The Last Post

This is my last post for the year.

It’s a hot Christmas week here in Canberra, and to defeat the heat we’ve been for a couple of walks where trees are green and water is present if not plentiful.

Late in the afternoon we went to Dickson Wetlands where the water level was way down and was even a wee bit stagnant in places, but was as still as a millpond and good for reflecting (lol) on Christmas and the year that’s coming to a close.

Pond in Dickson Wetlands just before a duck landed and shattered the reflection into ripples

As I flitted here and there photographing whatever turned my head, my husband sat on a rock and read War and Peace on his phone. He’s 22% of the way through it after several weeks, but clearly it’s more compelling than the wetlands.

Husband on rock with phone

Then this morning we went to the Botanic Gardens to walk in its cool rainforest (a great creation in a city where it doesn’t often rain). Water dragons were basking on the bitumen at the top of the stairs leading down into the tropical zone. They’re patient lizards, happy to be photographed.

Water Dragon, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra

As I turned to descend the stairs I hesitated. This was all I could see:

The mist was thick and white as a cloud, thanks to the misting system that makes a normally dry forest wet. I feared going forward, though my husband promised me I wouldn’t fall. How cool it was! Many degrees lower than up on the road. The lizard didn’t know what he was missing.

The stuff of fantasies was everywhere on the forest floor. I passed this moss-covered fern-tree stump just as the sun broke through the canopy and lit it up.

 

But all is not fairy tale magic in the forest. Just when we were really enjoying ourselves we came across the snake warning and turned back – a snake can spoil a good walk. Brown snakes, one of the reptiles commonly seen in these Gardens, apparently eat the water dragons. And the dragons eat the frogs. That’s why there’s no photo of a frog.

But water dragons can elude snakes and that’s why I found this lovely lizard waiting for us when we ascended the stairs.

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When I began blogging seven years ago, I loved showing WW2 photos from my father’s collection, many of them unique, surprising, moving, even amusing. I’ve just stumbled on a few that I think I blogged about and then deleted for some obscure reason that I no longer remember. Here’s one that suits my mood today with its large pond of water set in a peaceful Cairo public garden where palm fronds frame a white swan and a black duck swimming peacefully, ignorant of the war.

Helwan Gardens, Cairo, 1941

Happy New Year to all my readers. In 2019, may you stay cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s not.

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Changing Seasons: January

Cardinal Guzman has put up a photo challenge that seems challenging enough for me as a non-photographer.

He has two versions. I’ve chosen the easy path:

    • Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
    • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

This morning I was in the Botanic Gardens here in Canberra and was stopped in my tracks by this Corymbia ficifolia. Family: Myrtaceae. Dwarf orange. Sometimes called Red Flowering Gum.

The Canberra Botanic Garden has nothing but native plants. The gardeners have found ways to grow plants from all parts of Australia, even rainforest plants in a lower part that is reached by stone staircases, a place that’s kept dark and wet to encourage rainforest trees and ferns to grow. And up in the bright sunlight there are trees like this orange Corymbia ficifolia, a native from a small area near Walpole, way down on the very south-west coast of Western Australia, and here it is growing on the opposite side of the country in a different climate. Bravo, Botanic Gardeners!

The photo is my interpretation of January in Australia. Bright orange native flowers, clear blue sky, hot morning.

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One trip EVERY month: February

This month I took a trip without leaving town:  my husband and I hopped on our bikes and rode to the National Botanic Gardens.

I posted about the Gardens not long ago, here.  But what I didn’t tell you is that it’s a great place to de-stress.  Just take a look at the Eastern Water Dragon up in the header.  Is he stressed?  Nup.  He strolled up onto the café deck from the forest floor to sun himself, not at all afraid of the visitors.  The dragons are a thrill for café customers taking morning tea.  But of course you can’t go there for coffee and cake and leave without exploring the unique gardens and forests and the comprehensive collection of native Australian plants.

Up in the dry gardens, there are tall eucalyptus trees that are a living support system for other life forms like staghorns and climbing hardenbergia and fungus.  How beautiful are the burnt black and rust tones of the flaky bark on that tree I spotted near the bike racks!  It’s simply nature imitating art.  Down in the rainforest, accessible by timber steps and boardwalks, it’s darker and the atmosphere is noticeably cooler and more humid.  I read the sign telling me to ‘breathe’, and instinctively did.  The air was fresh and cool and clean.  Here, tree ferns and Stream lilies, ‘Helmholtzia glaberrima’, one of the few flowers in these Botanic Gardens, grow in lush gardens beside the stream that flows below the wooden path you’re walking on.  Writing about it makes me want to go there right now.

I wonder where March will take me!

Marianne at East of Málaga came up with this idea of taking a trip every month.  Check out her February trip post to the Rock of Gibraltar.

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Weekly photo challenge: Three-picture story

On the lower slopes of Black Mountain in Canberra is a unique form of Botanic Gardens.  The entrance seems to promise a dry native forest, but the gardens offer examples of all kinds of Australian native plants, and nothing but.  We rode our bikes here this morning, and as I walked my bike up the incline of the entrance, I snapped Black Mountain Tower and admired the symmetry of trees either side.  This is Canberra.  The city of symmetry.

Australian National Botanic Gardens, entrance

With many native plants hailing from the warmer tropical parts of the country, it’s tricky to keep them alive here in the cool capital where we have several months of frost and very low temperatures.  Yet, in an old dry eucalypt gully, a rainforest has been developed with the addition of 2,000 misting sprinklers that keep the humidity high and allow specimens from the tropical north to survive.  The rainforest canopy is dense and keeps out any light breeze; the only agitation today is the flitting and scurrying of birds and lizards on the forest floor.

Rainforest boardwalk, Australian National Botanic Gardens

Signs along the rainforest boardwalks say that Australia once looked like this all over, cool and damp, dark green and fungal.  These timber boards are gradually returning to that wilderness state, but as they wear down into a more natural form they make a good canvas for shifting shapes.

Rainforest boardwalk, Botanic Gardens, detail

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