We are walking in the forest. It is cold and softly raining, but we are well dressed for the weather and the dense canopy above reduces that gentle rain to a fine mist. I am feeling happy and carefree, I want to skip and jump. You seem contemplative, quiet. After a few minutes we settle together into a calm and companionable silence.
The path ahead diverts around the buttress roots of one ancient tree. We stop at this giant, and I step over the buttress and lean in, pressing my palms against the damp bark. The bark is rough to touch. Close up I can see the rain seeping down the channels in the rough bark, to be delivered gently to the soil and the roots below. Standing here, I imagine those roots reaching down and down into the earth. The roots hold the tree to the earth, and in the process hold the soil to the hillside. The roots of this tree and the forest around it support the tree, support the earth, support you and me.
Deep underground, the roots of this tree also take nutrients from the soil. These nutrients are pulled upwards. They are pulled to the very top of the tree by the evaporation of water from the leaves. The tree is selecting elements from the soil and using them to build more tree. But the roots of this tree are also communicating with other trees nearby, sharing nutrients and chemical messages in a two-way collaborative network. This tree and the trees nearby are not just building themselves. They are building the forest. My palms are on the tree, touching the rough bark. But my mind is down with the roots and wonders whether ‘tree’ is just a human construct and there is only forest.
I turn my face to you. You are leaning backwards on the part of the forest we call ‘this tree.’ Your eyes are closed and you are smiling a gentle smile. Your warm breath makes a little mist as the moisture condenses in the cold air.
You and I, we are both breathing. We breathe in. We smell the damp and the earth and the forest. To me, the air smells green. To you, the air smells clean. We breathe in the air and take the oxygen that the forest has released in the process of photosynthesis. We breathe out. The forest breathes our breath and in the process of photosynthesis it takes the carbon and creates more of itself. Some of this carbon is shared from tree to tree via the roots. The carbon that started in our bodies will nurture the entire forest.
We breathe the forest. The forest breathes we.
My palms are on the tree, I am breathing in my body but my mind is far above and below with the exchange of carbon and oxygen and I wonder whether ‘you’ and ‘I’ are just human constructs and there is only forest.
They said I was mad to plant milkweed… but here we are six months later hosting Monarch caterpillers. Now, I’m as ambivalent to all things American as any Australian ought to be, but the romantic tale of the arrival of the Monarch or Wanderer in the late 1860s and via New Caledonia has me intruiged. And the caterpillers are so full of character. How could I resist?
Somebody has been pinching my mulberries! Chewing the fruit from the tree and leaving just a stump. Its not the chooks, they are safely away in their new run. Its not flying foxes, the tree is too small to support their weight. That leaves possums and rodents as the most likely suspects. And no mulberries for me until I figure out who it is and how to protect them…
So, I started a dance class a couple of weeks ago and I am pretty crap at it. Now my brain is a perfectionist – If I’m not immediately good at something I pack up and go home, but my body is a completely different beast – it just loves to move, it loves to try and fail and try again and practice the moves while washing up, watering the garden, carrying a shopping basket up and down the aisles at Aldi… Wherever, whenever, my body loves to MOVE. And eventually this joy is contagious and I find myself laughing with total joy and abandon as I flail about enthusiastically in class, and even more when I realise that I am moving in the opposite direction as everyone else. Hahaha!
What is not to love and appreciate about this marvellous joy machine that I have been blessed with?
This week my mulberries decided to get all dressed up! I put them both in the ground last spring, and this the first year the black tree has fruited. It has also grown, and is just taller than me – about 6 foot.
In case you can’t tell from the photo, the fruit are sweet and super juicy! They also leave a violet stain on your hands.
Neighbours, today I am grateful for my lovely neighbours. Yesterday I was feeling a little low – I had taken a week’s leave to get the garden sorted, and a big list of projects to complete. Six days later I realised that despite having worked really hard and being exhausted, I was not going to get it all done. Then the ladies from across the road popped by and one told me she was glad someone was giving the house some attention and the other gave me some empathy for the overwhelm I was feeling. She also shared her plans for her garden. So I got some acknowledgement, appreciation, shared reality and connection. I am feeling re-inspired today 🙂
Yesterday, on my third day of leave I sat in the long grass, in the shade of our callistemon and right next to the new chook run my daughter and I made the day before. I was exhausted from an hour’s digging, so I sat very still and quiet for a while. Still enough and for long enough to be approached by a pair of usually timid crested pigeons. They hopped, one at a time onto the chooks water container and had a little sip of water, just a hand’s breadth from me.
When I was young I thought these birds were drab beyond belief – just grey and beige and a few black stripes. Yesterday, I got to see them close enough to notice that their stripes are iridescent, purple and green flashing in the sun. The beige is like a blush shawl, dusted gently over the shoulders. These little birds are also delightfully dainty, especially when sitting among my fat hens.
I am grateful today for the beauty in the ordinary and for having taken the time to notice.
Thank you also Melanie J Cook for the beautiful photo.