There have been times in my life when trees have saved me.
A grandiose statement but in many ways true…..
I have lived amidst bushland and forest for most of my life. As a child I lived in suburban Sydney across the road from bushland reserve of Lane Cove National Park. Oblivious to the funnel web spiders, ticks and other bush hazards, me and a posse of other neighbourhood kids would spend long hours in the bush and creek, playing Secret Sevens, dangling from Tarzan swings over the creek or hiding inside caves. We would be gone for hours; a motley crew dressed in cast off adult clothes ideal for dress-ups. The bush was another world, a parallel universe. It meant freedom, exploration, play. It was the perfect backdrop for my theatrical aspirations and a stage for the games we would devise. It provided secret discoverable places and spaces to create, to linger, to develop.
It also was no doubt a balm to the turmoil of an incomprehensible adult world that was swirling around me.
Part Mad Men, part Oranges and Sunshine my father grew up in Wales, was orphaned when very young had emigrated to Australia in the early 50’s as a 10-pound pom and was a self made business man with a penchant for the bottle. He was loud, gregarious and garrulous. His new found wealth was flaunted to all. My mother was a different kettle of fish. Her family were early settlers who had become involved in the civic life of South Australia. Mum was a former nurse with a keen sense of social justice who struggled with notions of good housekeeping, four children and an alcoholic husband.
I didn’t know so much about the ins and outs of their relationship but my father was in and out of Rehab hospitals until it reached a point of no return. Suddenly there were unexpected trips to the park in the late afternoon. There were police visits, dramas, tears and shouting. My fathers business floundered, his drinking escalated. The grand house we lived in across the road from “the bush” was sold; all the furniture auctioned off. My mothers girlfriends banded together to help my mother pay the mortgage she was left with. We literally had the rug pulled out from under us!
In those days there was no counselling. Divorce was not common. Women working was not common. There were long drawn out custody disputes, irate phone calls, hospital admissions. Mum went back to work full-time and my younger sister and I became latch-key kids in a new suburb with no bush access. The last time I saw my father was when I was 14. By the time I was 21 both my parents had died. My mother had battled with breast cancer for 5 years and my father who had remarried and returned to the UK had suffered cirrhosis of the liver and ended up with diabetes and on dialysis. They both died the same year within months of each other.
By this time- i’ve dropped out of high school, I am living with my boyfriend, I have had a number of different jobs and I’m wondering what next.
Two years later in 1983 I fall in love. Not with a man but with a forest, a place. Tomewin Village Hamlet NNSW- 250 acres of thick rainforest, creeks, platypus, waterfalls, black cockatoos, rock orchids, snakes, isolation. This was heaven , this was family, this was future. Despite good advice my new husband and I bought into an ill-fated “multiple occupancy”…it didn’t turn out so well.. (read more here) but my appreciation and love of the forest was cemented.
Now I live on Tamborine Mountain only a few minutes walk to Palm Grove and MacDonald National Park. I have lived here since in 1991 after escaping my experiment with Utopia. I found instead a small, creative community living with the rainforest. The rainforest has nurtured me through divorce and death. I have walked the many circuits, observed the seasons when the bark of the gums split, rejoiced in the smell of Pittosporum and walked in meditation on mornings like this when it is hard to make sense of the world and my place in it.
This drawing is a meditation of the myriad of small reminders found in the forest. Reminders of our insignificance, of time passing, our connectedness, of wonder and of joy. It is a foil to an otherwise too busy life full of constructs which in light of these reminders are of no great merit or importance. It is an unashamedly illustrative work that gave me great joy and peace in its execution.
Sometimes I get caught up in things and can’t see the forest for the trees. This is a reminder to keep an eye on the big picture!