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A magnificent mature unicorn – blue eyes, once black, indicate his age to be over 500 years. Purple and blue flowers are scattered thru his forelock and around the horn by the birds, while butterflies circle around his head.    photo taken by Joe Saccamon

 

I love the thought that unicorns, one of nature’s most noble and mystical creatures may still exist,  living in just a few well hidden and protected spots on the planet in spite of having come very close to extinction.

Sadly,  many people seem to think of them as belonging to the world of legends – or perhaps they aren’t so sure and don’t want to be caught out saying so!

I have come to accept the idea that most myths and legends are made up of forgotten memories – that any being who keeps cropping up over and over in stories of the past most likely has its origin in physical reality somewhere or other!.

Lets explore this idea in relation to unicorns, and I suggest that a good place to start is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, either by visiting it this month to see a very special exhibition there, or viewing it at any time via the internet. It is currently on loan from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

The Lady and the Unicorn – one of six magnificent  mediaeval Tapestries from the Musee de Cluny, exclusive to the Art Gallery of N.S.Wales till June26th.  In each of them the Lion features as prominently as the Unicorn. They have often appeared together over the centuries on royal crests.  Where did this originate?  and why?

It consists of a splendid collection of six room size tapestries – a series called the Lady and the Unicorn. each one illustrating one of the five senses – taste, touch, hearing, sight and smell, while the sixth sense is called ‘Mon Seul Desir  ‘my one desire’  and relates to the heart – the source of courtly love.

I was very fortunate to see the exhibition last February which is still on display  in Sydney till June 26th, but a warning – ii is now so popular that it is necessary to book a time to view it.

There is so much detail to explore in the gallery’s presentation of this mediaeval story, its symbology and relationship between the Unicorn and the Lady – and the Lion as well.  Not surprisingly, the implication being conveyed throughout suggests that the beautiful Unicorn is but the stuff of legend, serving to express  varying aspects of human sensibilities  and mysteries.

This seems to be the commonly accepted view of unicorns amongst those who have an opinion on the matter,  but it doesn’t sit well with me, so, on returning home from  Sydney,  I was eager to reacquaint myself with a very rare and precious book I had found at an open market several years ago called “The Unicorn of Kilimanjaro  – by Robert Vavra”.  which brought the Unicorn very much alive for me, and I wondered how I could share the discovery with others!

Robert was already recognised as a brilliant photographer, writer, naturalist and explorer before recording  this extraordinary adventure in mid 1987. Born in California, he moved to Europe in his early twenties and began his ‘quest for the unicorn’ in 1959, bringing it to completion nearly 30 years later.

It was in Spain that he had  two major break-throughs, firstly in 1960 on viewing an authentic reference  to  unicorn sightings  in the Archives of a Cortez expedition to the New World,

The second and most important one was in a battered old journal he picked up in a flea market in Madrid in 1961. (you never know what you might find in markets ! ).  It contained the first known complete Unicorn Behavioural Study, compiled by one Rudolph O. Springer, a remarkable  frail red-headed American explorer who had spent years in the mid 1800s dedicated to close-range studies of African wild-life that included sighting many unicorns, particularly in the  the volcanic mountain areas of Eastern Africa.

A handsome topi – somewhat similar in appearance to the unicorn, often seen standing on mounds in the area where unicorns hang out – thought to be acting as sentinels for them.

The study covered details of Unicornuus Africanus – its  history, appearance and habits, and supported with detailed drawings – a sufficiently authentic scientific study for Robert to take it seriously, and, for him, ‘freeing the magnificent Unicorn from any longer being caged up in mythology!’

It was Springer’s journal that provided Robert with the basis for his wonderful book called “Unicorns I have known” which he published in 1983. It has since circulated world wide in many languages, spreading knowledge of a precious but almost forgotten species.

It was not until 1886 that even more information came his way when he received a package in the mail  from a woman who had read the book and was astonished to realize that the same Rudolph O. Springer cited  in the book was, in fact, her great-great uncle.

Searching through old records left to her by her grandmother, she discovered 64  missing pages of a hand-written document written on identical paper  to the Unicorn Behavioural Study that Robert had discovered 30 years earlier and realized what a treasure she had found !!!

It had a heading written in capitals on one of the battered  pages that read:   “EAST AFRICAN ELEPHANT, LION AND UNICORN FIELD NOTES INCLUDING FORMULA FOR APPROACHING THE ABOVE LISTED SPECIES AT DISTANCES UP TO THREE INCHES WITHOUT DANGER TO THE HUMAN OBSERVER.”

The directions that followed provided the secret procedures that Rudolph O. Springer had perfected that allowed him to study these wonderful wild animals so thoroughly and at such close range.   They included what he called The Approach Formula, a 4 phase plan, one involving smell, using, an oil mix of 26 ingredients to apply all over the body that would allow proximity to all the wild animals except the buffalo, ,No. 2. involved using precise sounds for vocally calling up each animal, and the other two detailed completely secret materials and methods to complete the process.

Springer also indicated possible locations of unicorns in the dense forest within the  volcanic craters of Tanzania. He had learnt much from the Masai people who lived in these areas in harmony with all the wild animals.

More than a century later Robert heard of him again from the Masai he met in the same area. They spoke of him as the stranger ‘with a head of fire’  who lived with them for a while studying the wild animals,  and who particularly loved Nentikobe, their name for the unicorn..

in 1959 Robert had also received a hint from Ernest Hemmingway who also shared his love of Africa and its wildlife to try searching for the unicorn in the area of Mt. Kilimanjaro..

Recognizing some of the footprints along the paths – each had a story to tell

All of this information had come  together by 1987, finally giving Robert Vaavra the courage to fulfil his life’s dream to explore the wilds of Africa and meet up with the African Unicorn.  He proceeded to  mount what came to be known as The Elm Tree Unicorn Expedition.  He and two American friends, Bill Wheeler and Joseph Saccomon set out together and travelled through east Africa during the month of August in 1987, (The Elm Tree was the name of their Land Rover).

What followed was an extraordinary adventure, much of it on foot in very remote and largely unexplored forest.  Every detail of the landscape, the animal and plant life and the people were carefully recorded in his diary and later illustrated with superb photographs taken by him and Joe Saccomon as well as beautifully precise drawings by his friend Lee Mitchelson.

It was the latter part of the safari describing the encounters with the elephants, the family of lions, and most particularly the unicorns that most interested me.

Springer’s notes stipulated that at least two successful contacts, first with  the elephants and then the lions were needed before attempting to find the Unicorn, and it was essential that these were wild animals –  not previously accustomed to human company!

Once it was nearing the time to begin attempting to  find and make direct contact with the elephants Robert made preparation by covering  his body with the evil-smelling Approach formula oil and , by mid August they had located  elephant territory with help from the Masai people at the edge of the escarpment.

Several huge elephants, one with a broken tusk,  gather around , eyeing him curiously and occasionally flapping their ears.   Robert holds still as an elephant’s trunk brushes across his shoulder and touches his cheek. After a while they finally lose interest and wander back under the acacia trees and resume grazing.

Robert’s first encounter was late in the afternoon when a splendid bull elephant who seemed to respond to the series of calls that Springer had prescribed. approached him, ears flapping as if about to charge, then slowed down, wheeled around him and paused, brushing him with his tusk while his friends nervously took photos.

Once his curiosity was satisfied, he then made off into the bush nearby.

Next day they sighted a larger group, stopped, and Robert  sat apart by a old tree trunk and made his sounds. He suddenly found himself closely surrounded from behind by six totally untamed wild elephants, an unimaginable encounter – more than he could have hoped for.

A powerful golden maned lion circling Robert – the first one he made contact with – while a group of curious lionesses watch nearby, and Joe takes photos even while feeling terrified for Robert’s safety!

With the exhilarating experience with the elephants completed after four days, it was time to look out for Simba  the Royal lion and his pride.  They first spot an immense majestic lion with a splendid golden mane following a herd of zebra, and then notice a group of wild lionesses resting in the long grass nearby.

The Land Rover pulls over and Robert sits quietly sounding the lion calls and waits nearby:  the lion slowly approaches, circles around him, then relaxes beside him in the grass for almost an hour while the five lionesses, heads held high with curiosity, watch at a distance for while, then move on towards the escarpment and Simba finally leaves too, setting off after the zebra.!

After two days with the lions, and with only a week left to find and spend time with the unicorn, they decide to head towards the forest and stop off at a manyatta – a settlement made up of a group of Masai huts surrounded by a common fence built to keeps families and livestock safe. Here they are welcomed by Daniel who later becomes their guide, and are invited in to watch Masai dancing and meet the chief.

They can hear the stag’s hooves smack against the red rock of the escarpment, and watch it wildly tossing its head and mane and rolling its eyes as it makes its daily ritual display, before leaping down from the ledge and disappearing into the vegetation below.. They are able to see that his eyes are very dark, not yet blue, indicating that he is still young.. Blue eyes indicate an age of at least 500 years!

They camp nearby and next day commence arrangements with Daniel to employ porters to carry supples and equipment for the daunting journey on foot into what is known as the Forest of the Lost Children.  Only a few within the tribe to accompany them know their real purpose , believing it to be a search for rare birds to photograph.  Even many of the Masai either fear or do not know of unicorns whom they call Nentikobe, – their secret is kept safe with only a few senior members of the tribe to ensure their continued protection.  .

While preparations go ahead Robert asks Daniel if it is possible to sight a unicorn in the area, even at a distance before setting out on the safari.  He agrees to secretly provides them with a map and directions, telling them to take binoculars, sit on top of Elm Tree when they reach the escarpment, and watch between the trees for Nentikobe’s daily appearance on the side of the mountain around 4 pm!

They are not disappointed! They hear the loud sound of the Hadada Ibis who regularly  gives Nentikobe a warning call when strangers approach and then a magnificent stag appears and begins his daily ritual display right on schedule. The relationship with the Unicorn has begun!

The Hadada Ibis with its green fluorescent side- feathers can be relied upon to call out to Nentikobe whenever strangers turn up, accurately indicating direction..

They set off next day and within couple of hours  are being guided through the darkness of a primordial forest alive with danger and massive physical challenge, avoiding the tangled buffalo tunnels wherever possible by keeping to the edge of the escarpment.

This is where they camp on the first night, under an immense tree near a hot spring within the sound of waterfalls.  Next morning they clamber slowly up the slippery mountainside then down towards the lake.

They reach an open area  around late afternoon and  before pitching tents Robert suggests to Joe, Bill and Daniel that just the four of them take one last walk into the bush near the river.

A pencil sketch of the ritual encounter between these two great beings – both display great power and majesty and share that authority within the animal kingdom.      Unfortunately there is no photographic record of this event because of running out of film at the crucial moment but  his friend    was able to capture the moment as he described it.

 

Suddenly Hadada Ibis gives its cry and the next minute Nentikobe steps silently out from behind some bushes, ignoring them and staring first into the distance, and then to his left in response to where another cry from the ibis indicates and a huge black-maned lion emerges from the reeds along the river’s edge.

The lion turns, looks directly at the unicorn who stamps with his hooves. They approach one another, the unicorn rearing up and Simba raises himself on his hind legs with claws still sheathed, and they begin tensely circling one another like boxers in a ring, though seemingly without the intention of doing real harm to each another.

They intensely eyeball one another with heads almost touching. Suddenly Lion roars and Unicorn answers with a loud bellow. They separate, turns backs on one another and each makes off in different directions – the strange ritual is complete!.

Later Daniel says that he has never before seen Simba and Nentikobe together, nor heard of it even in Masai legends.  Robert wonders in his diary if the scene they have witnessed could be the basis, as Springer believed, for the unicorn-lion association on  heraldry and coats of arms over the ages,  particularly in Europe – always denoting power, nobility and courage?

This was the moment in Robert’s story that came back to me while I studied the beautiful Tapestries in the Sydney gallery last February and left me pondering an intriguing  mystery.

There is one last encounter to relate, with only one day of the safari to go.   Next day Joe and Robert set off unescorted and meet group of morani , Masai boys, coming back from the mountain. One of them addresses them in English – learnt from the missionaries, he said.

His name was David, He was surprised to learn who they were searching for, and becoming convinced  by their story, secretly agreed to take them to the cave where Nentikobe lived, saying he had the authority to do so, being the son of the Laibon, the local medicine man!  He said that they could expect Nentikobe to be there at his home at FOUR  O’CLOCK1

They head for the escarpment together: the cave is behind a tall earthen wall covered by dense foliage.  They hide and wait nearby waiting for the unicorn to come out. When he does , Robert follows him at a safe distance till he stops to graze from acacias trees, convinced that the unicorn is aware of his presence and so pauses to sit on a fallen tree trunk and starts making the prescribed  succession of sounds that will call the animal towards him – and this is just what happens, the beautiful unicorn slowly , slowly advancing till they are only a couple of feet apart – that moment of deep connection has finally come that  Robert has longed for so many years!

The final encounter seems like a miracle, but is only momentary.  Hadada Ibis interrupts with two sharp calls and flies off.  His signal alerts Nentikobe who lifts his head, trumpets twice, leaps over the log and dashes off in the same direction into the forest. No doubt it is time for his next daily ritual display.  For Robert, Joe and Bill their mission accomplished, the time has come for them to return home and share their extraordinary story!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A bit more post-wedding chatter!

My daughter Meg has jut remarked that Duchess Meghan’s Givinchy wedding dress reminded her of mine, so I went looking for my wedding album to check and compare.!
What do you think?   I’m sure you are all dying to know the details!

I designed it myself in 1962/3 and the fabric I selected was a beautiful piece of Grosgrain silk, and it was a good dressmaker from Wagga Wagga, Australia  who made it up for me.

The choice of style was influenced  more by the time I had recently spent in Italy  than by Australian fashion of the early sixties!

I read that Duchess Meghan’s veil which was designed in France was the correct length 1e 16.5 ft.  to qualify as ‘a Royal wedding veil and identical in length to Diana’s. It was embroidered with an all-over pattern of all the flowers of the Commonwealth.

I favoured a more modest one. – a Spanish lace Mantilla veil just half as long – 8 ft.  which I ordered from Madrid! – and it also had lots of lacy flowers which I will claim here and now represented flowers from all over the Earth!!!

Those were the days – long before Op. shops and garage sales! and just as much fun.

Gurrumul’s final album,film & more cultural news

 

In Australia lately there have been several significant indigenous cultural events, including the release of our much loved singer Geoffrey Gurumul Unupingu’s final album, and also a documentary film simply called Gurumul.

Gurumul Yunupingu and band
Brunswick Heads Aboriginal Festival 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr.Geoffrey G. Unipingu’s  family have brought forward the date for allowing the public to speak of him and show his image just 9 months after his death – earlier than the customary tradition.

This has also resulted in an earlier release of Gurrumul’s  final album called “Djarimirri – child of the Rainbow” sung  in the language of his Gumati and Galpu people. It has already broken sale records, exceeding the highest number of any musical recorded  in the indigenous language.

It is a wonderfully moving blend of indigenous songs and chants with intricate classical orchestral arrangements and includes traditional songs about crow, octopus, the  grandfather whose eight arms encompass several clans,  and salt-water crocodile, his principal totem,  and other stories of Elcho Island where he was born, and the 10,00 people of north East Arnhem land in the N.T.

He and his closest friend and ‘adopted brother’, Michael Hohnen, worked on it for over 5 years and completed it a short time before his death.

I too am happy about the permission to speak about him publicly because I had the extraordinary good fortune to hear him singing several of these songs at our local Boomerang aboriginal festival a few years ago, allowing me to share a very special memory.  I also succeeded in taking  photos of him and the band.

This happened early in the evening, and dark enough in the marque to quietly walk to the front and stand  unobtrusively just below the stage.   I continued to stand there while he sang, not just because of the gentle magic and sacredness of his voice, but I found myself transfixed by the unanticipated mesmerizing power that enveloped and uplifted me as I stood within the orbit of his spirit.

The effect of this experience stayed with me for a long time afterwards and was reawakened just recently as I watched  Gurrumul’s film.  Uncharacteristically for me, tears flowed at the very beginning while the camera focused on his strong, dark profile as his beautiful voice filled the cinema.  This is a wonderful documentary film, a portrait of his life simply entitled Gurrumul  which has been showing in major cinemas and global film festivals.

Michael Hohnen says that it gives us insights not previously available – ‘ a tale of two worlds – Elcho Island the indigenous community Gurrumul grew up in,  and the show business world that took him to Paris, the US and beyond.’   Happily, the film too was completed in time for his family to view it and express their support for it just days before he died.

I also discovered a beautiful biographical book illustrated with splendid photos called Gurrumul: His life and Music  by Robert Hillman in our local library that was published in 2013.   Gurrumul had dedicated it to his family, the Yolnu people of his home, and to all those who love his music, and it helped prepare the way for the film.  Reading through it now has further deepened my understanding and sense of connection to him and his people, and also how the combined commitment and mutual trust of three exceptional men,  Gurrumul, Michael Hohnen and Mark Grose, Gurrumul’s career manager whom he called Bapa, has allowed the whole world to be touched by his voice and inspired by his life.

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These events follow on well from the spectacular Opening Ceremony at the 2018 Commonwealth Olympic Games held on the Gold Coast on April 4th when a  celebration of indigenous culture and creation stories  took centre stage .   It is worthwhile watching it on you tube if you missed seeing it at the time.

 It opened with “Welcome to Earth”   Delta Goodrun’s opening song which  took the audience by storm and this was followed by the traditional smoking ceremony performed by Lutha Cora and his family which encompassed and swept clear the whole stadium.

The compelling sound of the didgeridoo accompanied the dancing and chanting of representatives of the many tribes who had come together from all over Australia and the Torres Straight Islands. the women danced the story of the Seven Sisters and a beautiful performance by our famous Bangara Dance Theatre focused on the story of our splendid Wedge-tail Eagle.

All those present and  the millions watching from all the Commonwealth countries around the globe saw a spectacular and very enlightening  visual display of Australia’s First Nation’s ancient history and culture.

It was probably the first time in the history of the Games that the main focus of the Opening ceremony was on the spirit of the host nation rather than on the British Crown, leaving little for Prince of Wales to do other than  read the Queen’s message and declare the Games open!

In his speech, the chief executive of the Commonwealth Games committee said that the indigenous theme was chosen to create discussion and debate about aboriginal reconciliation throughout the Commonwealth, and he paid special respect to the Yuganbah people of the Gold Coast area.

The ceremony concluded with the happy appearance of a huge inflated whale floating above the stadium. Yes, it was Migaloo, our famous white humpbacked whale who journeys annually from Antarctica along Australia’s eastern coastline.

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Another fine book that has  recently been published is “Welcome to Country – a travel guide to indigenous culture.”   put together by Professor Marcia Langton, a well-known Aboriginal leader and academic, together with two  post-graduate students at Melbourne University who know their country well, and with a forward by Stan Grant who declared it to be a great guide for all Australians and travellers.

It is a very comprehensive and detailed guide pulling in practical travelling information from a variety of sources, covering festivals and national parks, opening doorways to Aboriginal sacred sites, legends, contemporary art and rock art, – all serving to expand our understanding of the culture in the process, and deepen the ties between us all.

It is also time for Australia’s federal government to respond positively to the First Nation’s desire to have a voice within our country’s  parliamentary system! It is long overdue!

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Latest from my garden

A frightened and wounded Noisy Minor bird hoping for a crumb or two

Living next to a national park offers many wildlife delights and sights.

I have already introduced a number of my bush friends who visit often and keep me company.https://elizabethinsightsandencounters.wordpress.com/making-friends-with-plants-and-becoming-at-home-with-nature/introducing-my-garden-friends/

Here is a trembling little minor bird with a damaged leg who dropped by a couple of months ago, hoping for assistance and a feed but lost his nerve before I could help and flew off.

Below is a lovely video of my favourite  brush turkey who found a lush passionfruit in my garden. I watched him from my balcony struggling to make a meal of it, but was determined  to eat it on the grass instead of on concrete!

And a video of one of our local kookaburras visiting today (29 April 2018) when my daughter Lizzie filmed while she was up from Melbourne. He had had a long visit in the same spot yesterday, and brought a young one along today.

Here is a link for a  lengthier visit to my garden and current home

Trees, poetic plant scientists and Big Scrub enthusiasts.

 

Last June I wrote about Trees and the need to get to know them better, and since then have kept finding  allies  who shared my enthusiasm from among the new breed of poetically inclined scientists writing inspiring books.

David George Haskell reading from The Song of Trees at the Byron Bay Writers Festival

One I mentioned was Professor David George Haskell from New York who has written two fine books, and I subsequently had the joy of listening to him at the Byron Bay Writers Festival in August 2017 – he spoke just as eloquently and enthusiastically as he writes, especially about his most recent book “The Song of the Trees – Stories of Nature’s great Connectors”.

In the conclusion of the book’s forward he explains that  “Each chapter tells the song of a particular tree, the physicality, the sounds, the stories that brought sound into being……… Much of this song dwells under the acoustic surface.  To listen is to touch a stethoscope to the skin of the landscape to hear what stirs below.

There is poetry in his description of the variety of language of rain drops falling in the Amazon forest – Here the rain falls in big Syllables, phonemes unlike the clipped rain of most other landmasses.  He says that here ” the leaves speak the rain’s language with the most eloquence”

He sees life as a network –  “there is no “nature’ or  “environment”, separate and apart from humans.  We are part of the community of life, composed of relationships with “others”  –  we cannot step outside life’s songs. This music made us; it is our nature….To listen to trees, nature’s great connectors, is therefore to learn how to inhabit the relationships that give life its source, substance and beauty.”

My daughter Chris and I sat together under these olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane on the edge of Jerusalem in 1990.  The olive trees of Israel are one of the 12 trees that David Haskell chose to feature in his book – The Song of Trees.

I discovered another fine book at our local library – “The Lost Language of Plants – the Ecological importance of Plant Medicines to Life on Earth” by Steven Harrod Buchner, a prolific author from Idaho. U.S.A  in which he reminds us that the plant kingdom constitutes 90 % of all life on earth.  and it  provides us with a ‘ Green print for living’ – a green model for communal living through communication and cooperation  and without relying on any form of hierarchy,

He tells us that plants have been talking to us for a long time -‘they are much more than the sum of their parts – they have purpose, intelligence and soul…. They look out for one another and they need each other for their health, citing the trees –  the lungs of the planet – often relying on the presence of a particular lichen for healing.

It is a very comprehensive book covering a wide range of issues including a brief history of how one hundred years ago we abandoned living medicine in favour of pharmaceutical medicine.  Up till that time plants wherever they grow on the planet were able to communicate their specific healing properties  to us intuitively, providing us with the natural medicine needed.to maintain health and minimize disease.

Stephen Buhner also details  the serious environmental impacts .of technological medicine including  uses of radioactivity and cautions  that “to leave a legacy that does not merely impoverish future life, but may endanger it for millennia to come” charging that to do so would constitute an act of unprecedented irresponsibility!

( I took a pause here – it was time for a quick swim – its a hot day and  it is high tide right now.  I drove down to the estuary only to see a storm cloud moving in from the ocean.  Just as I sank into the water the sky burst open and I was surrounded by an avalanche of super-sized rain drops making staccato music – loud plopplopityplop beats splattering and spitting as they hit the water surface around my head, turning into a deluge.   As quickly as it came, the black cloud-mass passed on, heading inland  and leaving a splendid double rainbow in its wake.

Now thoroughly drenched and exhilarated  – it’s time to return home, dry off,  return to the keyboard and share the story of MY rain song experience .  I’m sure the sea-plants below the water’s surface swayed and sang along with it too!! ) 

Another highlight for me at the writers’ festival was the launch of a splendid book   “The Big Scrub Rainforest – a journey through time” – an initiative of the Big Scrub Landcare group, containing a wealth of diverse locally researched topics and illustrations. – A rewarding read for anyone interested in the Northern Rivers region of N.S.W. – its history and environment, readily available in all the regional libraries and bookstores.

It is a lovingly created  account of the ‘rainbow region’, reaching far back to when it was still part of the great Gondwana rainforest, tracing the time from when the continent travelled north from the Antarctic over 40 million years ago, crossing volcanic hotspots and  creating volcanic peaks and plateaus –  what we know now as our splendid Wollumbin/ Mt.Warning volcano – and the rivers of basalt lava flowing from it forming the surrounding caldera and the sub-tropical rain forests.

Today, at the old quarry at Bexhill just east of Lismore, evidence can be read down through the sedimentary layers of its volcanic past and calculate when Gondwana, of which Australia and Antarctica were a part, became a separate continent, and on through to the present day.

You can read how some of the greatest sub-tropical plant diversity on the planet is still to be found in what remains of the original forest, even after much of it was logged .

The Big Scrub was known to the aboriginal people as GABUL, and the Widjabul people who are a part of the Bunjalung Nation, are its custodians.  ( the land of the Bunjalung  extends from Logan to the north down to the Clarence river, and inland to Stanthorpe.)  They still tell the creation stories relating to the abundant springs in the area, recognizing them as the life blood of the land by honouring the Spirit of the Water-hole.

The book tells what little remains of the Big Scrub today. I first became very aware of its story  when I lived in Clunes,  a village in the heart of the area and close by to one of its best-known remnants – the Booyong Nature reserve, and you will find more detail there.

These days many local people are involved in the care and restoration of the forest, and annually organize a great land-care community event –  the Big Scrub Rainforest Day, one of the largest of its kind in Australia.  Look out for it during Spring time.

Remaining  unspoiled sub-tropical lowland rainforest – Northern Rivers region of New South Wales.. Source: – rainforestrescue.org.au

Yet another book on the topic of  “The Language of Plants – science, philosophy and literature”  is a combined series of essays by Monica Gagliano, an environmental scientist from Perth,  Dr. John C. Ryan, Dr.Patricia Viera and others,  with the aim of creating a fresh language for communicating the evolving  understanding of our connection to  Earth Mother and all living beings that we share her with.

These days it is often the children who are showing the way!

 

First post for 2018 – a family Christmas report.

Here we are already half way through January 2018 and I am  rushing to put a little report together with photos, about the wonderful family Christmas we had together last month, so that it arrives in time for our beloved Lizzie to read today – January15th – on her birthday!

Earlier last year while visiting our old home town, Bellingen, Liz came across an historic old farm  house at Gleniffer, known as Freida’s Place – 20 mins. out of town. She fell in love with it and it is now  a family country retreat and after a lot of work, is fast becoming a sought after Air B&B as well as a permanent home for Emily.

Ellie and family who have now returned from Peru and are living in Melbourne, joined them early in December, and they all pulled together to create space for the rest of us to join them for a 6 day family reunion and Christmas celebration.

I have just looked up Air B&B -Gleniffer NSW and found everything there that you might want to know about ‘Freida’. Its a lovely old historic cedar 6 bedroom farmhouse on 10 acres – we all loved being there together, though it was disappointing that daughter Julie couldn’t make it at the last minute. – it’s some time since my scattered family has managed to come together for a big celebration  and we were grateful to make the most of every moment.

I recommend reading the comprehensive description and checking the beautiful photos that Liz has put on line.  They took me back there in an instant – vividly reliving lots of little details of a special experience, winding up 2017 together and generating a refreshed sense of optimism and trust in what’s ahead in ’18!

So, loving birthday wishes to my daughter Elizabeth, and lots of love to each one of my precious family.

 

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Time to update the story of my gardens.

Continuing to explore nature through the gardens in my life. – this time by the sea.

Three years have sped by since I was encouraged to begin a blog beginning with a collection of letters that I wrote home  from Europe at the end of the fifties that extended over a period of two and a half years and ended with a brief Epilogue.https://elizabethinsightsandencounters.wordpress.com/my-letters-from-europe-part-2-1960/a-brief-epilogue-to-my-letters-from-europe-late-58-to-january-61/

Once begun, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I had also created a home on the net where I could expand and branch out into any number of other topics as well in between publishing all the letters, adding photos of all the places I visited.  I finished up with the account of my special journey home on an Italian migrant ship  

This proved an exciting discovery, and as a result a couple of months later I began writing a series relating to nature and what I was learning through the  places where I had lived and the creation of their gardens.

You will see that I have covered a long period stretching from early childhood in the 1930s through to 2004 when I left the home in Clunes where I lived for a few years .

By that time I felt drawn to move nearer the ocean, and I was blessed to find a beautiful spot on the coast. It is within a cluster of small villages where the Mullumbimby river flows into the ocean not far north of Byron Bay.

Twelve years have sped by since I moved there so its high time to bring the record up to date and reflect on the joys and challenges of creating a new home and garden from scratch and  settling in to a new community and environment.

I have begun by sharing pictures of the friends who frequent my latest  garden by way of an introduction, so here they are, all the critters :-  just click and enjoy!

It is now 2018 and the rest of the story of my Haven by the sea is now finally up to date!