Nature's Place



I’ve been living where I am in N.E. NSW for seven months now and it was only yesterday I discovered the entrance to a wild place, a nature reserve few people go to because we are so out of the way here. The neighbours didn’t tell me about it because they don’t realise the significance of the place, the accessibility to the real nature. It’s like that sometimes, what I enjoy most is right under my nose only I don’t notice it till I just go there one day.

I love exploring the natural places, and if people have been there before me I am interested in what sign they have left behind them. This reserve is a huge place, full of character – paperbark swamp, forests of all sorts of eucalypt, banksia and pine and other trees and bushes, creeks and fields of reeds, grasses and fern. Coastal wetlands, I think it’s called. Its name is Billinudgel Nature Reserve. It extends from Wooyung in the north to Ocean Shores in the south and inland a few kilometres to the old Highway One and the foothills of a small range of ‘mountains’.

I went for a walk there today and the first thing I noticed was the cicadas. They are deafening when I am in an area where they have gathered, and they do tend to congregate in certain areas. Something I have noticed while walking where the Cicada’s sing, I always feel the cold of tiny droplets of moisture when passing under the sound. I wonder what that is? Are they peeing on me? Or are they mating up in the trees. Or are they just sloppy eaters and drinkers at the table? I don’t know.

It wasn’t long before I came upon an unusual place, a clearing to one side of the track that had the remains of some kind of corral with the ubiquitous corrugated iron that served the Aussie so well for so long, and still does. (RIMG1334.JPG) Maybe there was once goats or something kept there. And, remarkably, power once came to this place. So there must have been some concerted activity going on. (RIMG0765.JPG)

The unusual thing here was the two huge pine trees. They were the biggest trees around and nothing had grown under their shade and fallen needles for a long long time, there was such a thick cushion of pine needles on the ground. It looked as if nobody had been here for fifty years or more, the corral was so worn and broken down by the weather.

I looked up into the branches of these two trees and attached to the lower branches dotted around one of the trees were stag ferns. Some huge, some only just starting out and many in between. And they were all in good health. I had never seen so many stag ferns in one place, on one of two trees. (RIMG0761.JPG)

After having a good look around this place I went on down the track until I came to an old trail going off to the left that had been closed off with some boulders placed across its entrance. There was a motorcycle tyre track here, just the one. I went down this trail and it was wild and I was alone here. The further I went the wilder it got until I had to duck and weave and make good use of my walking stick to keep from being scraped by the bushes and the overhanging branches, and to keep the spiders off me and maintain balance. (RIMG1359.JPG)

I use a stick like a third leg or an extended arm when I’m in the bush. It can serve as a lure to any waiting predators such as snakes or spiders, and some attack when suddenly disturbed. It also serves to warn anything in my path to get out of it. It’s often useful for steadying the camera on too. Often the trails I find, or make, are very uneven and little used so they have spider webs across them so I’ll use the stick to dislodge them on one side. It’s not like in Europe where the trails are mostly used enough for them to be easy. I do enjoy going where few or none have gone before.

Occasionally I came upon old sign of people, a rusty piece of metal from the remains of a dumped car, or an old beer bottle. But nature didn’t mind one bit, it just absorbs everything that men have left behind.

It doesn’t matter what men do to the Earth, it will all eventually disappear back into nature. This photo reminds me that mans rapacious human nature will be overcome, gently, inexorably. And sometimes violently. And his true God nature will emerge from the destruction. (RIMG0782JPG) A bit biblical eh?

The trail continued to narrow from disuse and eventually I was scrambling over small fallen trees as the trail snaked downhill towards the coast. The further downhill I got the wetter it got so the moss was that much greener than at the start. Eventually the trail petered out at the edge of a clearing. It was only clear of trees and bushes, otherwise it was a forest of reeds and fern.

I thought the trail I was on must go somewhere. People don’t usually make trails that go nowhere. So I went into this field and tried to discern some sign of the origional trail around its edge, but it was a fruitless effort. If the trail had once gone somewhere it was lost now.

It’s possible the trail only ever went as far as this field of fern and reeds. There were red admirals chasing each other around the place, and some large black butterflies sailing on the breeze, and a few small white ones chasing each other so closely one was an echo to the other. It was really lovely in the shimmering light and heat of the mid day.

While I was looking for sign of the origional trail I disturbed a bush wallaby from its afternoon slumber in the shade of a nearby tree. The wild creatures rest in the heat of the day here, it can get very hot and humid in this swamp-like terrain. I watched it hop away in the opposite direction and thought maybe that’s the way the trail went, ‘I’ll follow the wallaby’.

Often in the bush the only trails to be found are wallaby or kangaroo and they usually lead somewhere, like to water or food or just from place to place. But this one led me on a merry chase, as soon as I got out into the field I found wallaby trails going in all directions. It looked like a meeting place for wallaby’s. Pretty soon I gave up looking for the trail and made my way back to the trail I had left and backtracked to the main track.

That’s the way it is in living, isn’t it. We set out on the main track, maybe, and see an interesting looking trail going off somewhere and we go exploring. We see the signs of those who came before us, the old bones of another life, and keep going regardless. Maybe we come to a place that looks inviting or even beautiful and we go in to have a look around.

Absorbed in the looking for a while we forget where the trail we came from is, where we have come from, and we look for it again only to find we are lost and it now goes off in all directions. This is where we might be lucky enough to find the faint sign of the origional trail that brought us to the field. The faint intuition, it’s this way! And we make our way home from there.

Anyway, I got back to the main track and instead of going home I went further on to see what I would come to. And I came to another small trail going off to the left. So off I went, just to see where the trail goes. Not far down this trail I met a Goanna. It was about three and a half feet long with claws as long as my fingers and it was climbing a tree to get out of harms way, my way. As it climbed, its forked tongue flickering, I moved. And as I moved it scrambled upwards causing a cascade of dead leaves and branches very close by.

It’s always enlightening to meet a natural creature. They don’t have any burden of past in them and it shows in their simple being.

I was getting tired from my exertions and came home after that.

copyright  Mark Berkery


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