The mountain road between the two nearby small towns winds as it rises through forested hills and mountainsides and descends into valleys cleared for farming before rising again. Half of the forty kilometre back road is dirt, gravel meeting blue metal at the halfway point between villages, where council responsibilities end.
Both villages once had hospitals, but only one hospital accepted black people for generations. The black women in the other village had to walk the then primitive dirt track if they wanted to have their babies in a hospital. But due to arcane regulations they had to wait until they were about to give birth; many babies were born and lost along the walking track (For this reason, Goorah [see previous post] was born on the ground, in a lane leading to the Aboriginal mission in the town which did not accept black people in its hospital).
Today there is only one hospital between the two towns and the road hosts a semi-regular memorial walk through the mountains, where huge tree ferns, eucalypts, rainforest giants and palms line the route and koalas, wallabies, gliding possums and myriad birds, reptiles and mammals still watch as they pass.
Eye often travel this road and always stop at a particular point where it crosses a ridge separating the watersheds of the two river systems winding through a huge and ancient volcanic crater, giving life to the land and the towns. There happens to be a sign at this point, marking a local nature reserve. A month ago the sign was altered by some local wag to read ‘Coonville Nature Reserve’. Six months ago someone used the bench behind the sign for firewood - in a forest full of fallen wood. At first sight it would seem not a lot had changed in generations. But the trees are smaller and weaker and the game far less plentiful. And there’s another difference.
At the place where eye customarily stop and say hello to the two valleys there are a number of koala-scratched trees which normally surround a large ironbark tree on the edge of the road, thirty metres high and a metre through at the base. Ironbark is the heaviest, hardest wood around and has a deep taproot that holds the very hills together, pinning the clay and soil to the rocks beneath on steep slopes. Normally, eye stop right by this ironbark and water it in the age-old manner.
Last week, last year, there was a huge storm, willy willys (small, localised tornadoes) spinning through the land. Last week eye stopped, as usual, and parked by the ironbark tree. But it wasn’t there. It was gone. Not cut down, not taken away. Gone, as if it had never been there. No stump, no hole, no unusual disturbance of the bark, leaves and sticks that littered the slope. Not a sign it had ever been there.
Naturally, eye looked around, but there was no sign of the big old ironbark tree. So eye looked up – and there, in the top of the regrowth canopy, about thirty metres up, was a tree, balanced sideways over my head. Not the ironbark, but another tree entirely, a blackbutt apparently snapped off half way and thrown into the tops of the trees.
Times are changing.
- R. Ayana
For further enlightenment see –
The Her(m)etic Hermit - http://hermetic.blog.com
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