One day…

In any given day here I can be offered small moments of splendour or surprise.

One day last week I had three.

It began with a shining morning, where the low early sun set the leaves on trees and shrubs and even the bracken ferns to sparkle and dazzle. A solitary wallaby sat amongst the tussocks, backlit and bright-edged.

 Later in the morning a rare family group of kangaroos grazed amongst the spent jonquil bulb leaves. 

Usually I see the mum and joey together and the male separate, or else only following close to them when he thinks she might be on heat. 

There’s  been quite a bit of that going on lately, leading to a few barneys between old and young competing males.

But this trio stayed together for ages: the family that feeds together…?

And then, when the sun had set in the west and my forest had passed into darkness, this high bank of northern clouds took fire. Turner, eat your heart out!

Winter warmth

Much of this winter has been spent at the computer, writing more book talks. It’s cosy inside my cabin, with the slow combustion wood heater going all the time but fully banked down, as once the mud brick walls have heated up, they hold the warmth. No heat transfer at all.

But I am also out and about giving those talks, and was lucky to see this fabulously fiery grand scale sunset as I headed up through the Hunter the other week.

At home, in between deluges and dreary dampness, the Liquid Amber tree continues to hold all the colours of a sunset in its leaves. It glows even on the greyest of days.

I’ve enjoyed seeing that the roo family has been hanging about a lot lately. I took the photo on the right the other day, thinking how pretty the carpet of fallen leaves was.

But on the other side of the tree, in that same carpet, I spotted the red-bellied black snake whom I’d been blithely assuming was safely asleep. It was moving quite briskly too. Not fair! Winter is supposed to be my time of ease of mind when walking about in the bush, let alone the yard.

A  visitor to this site had said they can wake up if it gets warm, interrupt their hibernation.

So I want this slight winter warmth to go away, back to really cold for at least another month. And the snake to go back to bed.

Wide open skies

There is always something grand about the skyscapes of Victoria’s wide open spaces.  I can remember being struck by them on my first trip to the state, back in 1978.

This dramatic beauty (above) was offered to me early on a very windy morning, on higher ground about 5km from Bacchus Marsh.

And yet, back on my own mountain, where my sky views are limited by the forest rim of my clearing, my ‘skybowl’, this pretty sunset presented itself like a welcome back gift.

I don’t need to compare; I just enjoy.

Taking the time to look

I have been so involved in my coal book and the ongoing issues it deals with that I have hardly had time to leave the cabin — except to charge the laptop in the camper!

And, by the way, my 18-year-old batteries are OK. It’s the inverter that’s given up.  Unfortunately BP don’t make solar batteries any more in Australia (nor does anyone else) so they are all imported and horrifically expensive.

Now there’s a manufacturing industry that ought to be supported — instead of subidising the dodo technology of coal!

Even when busy, I can’t help but notice the extraordinary sights that nature keeps offering me here. Like the dark evening sky split with blue and the last of the light — unzippered just for me.

And although I haven’t had time to take walks and see what my local fungi are up to, my north coast friend Christa has been doing more than enough for us both. She’s a person who always takes the time to look at the world around her, although these frilly-skirted fungi would have been hard to miss. Luckily Christa also usually has a camera ready, so could share the sight with me.

I keep thinking ‘tarantella’ when I look at them, gay skirts swirling as the dancers stamp and twirl. And oh, the colours! 
Can you hear the castanets?

Sky lights

I look up as often as down, on the alert for the surprises that my surroundings so frequently have to offer me.

Thankfully the sky is ever changing; I agree with the Cloud Appreciation Society who ‘pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’, since ‘Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day after day.’

Sunsets to my western outlook may slip through their gamut of glory, their combinations of flaming shapes and colours, before I happen to see them. The last acts will be stunning, like this golden bird soaring above the dark below, but what did I miss?

I am far more likely to see the best of a sunrise, the low windows beside my bed being on the north-east.  And what would a sunrise be without clouds to catch for colour?

From bruised purple to hazy pink to firelit orange — who needs blue?

Scrambled sky messages

By day the weather has been wild and windy, making my escarpment edge trees roar like jet planes as they whip and whirl under the onslaught — and protecting my clearing.  

Early morning, it can be quiet, but ominous. 

‘Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning…’

And while there’s been no rain, the sky often looks as if it intends to, a strangely leaden backdrop for a bright sunlit treeline, pewter behind the red-gold.

One morning a faint sunshower drifted over, with no visible cloud source above, and a pale rainbow appeared in the blue western sky.

I think the message in such weather is ‘expect the unexpected’. I’ll  just have to keep an eye out for the next surprise. No wonder I’m never bored here.

Ethereal moments

Moisture, light and air — nothing substantial, and yet what they create when they combine can be magical and memorable. 

The wind-teased clouds in this sky made a grand if fuzzy-headed bird, tail feathers trailing, gliding like an eagle overhead, intently watching the earth below.

A perfectly still, dewy early morning, when clouds hug the earth; the sun rises, finds a chink in the clouds and gives me misty sun rays that only last for seconds. Another ethereal moment on the mountain.

Sky levels

I like a painting where there’s a focus for the eye but also depths and secrets, possibilities that keep you looking and musing, even if it’s hanging on your wall for years.

My skyscape canvas is not as vast as out in plains country but the mountains create more varied layers of clouds.

This is especially so when storms are rolling around the ranges, but probably not so down in the wider lowlands beyond and below them.

A strip of blue sandwiched between a variety of cloud shapes and colours and directions, a glimpse of the backdrop colour while the action takes place… much more interesting than a plain blue sky!

Or a slit of fiery orange between heavy grey rainclouds, in an early morning sky only half-decided about shepherds’ warnings.

Variety, contrast, uncertainty– all part of the action in that ever-changing show above me. And it’s free.

Sky larks

You may have noticed that I am fascinated by what’s above me as much as by what’s down here on my lowly level.

Early morning curry-combed clean bright clouds greeted me the other day; I dare to think I have identified them as the mid-level clouds, Altocumulus stratiformis undulatus — nearly parallel lines of cloudlets (thanks to The Cloudspotter’s Guide).

I wasn’t the only one up and enjoying the skies. First one plane, and soon after another, flew south. Across the whole arch of sky each only left a contrail in the same one patch of blue; it seemed as if the second came to lend a hand to tow the cloud that they both then were attached to — in harness.

Closer to me than those silver dots were two wedge-tailed eagles, resident kings of the sky here. They were having fine floating fun up there, and as I watched they began to perform a slow yet daring dance — precision flying.

Closer, closer, and touch! In tandem for a second, united for a second or two, separate — and then together again. They did this four or five times; it was hard to see the two birds at their closest.

Whether they stopped because the air currents parted them, or because these delicate flying caresses for their lifelong partners were enough, I don’t know.

But it was beautiful.

Dark skies

A storm-bent early morning, when pewter clouds fill the western horizon and no scrap of blue to be seen.

The sun climbs over my eastern treeline and switches on the spotlight, and the contrast between the suddenly vivid green moptops of the gum trees and that heavy background sky sends me running for the camera.

Blue is not the only beauty a sky can offer.

But that’s in Nature’s own colour scheme. Let  corporate Man at it, and brown enters the palette. Dirty brown, pollution brown, ‘don’t breathe-the-air’ brown, the cumulative emissions from too many open cut coal mines and coal-fired power stations. Accepted as hazardous to human health in the U.S., still unacknowledged here — that would mean they couldn’t approve any more. 

Lucky we have different lungs from Americans.

Welcome to the mid-upper Hunter Valley, which I can remember once had clean country air, blue or grey skies, but no toxic stripes of brown.

Cloud teasers

I have always been a cloud-gazer, in awe of their beauty and variety, although mainly at times of sunset or sunrise illumination. But ever since my Tassie friend Fred gave me The Cloudspotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney I have taken even more notice of oddly shaped clouds — without even a tinge of pink.

Being on a mountain,  I am in a good position for cloudspotting as the mountains catch some clouds and create others.

The first photo is one example of clouds shaped in the lee of mountains, orographic clouds  where air is forced up by the obstacle of the mountain range.  I think  these ones could be the Altocumulus lenticularis, mid-level lens shaped clouds. I couldn’t see the other end of them to check if they tapered off similarly there. ‘Elongated lozenges, pancakes…’

It has been suggested that many flying saucer sightings were lenticularis.

 In the same sky at the same time, but further west,  this unconnected ‘elongated lozenge’ has been through the wringer and looks more like a Twistie floating about on its lonesome up there.

While browsing my cloud book I discovered that there is actually a name for cumulus clouds formed in the hot moist fumes from power station, like these I photographed at Hazelwood in the Latrobe Valley of Victoria. It’s not an official name, just a nickname — ‘fumulus’!

Glory days

2010 has been a pretty rotten year for me and I’ll be glad to see the end of it but boy, is it ending in a blaze of glory!

Colour has new meaning with post-storm sunset skies like this. No wonder Turner was dotty about them.

While the south-west sky was grandly towering, the western aspect was elevated, flying free and roiling sideways.

As the storms continue, the soggy days more like north coast steamy than my mountain cool, and the leeches aggressive beyond belief — I need a sunset or two like this to remind me why I live where I do!