Back Home.. An Expected Connection

Longer Form (Est. Reading Time 6.5 Minutes)

Something grand, right out your back door.

Gonna be bold and start with a few hypotheticals: Imagine every mountain peak has a bitumen pathway to the top and helicopter access. Every valley has a bitumen road carved into it to the waterfall at the top of the valley. Every river has a bridge over it, and better yet each river is channeled into concrete canals. At the top of every peak is a cafe. And a hotel. And from each peak you can look around to all the others from the comfort of your car, every other high point covered in roadways and hotels and cars. At night, the stars are out competed by high beams.

Imagine this at your favourite piece of scenery – or to the top of Uluru, Cradle Mountain, or Wollumbin.

It’s a totally gross hypothetical. Most can imagine it easy enough, as most people in the world are surrounded by some/all of these elements in the urban environment. It’s straight up unacceptable that where we spend most of our time we can’t drink from creeks or rivers and don’t breath the cleanest air, and to do so have to travel to areas to ‘refresh’ and seek respite from the hectic nature of our urban life.

One of the beautiful elements of wilderness is the opportunity we are each granted to reflect, experiencing the sheer contrast urban areas have with the wilder ones. What elements of the wilderness would you like to see at home? Clean water? Clean soil? Strong biodiversity? Quiet, or the near silence of wind caught in the tree tops?

To complement the wilder places, I’ve been reminding myself to see the bush closer to home. Or the greener grass on this side of the range, I guess.

It’s mid-morning and a wallaby is startled out of the shade of a she-oak, hopping off through the sedges, taking pause to look back in my direction and check out what disturbed it now its intimidation levels have dropped. Day long on this aspect of the hill the bush is gorgeous when the sun’s out; it gets a real rich yellow colour from the ageing sedges that merges with the scattered crisp green canopies and shade of the eucalypts. Staring up the hill the curve meets the open blue skies, uninterrupted. The gulls down on the shoreline are always making a racket. Or when coming back here in the evening, you’ll have a couple yellow-thoated honeyeaters chasing every bird away, or a heap of swallows feasting on the wing.

I really dig my local patch of bushland, it’s delightful. During winter and spring I was out amongst it most days of the week, walking through the sedge and sitting in the shade of the Amigdalina gums. Studying or working away at home, I’d break up my lectures and readings with time in the bush, in some ways reinforcing what I’d just been learning but in other ways just pacing or running around, resting my mind. These days, after work I get home, drop my bags and keys inside, don my runners and go for a run through the same area.

From a purely human-focused perspective, this area ticks all the boxes, even though it’s entirely surrounded by houses. It’s close to home, can host walking/running recreation, I don’t need a heavy pack, native species and solid bird watching are on offer, and my mates are close by to join. It’s an all round winner!

These days words like pristine are essentially hollow, given the global changes to climate. Our species fingerprints are all over the scene. And much like our surroundings, the depth of our understanding of nature evolves over time.

I’ve just wrapped up reading two fantastic books that I highly recommend picking up/borrowing – the first is ‘Rambunctious Garden’ by Emma Marris. Through a swathe of angles Emma pulls apart some of the history of environmental and wilderness conservation, and casts her thinking into the future, into the myriad of ways we could protect and reimagine our backyards with wild values at heart. The second is Second Nature by Michael Pollan. He explores nature through the eyes of a budding gardener, and how the attitude of growing vegetables and establishing a garden have changed over time, and whilst complicated and nuanced, are an important interpretation of nature.

Emma, and most folk with an interest/obsession with land ethics or deep ecology, frequently refer to Aldo Leopold. An amazing writer, he brilliantly wrote about his interactions with his local patch of nature – open grasslands in central northern America – and helped redefine how many people thought about their surroundings.

Aldo wrote that ‘One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds‘. I agree in that once you see an issue of any kind you’re destined to forever see it (that’s confirmation bias for you). Although what’s more pressing than the frequency of observation, is being reminded that we are not alone. Knowing that there’s an ever growing number of people concerned with the health of their surroundings.

I do feel that if we’re able to see an issue, then we must do whatever we can to help it. People know and want to see the state of the environment improve for themselves and following generations of life, and rightly deserve to be able to live in homes surrounded by clean air, water and soil.

Given that we spend most of our times at home, one flow on from wilderness inspiration is, as Marris puts it, knowing that ‘there is nature in more humble settings’. Wilderness is just one element. We can’t be in the wilder places all the time. I dwell on wilderness much but I’ve relished in seeing the benefits and values of nature closer to home over the years. Because of the local bushland, I know our air is clearer, the hum of the city dulled, animals closer, and the water that runs into our backyard filtered. Without this patch of quiet and access to others like it, our baseline of expectations for ‘home’ would be different.

Our local patches of bush close to home are incredibly important to us. They need care and smart management given the close proximity to high densities of people. If we’re spending most of our lives in urban environments, these areas just have to be healthy, strong, and enjoyable places that don’t sacrifice clean water, air and biodiversity.

A favourite line from Rambunctious Garden is: ‘We’ve forever altered the earth, and so now we cannot abandon it to a random fate. It is our duty to mange it. Luckily it can be a pleasant, even joyful task if we embrace it in the right spirit.

I’m inspired by the wilderness but wilderness alone will not save us.

We need to protect our local patches too.

This piece (finally) wraps up my ‘Back Home..‘ series. I spent the summer months delving into what wilderness means to me. I wrote about being on the top of Frenchman’s Cap, on some of the challenges of being out bush, about lengthy multi-month hikes, and about the need to chip in with a changed attitude to protection for our backyards.

If wilderness is ‘out there’, then what’s here at home? What does our future of wilderness look like? How do we protect wilderness areas at threat from human activity? Does a true wilderness include people, or not? There’s so many questions, and given the number of trails there’s always plenty of time to mull over the topic in more refined nature.

Heading into winter I’m working on a physical print book, and excited to hopefully release it in coming months. Follow me on Instagram here for updates and where/how to pick up a copy.

I always want to hear what you think – what does wilderness mean to you?? Comment below!

Happy trails my friends,

Jimmy Nails

During the week I study wilderness at University of Tasmania, I campaign with the Wilderness Society, and on days off I hike in the Tassie Wilderness World Heritage Area. You could say I’m a wilderness tragic. Outside of wilderness I’m a sucker for melody, cook a mean pasta, and need a third dot point.

The inspiration for this piece is right outside my backdoor in nipaluna/Hobart, on the traditional lands of the muwinina people. I respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of these lands and waters on which I was able to traverse, learn, and appreciate – and pay respect to the First Nations Peoples and their elders, past, present and future.

Bibliography / Suggested reads:

  • Emma Marris ‘Rambunctious Garden
  • Aldo Leopold ‘Sand Country Alminac’
  • Micheal Pollan ‘Second Nature

Back Home… Exploring for Protection

Longer Form (Est. Reading Time 5 Minutes)

A takayna/Tarkine Wilderness BioBlitz

NOTE: On March 20th, 2021, I’m running the the takayna trail run – 25km half marathon through the wilderness. I’m dedicated to raising donations for the Bob Brown Foundation that works tirelessly to protect this area of the world. You can help protect this special place by donating to my running effort here.

It’s nine o’clock on a Friday night. I’m prone in my tent, where the mix of last nights and this mornings rain has left the floor and lower ceiling sodden, absorbing and sharing the moisture of the rainforest floor wonderfully. My sleeping bag is twisted, and damp. My pulse beats loudly in my ears. It beats against my makeshift pillow, a trusty down jacket stuffed into a thermal shirt. Beyond the beat drifts in the finest mist of rain, struggling through the dense, ancient rainforest canopy and finally settling on my cheap, portable, thin walled home. It’s a soothing rain, almost dreamy.

The day wraps up and my eyes droop heavily to this pitta-patta, a few currawongs touch base with each other across an otherwise quiet canopy. They call a few rapid ‘good nights’ and one of ‘surprise’, a different call separate from their usual chatter. A call I hadn’t heard before. Today we put in a solid, lengthy days hiking. Pushing through and across a land dense and scarred by forestry, by fire, and by wind. The vegetation became thicker and thicker with confused regrowth. The ground undulating and torn by machinery. Further we pushed, deeper into takayna.

We established our camp on the slopes of a ridgeline that’s wonderfully remote. It’s one of the few, if only, times I would get close to using the word pristine. With a human-changed climate, pristine no longer exists. But a slip, trip, fall or bite – and our only option out is emergency helicopter. That, or being hauled for hours through the density, which is not ideal. We scattered our tents through the forest, beneath ginormous trees that allow such little light in that hardly a plant can grow beneath them. This is old forest. Very, very old. 

From above, the ridge line is an array of different greens. Some glossy, some matte. A total canopy carpet. Survival of the fittest is always at play. Here, every species around us is competing within a crammed forest. Those that can survive the longest – damp, dark loving species like the myrtle beech – grow slowly and gnarly, twisting through time for hundreds of years.

In the morning, the sun fights through cloud and wins but for a moment. We’re setting ourselves up for another day in the forest with a cold musli and lukewarm cuppa. Today we’ll be surveying and documenting whatever species we find – animal, plant or fungi. I’m balancing tea on one knee and book on the other, getting my eye in by scouring through pages of identification books, flipping from tree to shrub to orchid.

Traversing the Bertha ridgeline from north to south, we hug the eastern flank to avoid the dense fire instigated wall of life dense with batwing ferns and stink bush. The vegetation, although consistently rainforest, changes frequently, as the plants adjust to the lay of the ridgeline. We bio blitzed the whole ridge.

In one moment I’m photographing ferns cloaking a tree whose crown towers forty metres above. Next moment, I’ve discovered two tiny jet black beetles under the leaf litter. Moments later, a minute mantis fly (scientific name Calomantispa venusta for those taking notes) with wicked black and yellow forearms and antennae. Then, calling out to a mate, having found another special shaped fungi breaking down a fallen giant log. Find. Document. Repeat.

After a while, the groups rate of discovering new species drops off. Naturally, considering we’re bound to one form of vegetation. Everything has its limits. It’s at this stage I get to concentrate on my presence in this fantastic forest. A place where not many – if any – humans have traversed given it’s remoteness, and the preferable travel routes at lower altitudes where river and creek flow. I’m thinking about the future, and what it holds for this place…

One way I like to connect with new places is by finding commonalities – through similar species, shared climates, and familiar communities of plants, animals, and fungi. Here, a fern grows on the drier flanks of the ridgeline, and also grows at my favourite beach two hundred kilometres away as the cockie flies. How are they surviving in two totally different regions? What role in their surroundings are they creating that makes them the species best suited to grow there? Likewise is by finding new (to me) species, and trying to ID them and interpret where they sit in the ecosystem; again, all about what role do they play in the whole.

Another way is through experience, principally through hiking. My emotions and behaviours within a place are altered, or adjusted by, my surrounds. How this goes down solo is different from with a group. Not better or worse, just different. There’s plenty of laughs and reflection time either way, and I prefer both. In takayna, I felt extremely comfortable with my surroundings, owing much to our capable team. I felt calm. As opposed to other hikes, there was a defined task to locate and document species – to continue to build our case that this region deserves protection.

This region deserves world heritage listing, to join the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The fact that areas as internationally significant as this are being clear felled, bulldozed and burnt for wood chips is disgusting. Utterly disgusting. A truely outdated and unacceptable way of interacting with our surroundings. The darker, hidden side to wilderness protection is the actions that destroy it. That’s for another piece.

For now, you can enjoy a selection of photos from the BioBlitz here, or find out how you can be involved in future BioBlitz and help protect it through the Bob Brown Foundation, here.

Though ‘Back Home..‘ I’m going to delve into what wilderness is a little more.

If wilderness is ‘out there’, then what’s here at home? What does our future of wilderness look like? How do we protect wilderness areas at threat from human activity? Does a true wilderness include people, or not? There’s so many questions, and given the number of trails and making up for lost time we’re teeing up for 2021, plenty of time to mull over the topic in more refined nature.

So, here’s to turning a bit of home thinking time into home writing time, and looking forward to sharing this over the coming summer with you all.

And I want to hear what you think. What does wilderness mean to you?? Let’s chat below!

Happy summer trails my friends,

Jimmy Nails

During the week I study wilderness at University of Tasmania, I campaign for wilderness protection with the Wilderness Society, and on days off I hike in the Tassie Wilderness World Heritage Area. You could say I’m a wilderness tragic. Outside of this I’m a sucker for melody, cook a mean pasta, and need a third dot point. You can follow my more erratic self on Instagram.

The takanya/Tarkine region of lutruwita/Tasmania – the inspiration for this piece and where these photos were taken – is the traditional lands of the tarkiner people. I respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of these lands and waters on which I was able to traverse, learn, and appreciate – and pay respect to the First Nations Peoples and their elders, past, present and future.

Oils on the Road

It’s night two for us on the road with the band affectionately known world-wide as ‘the Oils’. The crowd has poured in with the insistent rain soaking through to their skins, into a Brissy-green amphitheatre right on the rivers edge. Below them the stage is alive. Around them nearly 10,000 peoples veins are pumping with rock’n’roll. For some, it’s their first oils gig in 30, 25, 20, or 15 years. For others, their first ever. Beams of desert-red light illuminate the falling atmospheric rinse, as a harmonica washes over our heads towards the city behind, instigating an essential Oils hit.


I cannot recall what led my 11 year old self to permanently borrow the Oils greatest hits from my folks’s music collection. It’s still there on my shelf, with the red $20 ‘Brashes’ sticker on the front sleeve the only physical reminder I have of the now deceased record store. The band occupy the full front cover, with a centralised Garret in a lengthy blue t-shirt with ‘What’s your excuse?’ emblazoned over it. Maybe that’s what drew me to the music, the idea that maybe the world I pictured as a primary school kid wasn’t exactly as I thought it was. The idea that outside our front living room in eastern Melbourne, some adults weren’t too keen on something.

‘What’s my excuse?’ Excuse for what?? I dunno, do I need one? Most lyrics went over my head those days – fair enough for a Grade 5 kid, but others didn’t. Beds are burning? Even the limited/zero exposure I had on the treatment of indigenous peoples that we received in the suburbs was enough to join the dots there. With a desire to increase my ever-expanding view of what actually occurred outside the front door, the Oils offered – I was hooked on them instantly.

Many years and events later, we meet on the Great Circle tour. The crowd sways and yells in and out of tune to favourites, b-sides and covers, all with the infamous corrugated water tank rusting away stage right of the drum kit. From our stall at the very back of the crowd I dissect the tunes embedded in my sonic memory – the drums beaten to half-death cut through yet meld together so bloody smoothly with bass and guitar it’s perfect. When the rising and rolling riffs of Truganini take shape over the steaming masses, I literally laugh I’m that happy to hear it in the flesh. And of course, there’s the frontman pacing around, elbows stapled to his waist, lanky arms flailing around and all of us clasped in the palm of his hand forever. It’s seriously just how I imagined it would be. In a word: Solid!

To me, the Oils embody Australian rock’n’roll like no other – music that sounds like the landscape that shapes us all. Choruses and words we all know, topics we can all understand, and above all – an over riding sense of the all-inclusive, the potential of a positive future for everyone, not just a select few. It’s wholesome music.


We dance into the evening, see out the rain, embrace the double encore, and close our five our stint informing a stream of concert-goers about the plight of our greatest barrier reef, exposing people to the Fight For Our Reef campaign, and how they can get on board and help.

With smiles our faces and a mass of conversations and petition signatures under our belts, we remain fully energised to continue to empower the Australian community towards a cleaner, healthier, and environmentally sound future for this grand landmass.

That’s the power of great music. The power of quality, tasteful songwriting that captures the urgency of the moment whilst keeping you dancing and singing along the way.


One vision, one people, one landmass, one ocean, one policy, one passion, one movement, one instant, one difference, one lifetime, one understanding.

One country. 

Where’d we be without the Oils?!

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