Archive for the ‘musings’ Category


It has been very quiet here recently, partly as our remaining seedlings seem to have gone into a sort of trance, not getting bigger or smaller, just waiting for spring, those of them that have even sprouted (I on the other hand am dreading spring, or at least what comes after); and partly because I’ve spent another couple of weeks in the Blue Mountains, where it still gets misty and where I go to write. I’ve been struggling for ages with  an increasingly odd and interior book about, or at least partly about, anaesthesia. It’s non-fiction and was meant to be a journalistic exploration. Instead it seems to have morphed into something far more subterranean and personal – an exploration of and wondering about unconsciousness – chemical and psychological – and the interrupted self. Or something. I realise this has nothing to do with planting trees – except that of course in some ways it does. All those lessons about waiting without expectation, about nurture, about simply putting in time and hoping something will grow…


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Earlier this week, at short notice, and after some watering and pruning and a little stroking of leaves, I put into three polystyrene boxes: 71 grey box, 18 Victorian blue gums, three red stringybarks, two manna gums, and nine messmates, which I then left as instructed on our front porch. The next morning they were gone, 103 seedlings. Off to be planted in the wilds of Pyalong West. Out in the real world. We still have about two and half boxes of smaller seedlings or seeds in the back garden, but our lush little forest has gone. I would have taken a photo except that I  broke the camera (or at least it went into a karmic seizure) after a traffic altercation in Tasmania (the less said the better) earlier this year. So, no photos, and no goodbyes to speak of. And it feels oddly empty.

Really, there should have been a lot more of them, but apparently everyone’s been having trouble this year, and last. Too hot. Too dry. Too erratic. I’d like to think that some of them will one day grow into very large trees. And I do feel quite proud to have got them this far. I was thinking today, as I tend to, about what a bad blogger I’ve been, and what a bad planter of trees (etc. etc.) and then I thought, good god woman, give yourself a break – you may not plant a tree every day, but you plant a lot more than you used to! And I also thought about how I am the sort of person who sets myself hard tasks and then makes them infinitely harder by berating myself for not having achieved them. Some days I feel that all I am doing is ticking off a great to-do list that I add to endlessly, and for which I rarely thank or congratulate myself. And because I now understand that this is not only ineffective but ungentle, I am trying to change the way I am with things and with myself. But the strange thing about all those seedlings was that although they started off as another task (and some days remained so)  some days I would be standing out there in the cold, gently drizzling each plant tube with water from the portable sprayer we got for $8 from Bunnings, and all of a sudden I would find myself in a sort of trance, almost ecstatic. Full of love.

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Here’s me at the park planting a tree (on what turned out to be the old tip).

digging a hole

Sadly, when I went back a few days later this particular seedling had been dug or pulled up and was very dead. But the other two were still looking quite perky. I am fighting, or at least largely ignoring, feelings of futility. And I am not nearly as prolific as I’d imagined I’d be. But in the end I’ll probably just keep sticking trees in the ground and who knows what then? If I ever have my own house again, with a garden, I want a fig tree and a mulberry tree and a locquat tree in the front. And out the back, eucalypts, which are surely the most languid and beautiful of all trees, and move as if they are under water.

And here I am with Finn.

Finn and me, digging

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Soft grey days, moist air. Time for planting.

I keep thinking of one of my favourite lines, which is from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories, which my dad used to read me. It’s  from a story  called, I think, The Elephant’s Child, and in it the young elephant goes to seek advice  from the crocodile, who lives in… 

the great grey green greasy Limpopo river, all set about by fever trees.

I love that line.

Tomorrow I will go to the banks of the small grey green occasionally greasy Merri Creek, where I will put some seedlings in the ground.

Also,  thank-you to  Sophie Cunningham, who took the gorgeous photo in my header of a river redgum.

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Right now I’m not planting trees. For the next 10 days I’m sitting instead in the beautiful Varuna writers centre in the Blue Mountains of NSW doing absolutely nothing but write, eat, sleep – and talk with my fellow writers and illustrator about life, love, writing, food, tv, children, sex and just about whatever else we can fit in between 7pm (when dinner arrives!) and bedtime. I would have been walking too, except that since I got here three days ago it has not stopped raining. It’s extraordinarily soothing but it’s also making me sad. It seems ridiculous that here rain is billowing in across my window in raggedy sheets, while in Melbourne  today it was another sunny 30 degrees. Flying out, the state looked like an old  dried carcass beneath me.
Here, I ran an enormous, guilt-free bath and lay reading and drifting for 45 minutes. Poor me.

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Walked down to visit seedlings 4, 5 and 6 this evening, only to find that 4 (or was it 6?) (the one pictured last post in its lovely plastic milk carton protector) is looking decidedly droopy. Terminally so I’m afraid. I think I tore the roots. Will clip top back tomorrow and see how it goes.

Otherwise a peaceful autumn day – very gentle drizzle much of the time. Mum dropped around this afternoon, having picked Frannie up from school and taken her swimming. She came in for a cup of tea and I regaled her for 15 minutes with all the ways in which the governments of the world are failing us. By the time I paused for breath she too had started to look a bit droopy, and  Finn, 12, who’d been sitting at the table with us, trying to do his homework, looked up and said matter-of-factly, “face it; we’re fucked”.

At this point I went into reverse and started talking very fast about human resilience and ingenuity etc….

Afterwards, I had a little think. What I thought is that perhaps it’s time to stop with the doom-gloominess, and concentrate on planting trees.


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Steamy days, full moon, and the pavements all wet in the morning even though we didn’t hear rain. This isn’t summer but doesn’t feel like Autumn either. The Equator is drooping. The seeds are slow to germinate – not enough sun, bizarrely.  And Andrew from the Tree Project has emailed warning of powdery mildew…

Helen, in answer to your question, yes, we are on water restrictions – hence the frantic filling of buckets on Wednesday. We can water twice a week for two hours at a time – at midnight or 6am. No hoses without spray nozzles, drip watering systems only. No cars or driveways, which doesn’t bother us. But we keep forgetting what days we’re allowed to do it – or we don’t happen to be up at midnight (being quite old now, and boring) or 6am (being quite lazy).

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