Woman on the move

As you know, I love sunrises. This clearly not at my place. Actually, I don’t have a ‘place’ right now. For the next month I am homeless! The Woman is on the move, national park hopping to re-connect with nature, before I have to live in a house… in a town (!) … but with no neighbours except a wooded wetlands reserve, so my treetops will house lots of birds to share with you.

This sunrise is at Crowdy Bay National Park. Wild winds and whipped seas accompanied my first morning but it was worth braving the 6am weather for this golden welcome back to nature.

By contrast, the tea-brown creek outlet on the walk back to camp was calm.

And at my camp, the much-missed wildlife awaited me, with an Eastern Grey Kangaroo grazing close by.

To top it off, next an Eastern Red-necked Wallaby with pouched joey levered her way across the soft grass.

Cheap thrills

One of the benefits of wintry mornings is that the sun rises later according to the clock, so I need not bolt out of bed at 5.30 a.m. to catch the event.

In fact I can catch it from my bed now, being the end of autumn.

On this particular morning the light flooding my room was so glowingly golden that I knew a beauty was occurring. Bolt out of bed I did, and scurry for the camera. 

It was chilly, but I didn’t wait to throw on more layers, knowing how very ephemeral the sight would be.

Pure gold … and not even a cheap thrill, but free!

As I write this and look over at the shades of grey and white that fill the sky where that glory had so recently been, I don’t like to say it’s banal by comparison, but it is!

At least it is changing constantly, being composed of clouds. Plain blue sky is but a background wash awaiting clouds to give it life.

If you have doubts about that, do check out The Cloud Appreciation Society site.

Shaped by land

It’s Autumn, so many locals are burning off their grasslands, or setting fire to their stacked bonfires of fallen branches and creek logjam clearings.

Being Autumn, it’s also a time of misty mornings and low-angled sunray surprises in this valley.

This particular morning I was treated to a combination of them both, as the sun’s warmth rekindled the night-dampened bonfire into smoke and released the paddock’s dew into rising mist. Only the smoke’s more blue colouring gave it away.

Autumn evenings bring early dark to the valley, while the far escarpment holds the last of the setting sun’s light.  It also often holds the gathered moisture of the day in a long rolling breath along the ridgeline, hugging the last of the land before becoming sky clouds.

Bad moon rising

The last full moon of 2016 first signalled its rising by an eerie backlighting of the many dark clouds that night. Then its round face appeared over the ridge, a glow through thin cloud.

Very soon dark riders and winged demons raced across to begin to quell the growing light.

Woven ropes of clouds were flung across the pale orb until heavier clouds could be brought in to put a total end to such interference with whatever dark deeds were afoot that night.

And yes, I am a fan of Tolkien as well as Creedence Clearwater…

Sky mimics

As at my old Mountain, the sky here is as important for my visual delectation as the land.

And I am as fanciful about what it offers.

Like this sunrise, where the billowing white foreground cloud looked so like bushfire smoke, unlikely as that was, that I had to go out and sniff the air to check.

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Or this moonrise, where the full moon looked for all the world like a celestial bowling ball rolling down the ridge…

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Or this early morning, where the upper grey cloud layer was moving quite fast to the north, while the lower dark one was pretending to be a further mountain range.

Rainbow or cloud?

Stormy subtropical weather does not suit me. I am pining for drier, higher climes…

However, this climate does have its special effects that only happen here.

Like this week.  A brief storm and shower, then the mountain lowered its clouds into the valley.

But the day wasn’t over and the sun exerted its supremacy.

As the cloud rose back up, its indefinite lower edge was tinged with rainbow colours, like an oil slick. But no rainbow ‘bow’.

Was I seeing correctly?

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But as the sun won, the cloud was clearly cloud and the rainbow was a rainbow.

Just for a few moments they had merged identities. For me.

New mountain moods

Now I am living on the mid-north coast hinterland, virtually in the subtropics, I am becoming used to high humidity and rapid changes in cloud behaviour and weather results.

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Thunder and lightning and stupendous short cloudbursts of rain…

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The ephemeral always fascinates me and there’s nothing so fleeting as clouds.

As in my previous home, mountains are critical for creating the varying special effects I love.

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Of course I love the fine blue-sky days too, but my attention is earthbound, not on the skyline. There are not enough eucalypts left here to make a forest but I am very grateful for what remains. Several of these tall, rough-barked fellows suddenly burst into blossom last week.

The show only lasted about a week, but what a display!

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Even more fleeting than the cloud movements are the appearances of the larger wildlife, like these two Eastern Red-necked wallaby males, spotted grazing amongst my weeds. Note the larger weed beyond them: the attractive but ubiquitous Camphor Laurel tree, and unfortunately not ephemeral.

Cloud lake

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The large man-made Lake St Clair can create fabulous effects at times. Sadly, many trees were drowned in its making, but their standing skeletons can be beautiful… and eerie.

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If I pass it early enough on a winter morning the sun hasn’t lightened the night’s cloud creations enough for them to totally dissipate and head back up to where they belong.

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As I look back towards Mt Royal across the sunlit lake-trapped sea of clouds, I cherish such short-lived effects.

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Especially as I know there are only a limited number of times that I will make this trip before I move.

Man-made beauty

On the way up to my Mountain, I drive around a man-made lake. It’s actually Glennies Creek Dam, but the recreational part is called Lake St Clair.

The highest knob towards the left is Mount Royal, sort of where I am heading for home.

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If you ignore the bits where the dead trees still stand reproachfully, slowly drowned, it can make a very beautiful scene. It has many moods and many weathers, from mist to cloud to white-capped waves to brilliant mirror finish.

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The mountain range catches clouds and makes it own weather. I can fantasise that I am in Scotland and this is a loch, not a man-made lake.

Morning glories

Being up and about early has so often gifted me unexpected and ephemeral sights here that I feel I’ve missed something – or might have – when I sleep in.

At about 900 metres elevation, we do catch clouds often. They may be slow to lift, waiting for the new sun to warm them and lighten the load. But when they do, the two elements can create wonders.

At moments like these, I can see how folk might have thought they were having visions of enlightenment as the figure reaches out its arms to them.

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Even when the effect of a figure has dissipated, the long rays continue to find their way though the forest for many photogenic minutes more.

Back to basics

A couple of years before I was born, Irving Berlin wrote a song (used in the musical Annie Get Your Gun) whose words have stayed with me.

Or at least the chorus has: I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night and scraps of verses along the lines of 

Got no diamond got no pearl

Still think I’m a lucky girl

And I still do.

I try not to think of Dean Martin singing it, as he always made me feel rather queasy; too smooth by half.

(If you want all the lyrics they’re here)

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I’m waking up early these days, so I caught this sunrise from my bedroom windows. If you look very closely, you’ll see there’s a slender crescent moon in the blue.

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Stumbling outside with the camera, I found that the sky to the west was a reflected rosy wash. Fleeting, almost past, but such a gift.

I truly am a lucky old girl!

Tasmanians awake

I’m not a ‘good flyer’, but once the panic at takeoff subsides, I am always agog at the fantastic cloud landscapes we pass, like these escarpments and plains and scudding ‘sheep’.

I’m glad to be home but the Tassie tour was well worthwhile. My ‘Rich Land, Wasteland’ talks to audiences in Cygnet, Hobart, Burnie and Launceston, combined with screenings of the eye-opening ‘Bimblebox’ documentary, left me both concerned and encouraged. 

Concerned at the lack of awareness in the community, even amongst what were mainly environmentally aware people, that the resources rush was not confined to the mainland— or to the Tarkine here. 

For example, it was a shock for folk to learn that New Hope Coal, who calculatedly emptied and ‘erased’ the Queensland town of Acland in advance of their open cut coalmine expansion, plan a coal-to-liquids (CTL) process for the low quality coal at their Rosevale and York Plains exploration leases.  

Acland’s tragic demise is vividly shown in the film and depicted in my book, as is the Felton community’s fight against a similar dirty CTL petrochemical plant in their valley. They won, by the way.

Other larger companies, like the BG Group, (British Gas) have CSG interests here, and audiences were shocked at the map we displayed of Tasmania’s substantial CSG resources.

But I was encouraged that people took the information on board and could see that Tasmanians are well placed to use their people power to safeguard their regions before the juggernaut starts getting up momentum here. 

The Lockthegate Alliance and the planned CSG-Free (or whatever-free) Communities process are achieving great results in NSW against inappropriate mining and drilling. The Lockthegate site is full of very useful factsheets and links.

  
Victorians have woken up to the threats to their agriculture and tourism, their water sources and their lifestyles, and are rapidly forming groups.

I hope to see lots of yellow Lock the Gate triangles when I return to Tassie.

tasmania-tour-2I was based in Hobart, a stunningly located and perfectly-sized city, in my opinion, and spoke once more at the terrific Hobart Bookshop in Salamanca Place, where Chris Pearce continues the best traditions of small bookshops. Long may such treasures for booklovers remain.

Photo at Hobart Book Shop talk by Ralph Wessman of Walleah Press.

I did get to briefly see parts of Tasmania that I hadn’t on my quick 2010 trip. One was the beautiful Huon Valley, full of laden apple trees and proflifc waterways, when I went to the charming village of Cygnet.

And the north, past Devonport for the first time, when I drove up to Burnie to speak at the very modern University of Tasmania campus there. The Tasmanian Greens organised the talk (as they did several others), and Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson introduced me. Then and in our question time he spoke very well, realistic, level-headed and informed.

People here and in Launceston relate to much in my book and the film, having spent years fighting the Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill. The battles against corporations and inappropriate and inadequately researched projects are sadly similar, with community divisions and personal health impacts. But they won that battle!

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The joke used to be that Burnie was ‘Where the forests meet the sea – as woodchips’.  It was strange to see woodchip stockpiles and loaders on the docks rather than coal stockpiles.

Burnie reminded me of Wollongong and Port Kembla, with industry on a narrow strip between the sea and the high backing range.

From Burnie I took the old Penguin Road to head to Launceston for the Sawtooth Gallery’s Document://Bimblebox exhibition.

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This road hugs the coast, closely shadowed by the rail line, and passes through the quaint town of Penguin. It’s gone a bit over the top with the fake penguins and penguin-linked shop names — even the rubbish bins are supported by ring-a-rosy penguins — but it did have a very cute church. Mind you, I wouldn’t have been suprised to see a penguin atop the steeple.

The route took me via Ulverstone and the rich farming lands beyond, where I was interested to see rolling paddocks of pyrethrum and learn of the poppy industry. There was a touch of Kiama and the NSW south coast here. It’s rich and productive and popular.

tasmania-tour-5Launceston was an unexpected treat, full of gracious old buildings and good restaurants. I met up with Queensland friend Liz Mahood, who was showing in the ‘Documentary://Bimblebox’ exhibition at the Sawtooth ARI Gallery here. Liz also wrote and recorded a moving song, titled (I think) ‘Waiting for the air to clear’, from her Bimblebox artists’ camp time, and it was being played in the Gallery when I was there.

Photo courtesy of Jill Sampson, one of the artists in the Document:// Bimblebox exhibition, at the Sawtooth Gallery in Launceston until 27th April.

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