Stepping outside into the sunshine and luxuriating in such a simple pleasure can be seen as an act of defiance and hope. Tuning into the many gifts we have in Australia and feeling this pleasure and gratitude, is what I believe we need to do to feel good each day.
When I take the time to look up at the night sky and truly enjoy the abundance of the Milky Way as the beautiful moonlight shines upon me, I am being put in my place – in a good way. Time stands still, and those trivial annoyances of life, drop away before the night sky in all its wonder with the timelessness of existence. I am connected for one brief moment to infinite existence.
Yesterday, I walked up and over Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve at Coffs Harbour, Northern NSW. It was named Muttonbird because the colonialists thought the migratory Wedge-tailed Shearwater birds tasted like mutton. It is a sacred place of ceremony for the local Gumbaynggir Aboriginal people. They call the island Giidany Miirlari, meaning moon sacred place. The moon is the island’s protector, guarding the birds as a food source and protecting their existence. First Nations people share many such cultural gifts with us of spiritual connectedness to Country.
As I stood at the very edge of the island looking over the ocean horizon, I felt that deep belly rumble of ocean-driven waves as they pounded against the time-worn rock face. This sense of awe from the ocean is a powerful feeling of wonder, exhilaration, and a touch of fear, a reminder of my place in the world.
When I moved to the Clarence Valley, I was shocked to my core when I saw my first River in full flood. As the surging waters powered downstream from the Mountains, the Nymboida, the Mann, and the Orara Rivers to merge as this mighty, swelling Clarence roar, it was a visceral response for me. I felt the full Awe-Someness of Nature! The River swallowed whole Trees and the landscapes became seas, as this mighty River rose and spread out across the floodplains bringing life back to the landscape.
As I float in my kayak beneath those splayed limbs, shaped by the River in flood, I see these old-growth Trees gnarled and twisted by age as Grandmother Trees, a name I heard from First Nations people. The strength and persistence of such precious old beings are far longer than any human generation, supporting the native habitat and other Trees and seedlings around them.
By going out into the ‘field’ over time, I develop a kinship with these Trees, a sense of connectedness. This is how I begin to make these ‘Tree Portraits’. Each visit enables a deeper learning of the subject, and each drawing is literally imbued with the waters and sediments of the River.
I find this curiosity and wonder in discovering the insect world, too. It was International World Bee Day on Saturday 20th May, celebrating those small miracle workers on wings. We have over 1,700 Native Bee species here in Australia and they pollinate our flowers, food sources and native bushlands.
I discovered a big gal, early this year that I had previously thought was a beetle because she was so large. She is a Great Carpenter Bee and is 24mm in length. It wasn’t until I really tuned into that distinctive buzz and saw her in all her glory down by the chook shed, that I thought ‘Aha’ – a Native Bee! She was buzzing her shiny black rump pollinating flowers, and with her cute, yellow upper body she certainly entranced me.
To celebrate World Bee Day, I am offering subscribers to my e-newsletter a special sweet bee deal for Bee prints with a free Blue Banded Bee 4 card set. The Blue Banded Bee is the noisy ‘fly-like’ sound that crops up in Will Rodgers sound recordings, that is accompanying my solo show ‘On the River’s edge we meet’ at Grafton Regional Gallery. She needed to be there, as I hear her regularly during the warmer months outside my studio door.
I wanted to let you know as well that I plant flowers and native riparian vegetation regularly, and do the hard yakka of weed eradication to help out natures wonders. And so gloriously, I have recently seen many more of the tiny 4mm Tetragonula carbonaria which is an Australian stingless bee, and endemic to the north-east coast of Australia. Its common name is sugarbag and one of the wonderful honey producing and social varieties of our Native Bee.