Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My place

Today's the first day of spring. I've just spent my first full winter in the Blue Mountains. In our garden the first bulbs are already out, muscari, or grape hyacinth, a couple of jonquils, and a little blue flower I can't identify. None of these were planted by us; they are the legacy of a ninety year old house.
There is a huge old Japanese maple in the back yard, with the smallest of budding leaves.

But up north, where I lived almost forty years, I know the magnolia in our previous garden will be gloriously flowering. Here, our newly planted magnolia is only showing the smallest of new buds, leaf or flower I can't tell. In the north, the irises will be already in full flower, while the ones I brought with me have not even budded. The hippeastrum will have produced enormous bright red blooms. We have different flowers here. The English violets I brought with me have never looked so good.

Spring comes later here, where it is further south, and higher up.

When I first arrived here, everything seemed strange. I read an interview with the American poet Gary Snyder, and wondered where my place was.

Interviewer:  ...do you think that sense of place is primary for the poetry?

Not  in any simple or literal way. More properly I would say it's a sense of what grounding means. But place has an infinite scale of expansion or contraction. In fact, if somebody asks me now, " what do you consider to be your place?" My larger scale answer is, " my place on earth is where I know most of the birds and the trees and where I know what the climate will be right now, and where I have spent enough time to know it intimately and personally."  So that place for me goes from around Big Sur on the California coast all the way up the pacific coast through British Columbia, through southeast Alaska, out through southwest Alaska, out onto the Aleutian chain, and then comes down into Hokkaido and the Japanese islands, and goes down through Taiwan. Now that's the territory I have moved and lived in and that I sort of know. So that's my place.

Gary Snyder, from ' Beat Writers at Work' edited by George Plimpton. The Harvill Press, 1999

More recently since coming here, I realised that though the cold climate gardens favoured by Blackheatheans are foreign to me, the plants of the native bushland are not.

I spent my youth in Sydney, which begins at the foot of the mountains where I'm now living. Then, I was very familiar with the Sydney sandstone heath country that surrounds the city in the National Parks, and the bushland where I live now is almost identical. So that when I go into the bush ( as we in Australia like to call our wild country) , only a stroll really from where I live, I meet many of my old friends and I know them by name. There I can meet dampiera stricta, a shy wild flower dwelling close to the ground, and the various acacias, or wattle trees, and banksias, and eriostamen, and epacris. A new friend is epacris reclinata, which reclines over rocks, with its small, red tube shaped flowers. Almost all the flowers in the Australian bush are small and non spectacular, so knowing them is good training for noticing the beauty in small things.

I think now that this is also my place.


  1. I was just thinking about you the other day and thinking oh I wish I could read MORE of her, and now here you are being all timely and lovely. Sigh.(and Ta to Gary too!)

  2. And lovely to hear from you, Simmone. Happy spring!

  3. I think the mountains were waiting for you. They are so patient. I'm so happy for you!