Nurturing Nature The Way Forward

Happy-earth-day

World Environment Day was celebrated on June 5, but perhaps celebrated is the wrong word when you examine the state of  Earth. These statistics and photographs are quite depressing. How I wish people could appreciate and value nature like poet Joyce Kilmer.

His poem, Trees,  although criticised for being simplistic and sentimental is a classic that everyone remembers and quotes – many writers would wish for such an enviable record !

Frankston copy Frankston

The poem automatically springs to mind whenever I am in a botanical garden, a forest, a wood, or just walking down the street!

Trees  by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

albert street 2 albert street

HAIKU by Mairi Neil

Tree blossoms despite
Salty air and sparse rocky soil
Resilience plus!

Sturdy trees stand firm
Withstanding storms their purpose
Golden harvests win

Cherry blossom time
Nature blooms in profusion
Fat and happy ducks

ducks Aspendale spring in suburbs

I don’t know when I became enamoured with trees -I think that’s one of the gifts I’ve received from living in Australia. My early years growing up in a housing estate in Scotland didn’t contain many trees!

However, living in Croydon in 1962, we were surrounded by trees to climb, to lie under for shade, to feast off when plums and apples grew, to strip and use as make-believe spears and guns in our childish games or have plum and apple fights, and to harvest as kindling and firewood for Mum’s Raeburn stove and the living room fireplace.

We took these magnificent living structures for granted, used and abused them, rarely appreciated their beauty, or significance for the planet’s survival because of their amazing capacity to stay alive, regenerate and survive against all odds.  Knowledge, appreciation and inspiration came later.

Aussie Childhood
Mairi Neil

I grew up in bushy Croydon
the trees grew thick around,
milk and bread delivered
to a tuneful clip-clop sound.

Kookaburras laughed and swooped
to steal our pet cat’s food
it wasn’t Snappy Tom, of course
but ‘roo meat, raw and good.

The streets were mainly dirt tracks
a collection of pot holes and clay,
most people walked or cycled
and even strangers said, ‘gidday’.

Our weatherboard house peeled
the corrugated tin roof leaked too,
a verandah sagged under honeysuckle,
the rooms added as family grew.

Mosquito nets caused claustrophobia
possums peered down chimneys three,
but the dunny banished down the back
the most terrifying memory, for me.

Electricity brightened inside the house
so torch or candlelight had to suffice
night noises and shadows of the bush
and the smelly dunny, were not nice!

The path to the toilet lined with trees
growing tall to seek the sun
but when the dark cloak of night donned
branches became hands from which to run

During the day our block was heaven
definitely a children’s adventure-land
blue tongues, geckos, tadpoles and frogs
all shared our world so grand.

A snake the greatest danger
or a bull ant bite on the toe
a truly carefree wonderful time
my rose-coloured glasses show.

When I came to live in Mordialloc in 1984, I was an adult, soon to become a young mother. When John and I began to renovate our new home, plus create a garden, I not only noticed the trees, but became fascinated and attached to them. Involvement in a local conservation group meant I was even more captivated, not only interested in the environment, but ecology. I formed an emotional attachment to Mother Nature.

The Chestnut Tree
Mairi Neil

We cut down our chestnut tree today,
a sadness gripped my heart –
will the pain ever go away?

The tree was diseased, slowly dying
Attempted cures failed –
we stopped trying.

It was like saying goodbye
to a much-loved friend …
Is this how we all end?

The tree dominated our backyard
soft green foliage a contrast
to fruit, spiky and hard.

Veil-like shadows of leaves heralded spring
lazy days sitting beneath branches
listening to blackbirds sing

The baby lying on a blanket mesmerised
while a breeze rustled leaves and
birds and bees danced through the trees

In summer it delighted with endless charm
a shady spot for the wading pool
sun’s rays could not harm.

Warm balmy evenings, relaxing in easy chairs
sipping cool drinks at sunset
peace and tranquility, forgetting cares

Cherished memories; strong boughs hanging low
hooking the toddler’s swing
pushing the old tyre, oh so slow…

In winter, stripped bare, unattractive
as if the alien climate
is kind only to natives.

All living things eventually die
there’ll be other reasons to laugh
other reasons to cry.

seasons will come and seasons will go,
there’ll be other trees to nurture
other memories to sow.

When I put together an education kit about Bradshaw Park and discovered just how important trees were to the indigenous Australians I’m ecstatic much of this knowledge is captured in the beautiful tranquil Milarri Garden Trail  at the Melbourne Museum. It’s sad how easily generations of knowledge and expertise can be lost.

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Living Fossils (a villanelle)
Mairi Neil

Celebrate parks and open spaces
How they let us breathe and play
They put smiles upon our faces

Nature provides wondrous places
Adding beauty to the everyday
Wildlife parks, wilderness spaces

Trainers recommend 10,000 paces
Exercise and be healthy they say
They put smiles upon our faces

In childhood egg and spoon races
Kite-flying, hide-n-seek, even crocquet
Celebrated parks and open spaces

Living demands no ‘airs and graces’
whether skies are blue or grey
We must put smiles upon our faces

In the future they’ll look for traces
Of how we spent our lives each day
They’ll dig up parks and other spaces
Perhaps put names to forgotten faces.

Trees, the bush, flowers, gardens – anything to do with nature can inspire me to write and I try and encourage my students to observe, reflect and write too. Inspiration is everywhere – even at Bentleigh Railway Station – this tree fascinates me as I wait for a train after class – an amazing example of how trees flourish against the odds.  It stands proud amidst concrete,  buildings, pollution and neglect, roots bulging through the fence, clinging to concrete wall. And then there is the building in the city with shrubbery sprouting like hair from a rooftop garden and trees straight and proud sentinels at the entrance.

Bentleigh station 2

melbourne city copy

HAIKU by Mairi Neil

Shadows on the hill
Early daffodils shimmer
Caught a winter chill

Beneath skies of blue
Swaying fields of amber grain
Bow heads, pray for rain.

Age does not weary love
Nurturing flowers and shrubs
Investment in health

Tranquil forest scene
Paths hidden and overgrown
Does danger lurk there?

A trip to Tasmania in 2008 to spend two weeks in the wilderness of the Tarkine was a spiritual experience as well as an exercise to prove I was still fit and capable of carrying a backpack and camping, after a bout of ill-health.

I defy anyone to visit this unique area and remain untouched by the timeless beauty, the unbelievable diversity. Experience  awe while in the presence of trees hundreds of years old, or in the case of Huon pines, thousands of years. I felt privileged to be in their presence, but also humbled by my insignificance – any time I spend on earth as transient as a leaf in comparison to these ancient monuments.

I came home rejuvenated and enervated after being close to what must be one of the most beautiful forested areas in the world. An area so many Australians value,  yet for decades has been under threat by miners, loggers and even so-called ‘eco-tourism’.

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Currently, Australians are increasingly aware of the effects of climate change, the need to invest in renewable energy and divest from fossil fuels. I worked hard for Environment Victoria during the last state election and will do so again. Our political masters want us to believe the biggest threat to our world is terrorism, whereas I believe  environmental disasters pose a greater threat.

Writing is one way I can express how I feel, but also encourage others to do the same. We only have one world, let’s look after it – trees are its lungs – acknowledging their value and importance is a good start.

Winds Of Change
Mairi Neil

I am the balmy breeze that becomes the whistling wind
I wonder at the foolishness of architecture
I hear the sighs of lovers and the curses of farmers
I see the cricket matches and the collapsed houses
I want to travel the world and display my power
I am the balmy breeze that becomes the whistling wind

I pretend that I am always in control
I feel the power of Mother Nature’s other children
I touch the clouds and make them weep
I worry that there are places I cannot reach
I howl and keen in the eye of the cyclone
I am the balmy breeze that becomes the whistling wind

I understand the flutter of a baby’s hand
I manipulate heaving white horses
I whisper soft sentences and rant furious prose
I try always for my poetry to be heard
I hope always for a memorable role
I am the balmy breeze that becomes the whistling wind.

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