O, I love to be by the Bindi, where the fragrant pastures are,
And the Tambo to his bosom takes the trembling Evening Star –
Just to hear the magpie’s warble in the blue-gums on the hill,
When the frail green flower of twilight in the sky is lingering still.”
FRANK WILLIAMSON, The Magpie’s Song
the 1st of September, the official start to spring in the Southern Hemisphere, I set out for a morning walk to Mt Majura, a small mountain which overlooks the Canberra suburb of Watson. As I walked I appreciated the on-time blossoming of several European and Asian trees juxtaposed with old maples who still hadn’t released their dead leaves of winter. One of the best things about the Capital of Australia is its environs. It is surrounded by bush and therefore Canberrans live close to the varied flora and fauna of the terrain and the turning of the seasons. After a wet and bitter winter, Spring was the talk of the town.
At the beginning of the walk, I was met by a posse of lively maggies (Magpies) anxious that I should not disturb their nesting habitats where their young were resting. I assured them I would be peaceful on the walk, taking nothing but photos so they agreed to let me pass. Maggies are harbingers of spring and their bird call invites you to awake to the hope of warmer days. Although Jack Frost, whose icy tentacles wove themselves along my neck and jaw uttered “We’ll see about that, Pally!”. Yes that’s right Jack Frost is a Scot. The weak sun strengthened as it slowly climbed into a clear blue sky and I enjoyed the thought that however cold the weather, spring in all her tempestuous glory would inevitably arrive.
As I walked through the nature reserve and along thee horse trail, my mind inevitably turned to deeper things. My love of the Australian bush has been a slow growing thing. It took me many years to appreciate its hidden and powerful soul, expressed as much in tiny orchids like the Angelsword, to the height and breadth of an old gum tree. The thought which permeated my mind on this walk was that the bush is ever renewing itself. Gums, no matter how old, do fall and provide shelter, nutrients and protection for a myriad of life forms. The bush, Mother Earth, is never wasteful; somewhere, somehow, a creature or life form will make use of twigs and fallen branches. It made me reflect on creativity and life, its so often the little, hidden things either in the process of decay or rebirth, which can make the richest fodder for writing. I thought of those writers who are the masters of the domestic introspective, Canadian Alice Munro and the English writer Doris Lessing who turn an acute gaze on the seemingly inconsequential which actually reveals a whole world under the seemingly tranquil scrub.
Spring is a time to honour tentative new life and give thanks for all those old composting thoughts, beliefs and behaviours which have served their purpose and now make way for fresh