Tuesday, 24 February 2009
And still they burn
As I get into the stride of the year, already it seems to be rushing past. Maybe it is because February is a short month, and it is almost March. But with the fires still burning, still threatening lives and property, and still being so very ominous, I cannot help wondering whether the fires will never end, and whether it will ever rain and douse the lot of them. Surely it must end.
I keep thinking of those beautiful forests, of the lovely small towns, of the places I visited as a child, but which I have never had the time to revisit for so many years. Instead we did a lot of pounding up and down the Hume Highway, and spending the time seeing family. That was the most important thing, but somehow I always hoped that one day it would be possible to roam around and revisit so many places in Victoria. It is such a beautiful place.
Some visits we made are now very misty memories. As a very small child I went with my mother, sister, and friends to Officer, and looking at the small plants of Victoria's floral emblem, the epacris impressa, or heath. (I hope I got that right.) I always loved the native plants, and they were not grown in domestic gardens very often, so to see them you had to head for the bush. Not many people owned cars, the roads were narrow, and there was the dreaded phenomenon of the Sunday drivers, who clogged up the roads!
I also remember going to Ocean Grove. There are a couple of photos of my sister and me sitting on rocks, wearing our horrid woollen bathing costumes, which were incredibly difficult to get off once they were wet. There are not many photos from my childhood, and there are generally several years between each set of photos. The photos are tiny - about 2 by 4 inches!
As we got older, and there were more of us children, we used to have holidays in the country -we would travel to or through Port Fairy, Eildon, Yarra Glen, Marysville, Jamieson and Kevington, where we would swim in the Goulburn river, and walk through the bush, taking care not to fall down the old disused gold shafts. I remember the hot drives in the summer, and the times when the car would break down, for example on the road to Mansfield, and we would all be stuck on the side of the road until help arrived, often hours later. We would have occasional trips to the Dandenongs, and revel in the beauty of the bush.
When my family was young we'd go on holidays in Victoria, meeting friends and staying together. The trips were long, but the countryside was so beautiful, especially coming down the Cann River road. The Victorian towns were so much more attractive than those in New South Wales. I read somewhere years ago - I can't remember who wrote it but would love to find it again - that the environs of our childhood are imprinted on our minds and memories - the way the shadows fall, the quality of the light, the landscapes, and that many feel a deep need and desire to return to the places from whence we came. In the last couple of years I have had a couple of trips around the Port Phillip Bay area, where we used to have beach holidays, and to see those typical beach shores filled me with delight.
The National Botanic Gardens were opened in Canberra in about 1970, and they provided - and still do - a beautiful and tranquil environment with so many native Australian plants. They became much more readily available in those years, and there developed a more relaxed and informal style of gardening. Coming from the school of 'plant as much as you can possibly fit into the available space' I had a large and varied garden. Last year, towards the end of winter, I spent some hours wandering around the Botanic Gardens, on a rather bitterly cold day with drizzling almost freezing rain. Not many plants were flowering, but there were many things to enjoy: the beauty of the gardens, the variety of the plants, the bird life, and the tranquillity of the site on the edge of Black Mountain, so close to the city, but yet so separate. It was the time when my dear friend Viv was dying: she died on the last day of winter.
So we take comfort from wherever we may find it. We trust there will be regeneration and regrowth, of our land and in our lives and hearts. We go on.