The silvery moonlight was sparkling so brightly on the river this morning, shining through the foliage of the River Oaks. It’s my favourite time, very early morning and often between 4:00 AM to 5:00AM, before noisy humans wake up.
As I look out onto the garden, I see half a dozen microbats swirling around between the River Oaks and the younger Forest Red Gums, gobbling up tiny insects that seem to hover on the Ridgeline. The River mist gently wafts skyward, and the dawn chorus begins to awaken as the soft green of the trees and plants emerges with the morning.
I was feeling a bit off centre today and I decided to embrace the River and its mist, and I trudged down the steep slope to my trusty BCF kayak. It was truly the best thing to do, as all my frustrations dropped away with each step. I felt an anticipation of excitement, as I remembered how much I truly love this River.
Paddling my way upstream towards the three old growth Water Gums that I’ve come to know so well, with their splayed limbs and twisted gnarly growths, and heavy thickset roots that grip the Riverbank tightly, twisting around rocks and stabilising the Bank. As it was low tide, I could see the fibrous network of finer, smaller roots dangling like a skirt reaching for the water.
When I started drawing these Trees, I didn’t know what type of tree they were, only that they were old. So old that some sections of the trunks that had broken off from one of the many floods, seem grey and petrified. But where there is life, there is hope and other branches or maybe trunks bent over from the force of the River in flood, spring forth pretty groups of yellow blossoms around December- January, that the native birds and bees love. It has perky leaves reaching for the sky and I could see today there were some seed pods ready for harvesting and I gathered a few, to plant myself and deliver to the local community nursery at Minnie Waters.
I know this River in my heart is wild, it’s a wild beauty so powerful and life-giving. The River flows on and is ever-changing and yet timeless. My love for this River heals me, as well as inspires me in life and art.
As I head back homewards, I close my eyes to the untold damage on the Riparian landscape by human hands, knowing all the while that I feel deep pain in my soul, seeing dying trees from the curtains of cat’s claw and other weed infestations. Climbing back up the Riverbank where I live, I know that I cannot claim any high ground. There are weeds and some Trees, mostly Black Bean, Callistemon and two flooded-affected Sandpaper Figs from the big flood of 2022 in the Northern Rivers. Unbelievably, the Sandpaper Figs still grow horizontally, knocked over by the debris and a powerful River in flood. I lost several smaller Trees that didn’t cope with this powerful force, but the Forest Red Gums bloom and the upside is that the flood killed most of the Castor Oil weed. The River is being a River, and it cleans out the rubbish and life cycles begin again.
My Riverbank restoration progress seems very slow to me, but I remember those Sanctuary Trees or as First Nations call them, Grandmother Trees, the old-growth Trees that sit with quiet stoic, endurance and carry on. They understand the true nature of time, that spans across generations like the mountain backdrop of the Gibraltar Ranges where the River begins, and the First Nations people of the Clarence Biirrinba (River and habitat), the Gumbaynggirr, Bunjalung and Yaegl Nations. I thank all for this privilege of living here.
I am giving an artist talk about my solo show that has drawings immersed in the River and are about these old-growth Trees at Grafton Regional Gallery, this Sunday 7th May at 11am.
Time | 11am Sunday 7th May
Venue | Grafton Regional Gallery upstairs and in front of my artwork on the first floor of the main building.
Cost | Entry by donation
Bookings are requested for this free event for catering. You can make a booking here. You can turn up if all aligns at the last minute too.
Grafton Regional Gallery is wheelchair & mobility aid accessible. As I will be speaking in front of my artwork, there is a lift available on the ground floor.
An all ages, all inclusive, all community, afternoon!
Show runs 22 April – 18 June 2023