away a little longer..

so i sat in my induction chair, and i listened on occasion. i understand how i work in classroom scenarios, however informal or entertaining. come on, i know – years of attending classes, even uni when i wanted to be there more than anywhere, left me drawing and distracted by thoughts of exploding out the door with kinetic (and nervous) energy. i want it now, i want it all. i want to get out and explore, with overflowing attention spans and a set of piercing, questioning eyes..

but, repetition repetition is the key – and they said to me ‘play to your strengths’ – i remember pausing my quick amateur sketch of a lighthouse atop an ocean road cliff, in order to absorb these words. ‘play to your strengths’. so simple really – the real challenge is finding a way to adapt strengths to the task at hand. if you try to be false, if you try to cheat your audience, you will come undone. one can only be one; themself. we can only succeed by exploiting those traits that no other knows best – our own..

traits and strengths – they seem to me a little different.. and for this piece, irrelevant..

let me fast forward a few moons and a few hundred low and high tide cycles, to a time of reflection. a chance to paint a grammatically spasmodic, yet hopefully charismatic, image of arranged text – words that have only, and could only, be churned up by my brain, fuelled by my heart, and selectively constructed by my fingers..

in essence, you are what you write – pick a word to describe yourself. better yet, write it down and analyse the text in front of you.. is it well written? did a vast amount of thought go into your chosen adjective? do you feel that if you had your time again, you’d choose a different descriptive word that better reflects how you now feel? no doubt a lot can be gathered from such a simple experiment..

if you dare, cast your mind away from the big smoke of multi-cultural melbourne. find your way out of the mile x half-a-mile grid for starters, and make your way across the largest bridge in the state, travelling west! there is a definable difference between the eastern and western portions of Victoria. on a world scale, they’re basically indistinguishable, but for one that has spent some time traversing between the two, a closer inspection of the towns and the coastline shows a myriad of variances..

for starters, the composition of the soil and the geological history. take the different warming currents that pump eternally along the opposing coast lines in a race to the northern corners of tasmania. observe the differences in the town names, such as a stretch of weekend driving that can take in birregurra, barramunga, barongarook, bungador and bullaharre. the east doesn’t know flat – whilst the west don’t know mountains..

if you make it past the apostles, you’re almost there.. and that must mean that it’s time for me to stop rambling, and get down to business. i’ll run through the land and sea scapes very slowly and thoroughly, describing the ins and outs of this young sedimentary coast as it juts out and into the never-ceasing, crashing waves fresh off the bonney upwelling..

it was my home for the summer of thirteen/fourteen.. to her i leave this, my love letter and converted emotions, whilst i leave fulfilled, enriched, a different person to whom i was a season before..

welcome, to the merri marine sanctuary..

imagine before you open your eyes – you’re not there of course, this is most likely (given the modern era) splashed across your computer screen in front of you, or re-imagined for your smart phone. take a breath. Imagine somebody has blindfolded you, and helped you up to the height of thunder Point, the highest place overlooking the park – you can’t see the sanctuary, but you’re beginning to feel the sanctuary instantly. your remaining activated senses are awash with activity – the air you’re breathing now is no longer stagnant, the ever present south-westerly has laid waste to the mess of anthropogenic smells left by you and all those around you..

now breathe again. it’s a rush of cool, tingling air and a dull burning sensation intrudes to the furthest reaches of your nose – nasal cavities burst to a state a refreshment synonymous with ocean side living. keep breathing, and focus in on your ears..

at the point, you’re surrounded by ceaseless noise. strain your ears and focus on the waves as they first hit land beneath you, and slowly continue to crash along the cliff face that runs back towards warrnambool. by the time they pass to the edge of hearing, another has smashed into the point and is following its brother.. today, however, the weather is kind and unthreatening – the wind is low and only wiping things up a little..

finally, before your thoughts wonder off around the coast to the east, imagine two silhouettes on the southerly horizon coming into focus. two islands – two infamous islands – although from this angle they appear as one.. they dominate the landscape, laying right in the middle of the sanctuary. their stunning, layered xantho-rock reaches for one another. romantics drifting further apart from each other slowly – ever so slowly – this disconnection is forever. ironically, for the unanimous curse that humans carry, that clouds our ability to completely consistently see into the future, even the most rudimentary sapian gazes out to these two stranded piles of history and realises that one day they will be no more. it will take centuries, but they’ll foresee it, that’s for certain..

the islands lay out-of-bounds for environmental reasons. it is dedicated so to protect a variety of avifauna – little (blue) penguins, short-tailed shearwaters, and transients like the pacific gull and pied cormorant.. when you make it down the path to pickering point, you’ll catch a glimpse of most of the later, plus a range of sea gulls and terns as well..

i read the best stories with the unpredictable endings. when despite the size, you’re continually sorting the story in your little head, predicting the unknown..

but now I’ve got a lump in my throat, because i’ve left it all behind. i can’t stop thinking about it, so i try to arrange and better my emotions like i always do – by writing them down. this could possibly be the most difficult aspect of human life to convey in such a way – far more complex than a prolonged smile or a walk to the door – your skipping breath (am I torn or tired), the moment you wished never arose (yet also never ended)..

unfortunately feeling such has coincided with my physical state of personal disrespect, running on bare minimum sleep, little food, and zero meat. what was already difficult became unbearable – i miss the summer life style, and the sound of the country. the waves crashing. the cold of the water. the punctuality of the sea breeze from the south west..

i miss it all, though one particular aspect more than most – that which awoke the largest smile, and the most frequent laughter..

i wrote down an adjective, and it was attached..