Grey floating mist settles heavily into the gullies, hiding the trees and the hills and cutting us off from distance. It reminds me of those Tasmanian calendars that were such standard fare for a couple of decades. They appeared so reliably at the end of every year, so much so that I took them for granted. Then I wanted them, and they were gone. They always featured mist: white mist curved like velvet over rocks; stretched wisps of mist swirled around treetops; time-lapsed mist rushed down rivers like tastefully-drawn cartoon ghosts. I valued those calendars for their connection with the heroic fights to save the Franklin River, for their vision of a splendid, dramatic world that was Australia – not another, more important, or more historic, or more beautiful country. They made mist special for me, beyond its own gusting, mesmerising specialness.
The trees and hills hidden by mist today were in full view yesterday under a clear blue sky. We walked up into an area of the property I’d never been to before, passing carefully through a sprawling edge of blackberry to a large open glade of wattle. It was cooler under the dappled wattle light. The soft floor was a nursery for seedlings, making us watch where we trod. On the edge of the grove a baby giant stinging tree extended its vast and dangerous leaves – disarmingly, heart-shaped – like a young beast yawning with razor sharp teeth. A baby native tamarind identified itself with one large serrated leaf on a spindly stalk. Saplings of white euodia of various sizes were springing up, ready to take over from the wattle once its short life ends. Like a textbook image of rainforest regeneration taking place, the grove, in its calm beauty, shouted Nature will win! What should grow, will grow!
We walked back to the flat and crossed the creek at a place I’ve crossed a hundred times, never noticing before how a fig and another tree entwine on the edge of the bank so it’s hard to see which branch belongs where. The other tree was identified yesterday as a shatterwood, joining all those other Australian names that speak of the colonists’ disaster or dismay – Wreck Bay, Lake Disappointment, Mount Warning, Cape Tribulation. I could almost feel the timberworkers’ disgust at this tree, so promising, so plump, so useless to them as it shattered. I could almost feel the tree’s laughter: I’m not here for you!