To me, the landscape we grow in leaves an indelible mark of belonging. Charles Pearcy Mountford was an anthropologist and photographer whose body of work is imprinted on me. This volume was published in 1956 and features 30 Australian trees.
Above, Eucalyptus pauciflora, the Snow Gum, whose benign other-worldliness I felt, adrift in the Australian alps on otherwise agonising school camps.
This wonderfully craggy specimen is Hakea eyreana, the short-leafed corkwood, which inhabits "a country of blazing middays, of scorching winds and scanty rainfall". If we must endure, then we will.
This specimen, above, Eucalyptus maculosa, the red-spotted gum, comes from near where I live, growing "on the hillsides and stony ridges of the colder districts of Victoria and New South Wales".
This desert kurrajong ( Brachychiton gregorii ), appearing to stand in a Tuscan landscape perhaps, inhabits the "most inhospitable parts of Australia"...
...as these two do not, this gum and this wattle of unidentifiable origin, planted on my verge.
The mulga ( Acacia aneura ) is related to South Africa's acacias. Its seeds have long provided food for our original inhabitants. See how they fade into the air...be careful of tripping up into them and losing your feet!
This early Christmas beetle anchored his feet on the washing-line, having first bumbled through the air like a slow-time helicopter.
This Acacia Estrophiolata, Ironwood, is native to central Australia, and is as tough as nails. It is seen at its best at night, "when the camp-fire, lighting every leaf, twig and branch, makes it stand out in sharp contrast to the blackness of the desert night". Does anyone light camp-fires any more? Does anyone roam beyond their fence?
Another acacia, or wattle, Acacia sowdenii, the myall, grows best "in the country north-west of Spencer Gulf, in South Australia". Sculpted by the wind, by the air around it, chained to the dry earth, it sings, nonetheless...
as does this haggard soldier, full of rags and whistling, of nights over-slept, of a yearning for light, however costly. Casuarina stricta grows all over the place, as it needs to do, wherever there's a foothold.
The red stringybark, Eucalyptus macrorhyncha grows not far from me. On the hill behind this pair see the land I want to own.
Until then, this eucalypt on my verge sustains my hopes. This country will always remain untamed, I hope, not reduced to real estate.
It could not have been foreseen that a landscape that had survived quietly for an eternity could be overtaken by a new, self-centred world, one that judges all life according to monetary value. All respect is paid here to the Aboriginal man whose image has been copied here. If I were anyone anywhere else, it is like he I'd long to be, there, among the Xanthorrhoea, grass-trees.
The coastal banksia ( Banksia integrifolia ), named after the intrepid Sir Joseph Banks,grows close to home, here to me in Victoria, close to the sea. Like all our trees, it's robust but unexpectedly gentle.
So thankyou Charles Mountford, and thankyou Melbourne University Press, for taking me home and for letting a light shine on into the future, where there'll always be trees, and where I'll always be among them.