Moonset, sunrise

With much on my mind re this coal book, the ongoing issues and the ensuing talks and tours, I am up early to start work. 

One recent benefit of this — apart from stopping my kaleidoscope brain from its pointless shuffling — was that I caught the moon on its way to bed, full and bright above the south-western still-dark treeline, which the early dawn light was just starting to colour.

Things change rapidly at that hour, and in the opposite sky, where the sun was about to pop over the mountains, the raggedly combed clouds were suddenly aglow.

Softer pink reflections attended the moon before it slipped from sight into cloud and away — a veiled exit!

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?

Sunset rainbow

Rainbows are always a wonder and sunsets often are.

I don’t think I have seen them give a simultaneous performance before.

This occurred out west, after a storm. If you look closely you can see the fainter ‘double’ rainbow.

The colours were striking, especially since inside the arc of the rainbow seemed more pink than outside it, where the last of the day’s blue still held sway.

Perhaps I have been unobservant in the past but this seemed unusual, as if the rainbow was a solid hemisphere rather than an arc. 

I never cease to marvel that nature is such a constant surprise and source of delight, free to those who think to look.

Futile Fantails

Re-visiting my friends with the peacocks, I struck these quite ridiculous birds at their show-off time, which is also when they make more noise — at times like a cat ‘caterwauling’, at others like a donkey. Never like the divas they dress up as.

The white peacock was the first to display for me —  for the aged white peahen actually, but she walked straight past and ignored him. How she could I don’t know, as he was spectacular in fine tulle and — well, feathers!

But I guess she’d seen it all before.

He turned towards her dismissive back, fanning his tail forwards right over his face as he did so. It was such a showgirl rear exposed, pleated silk and ermine trimmed knickers!

The next afternoon I found the blue peacock strutting his stuff before the chooks, who were slightly more interested than the peahen – but not much.

I was enthralled. Just look at the fine detailing along the bottom edge of the fan, like a row of ‘eye’ sequins!

He too tried to catch her attention by fanning far forward, then slowly rotated. It looked hard to keep his balance with so much out front.

I realised that the stiffer short fan of grey feathers act like a brace. And then he began to shimmy, to vibrate the whole shebang so the quills audibly rattled! The soft white and black fluffy rear layers shivered very sexily.

But the peahen hadn’t stayed for the show.

I felt so sorry for him; all this effort and nobody but me to applaud. Before he packed it away into a long trailing tail once more, I told him how incredibly beautiful he was.

Still ridiculous finery to be wandering about a chook yard in — but I am in awe of the exquisite design detail and colour! Who could have dreamt up such a creature?

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.

High fliers

Each year the Lilliums in front of my verandah shoot up anew, aiming for the roof but not quite making it.  Still, at about three metres, their height is impressive and their bells bloom well above the verandah railing, allowing their heavy perfume to reach me at my desk, despite the dense greenery between us.

I went outside and walked around below them to look up into their throats — and only then did I notice  what was going on in the background.

High-flying beauty of a different sort was taking shape in the sky beyond. 

Delicately tufted white Cirrus clouds, the highest-flying of all the main cloud types, were streaking and flipping their ice crystals across the blue.  My Cloudspotters’  Guide tells me they typically form above 24,000 feet. These ethereal wisps won’t last long, unlike my fleshy Lilliums.

Gippsland the varied — part 2

Travelling home after two months on the road, for once I chose to be kind to myself, to unwind slowly and not to let time pressures make me rush past all the interesting turnoffs — as usually happened.

Gippsland’s Wilderness Coast is somewhere I definitely want to return to, in another winter, with weeks to spend on its many inlets, points and headlands, beaches and rivers, and in its forests. Extraordinarily diverse, mostly unpopulated, it is full of the wilderness edges I like so much, and protected by National Parks like Cape Conran and Croajingolong, and Marine Parks like Point Hicks and Cape Howe.

Its pristine Tasman Sea beaches were empty, and faced across Bass Strait to Tasmania, a thought that appealed to me, even though I couldn’t see that now-favourite state. 

The rocks were different at every stop, but I was particularly taken by these stranded clusters of yearning dolphin-like rocks.

Inland, heading towards Cann River, spectacular and informative Rainforest Walks were signposted and accessed just off the Princes Highway — temptingly too easy to pass by. Suspended bridges crossed the creeks and the timber walkways were still slippery with ice at 11am.

Climbing Genoa Peak was not be missed, my brochure said. Only 1.5 kilometres — but straight up! The climb was mostly through casuarina and angophora forests, with twisted ti-trees higher up.  The paths were soft casuarina needle carpets, with bright correa (Native Fuchsia) blooming their sides.

The bush was very still and silent, with nary a bird call or rustle. Suddenly a whole series of calls rang out; it had to be a lyrebird! As it was, but a very quick lyrebird, so I only managed a glimpse of his gorgeous tail as he ran away.

The view from Genoa Peak was impressive. I must confess I didn’t make it to the very top, as the steel ladder to that was so steep that they had a cage around it so one didn’t fall backwards! The previous two steel ladders had been bad enough for height-challenged me.

I did see my destination for that night — Mallacoota Inlet, whence the Genoa River entered the sea, after curving between forest-cushioned shores through the Croajingolong National Park. Maybe I’d do some bushwalking there.

But by the time I was back at the car park at the base of the climb — two hours in total — my calves were screaming:’ Climb no more, you silly old woman! Give us a break.’  Going downhill had been far worse.

Macedon mists and cool crafts

I like the mystery of mist, of fog, of cloud that comes down to join the land. But as a rarity, not a norm.

The Macedon area in Victoria is on a high plain, about 700 metres up, above which rise its ranges. ‘Naturally cool’ is the shire slogan. And it is, on many levels.

Misty moisty mornings do provide some beautifully lit scenes and special effects, both distant and close.

They are not so good for sightseeing. Giving up on a clear day down here in the lowlands, hoping for a change higher up — as I find at home — on two separate days I climbed to the Lookouts on Hanging Rock and the Camel’s Hump (Mount Macdeon). At each the view was of mist.

Apart from climate, the area is pretty cool when it comes to food and culture and shopping too. Every weekend one or other village has a farmers’ market of local produce, and some have local craft markets.

Amongst the latter, I was lucky to make the Gisborne market, where I found a quaint Celtic gypsy tweed ‘hat’ that not only fitted, but didn’t make me look dopey, as beanies do.  Made in Gordon, Victoria, by Seina and Bob Petch of Wild Trout Headwear, it warms my head and my Scottish heart.

As if that wasn’t a treat enough, in the main street itself is the best little shoe shop I have ever been in — that is, if you like quality shoes that are actually designed for human feet, are meant to be worn without pain and are beautiful to boot (sorry, Victoria seems to bring out the punster in me).

Being an impoverished writer, I wouldn’t normally go in to such a shop for fear of being tempted — but it was having a half-price sale on boots. 

I’ve been looking for years for flat-soled long plain boots to replace my old faithfuls, now 25 years old, and at which my local bootmaker now just shakes his head. But I didn’t want fake buckles and ruched folds and silly patterns.

God bless Gisborne Footwear! The owner cheerfully (another novelty) pulled out box after box as we refined my ideal.  I found them, I love them, I could afford them – and I am sure I will have them for 25 years too.

I actually sang on the way home that day.

Early birds

When you get to a camp spot late in the day you don’t have time to look around much, beyond finding a flat spot for the tent, setting it up and scavenging leftover firewood at cold campsites.

I saw enough of Lime Bay, in the State Reserve near the northern tip of the Tasman Peninsula, to know that I wanted to be up early next morning to make the most of the time I’d have there.

When I woke, it felt far too cold to get up. But I unzipped the tent enough to see swans and this slow sunrise dawning. Not too cold after all.

I had learnt that sunrise takes a long time in these latitudes. Gloved, hooded and many-layered, I sat on a rocky point above the low tide and watched the other early birds, like the swans skimming the water in a slow take-off towards the sunrise.

I have never had the chance to observe black swans, so I had no idea until now that they wear white petticoats.

A solitary seagull floated over the gently rippling bay, whose colours changed more noticeably than the sky seemed to, picking up bronze in long smooth reflections amongst the silver blue of the broken water.

But the sky was changing, the indigo lightening to a more daytime blue, the peach skyline gaining a red blush, catching fire in the Bay. Only the land remained in night-time black.

Then the event progressed with a rush as yellow arrived, overwhelming the peach, turning the blues to purple. I hardly had time to take note of its aspects before the sun rose over the point.

Then the land was lit up as if by firelight; the tree trunks, the grass edge, the beach with its strange mounds of seaweed like stranded Pekinese and its long seismograph frills of black lace.

The millions of tiny shells that comprised the lower edges of the beach were glowing as I crunched along, not wanting to spoil the sand with footprints.

My feet were numb, but Lime Bay was more than worth getting up early for.