Go mbeannai Dia duit.

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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Once there were flowers.

Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair... ~Susan Polis Shutz

I am a child of the outer Sydney suburbs ~ those strange un~urban places beside the Port Hacking River: Cronulla, Caringbah, Gymea, Kirrawee, turned into something strange & foreign, buried under concrete & tarmac, resurrected only in memory. It was a strange nether world connected to the Sydney sprawl by the Illawarra train line, saved from soulessness by the long sprawling reaches of the river & confined by the Royal National Park to the south.

Every place has it's own uniqueness. Southern Sydney is quirkier than some. Waterfront is prime real estate but steep, bound deep into its bowels by sandstone & clay, engulfed in smoke & falling ash during the fire season. Visiting could be interesting. Some places could only be accessed by a flying fox. Several I knew you counted a hundred or more steep, narrow steps down to the house & as many to climb out again. As blocks became fewer the houses grew odder, occasionally only one room wide going straight down the cliffside & at least one place I remember spent months dynamiting sandstone before they ran out of money & the place was still inaccessible.

But when I was a child a lot of southern Sydney was still the backblocks, still bush, still wild. Our place was a 3/4 acre block running down to the river where the blueberry ash & she oak grew wild & my mother laboured amongst the sandstone to wreck order out of chaos to create a garden that was a curious mix of native & exotic, wild & cultivated, bush & formal.

At the top of our block a little rill ran through the maidenhair & the fishbone ferns. It was a damply exotic & enticing place for an imaginative child. I thought everyone in the world lived in a paradise like mine. I learnt too late that such paradises are a delicate & fragile organism. The brilliant Christmas bells were the first to go. I can remember them blooming amongst the clay & sandstone when I was very little but never again. The flannel flowers lingered longer but they too had disappeared before I had finished high school.

It has taken most of my lifetime for Australians to begin to appreciate what they have & to plant amongst their azaleas & camellias, their roses & daffodils the strange exotic blooms of their native country but only the hardier types ~ grevellias & hakias, tea tree & kangaroo paw, wattles & euculypts but the shy, delicate flowers of my childhood are gone forever. They are too difficult to propagate, hard to transplant, prone to sudden malaise.When we moved to the island 20 years ago I was delighted my first spring to look out on paddocks turned hazy purple with wild orchids & fringed lilies & hidden in the damp bush places the exquisite green orchid with its centre of blood red. As houses began to sprout around us like a fungal growth I scoured the paddocks attempting to transplant some of the small fragile plants but their delicate systems never survived & year by year I have watched with sadness as there are fewer & fewer flowers each spring.

I guess I'm one of the lucky few. I remember how it was, the scarlet & gold flush of Christmas bells, the pale cream & green of flannel flowers, a haze of purple everywhere the eye can see. I would rather a sea of wildflowers than anything man can make.


Persuaded said...

hey girl! guess what's happening at our house this morning???

Britwife said...

We are saddened by the urban sprawl here in Minnesota - our county has been growing and growing at alarming rates. The farmers have been selling out to developers. However with the economy being so bad - it has slowed down. That is one plus side to this bad economy, I guess. I hate seeing the fields turned into suburbs. I'm sure that we are losing native plants - just as you described. It breaks my heart.

seekingmyLord said...

These are the strange ironies:
We want to live were man's footprint is not, yet in doing so we set our own footprints for other people to follow.
When we are present to observe the diminishing of nature due to man's encroachment, we are part of the reason for it happening.

Mrs. Darling said...

I miss the woods I roamed in as a girl. Time is relentless.

Mrs. C said...

Sigh. That's so sad, Ganeida.

Birbitt said...

I can only imagine how beautiful that must have been for you as I'm not familiar with many of those plants. However, I too understand the sadness that comes with watching such beauty disappear. My own hometown is very much like that, slowly disappearing each year until someday I'm sure there will be nothing left.

One day when we finally choose a place to be our permanent home I will take the time to plant, nurture, and grow the beautiful plants that I remember so fondly. Thanks for making me remember the fragile nature of the beauty around us, so many times it's forgotten or taken for granted.

Ganeida said...

Diane: You have kittens?! I'm on my way!

Britwife:I feel for you. We don't have a lot of farmland but what we do have has gone under the developers' hammer ~ which is so stupid. If we put housing on every available bit of farmland where will we grow our crops?

Seeking: There is a happy medium. It is not necessary to cut down every tree & take 6" of topsoil off every block for development. It's not necessary to put in lawn at the expense of native grasses & wildflowers. I understand people want to live somewhere nice but then they should take care of it appropriately ~ which is biblical, natch?

Too true Mrs Darling ~ & it aint a'coming back in this world.

MrsC: Yep. I think it's sad but I'm considered more than a little odd. I wouldn't let the man who owned the blocks around us to cut down his own deadwood because the kingfishers were feeding on the termites & the osprey were nesting in them. lol

Birbitt: it was very beautiful & no~one around us cared so it all went. We have a big block here but we have never felt it was enough & we kept as many trees as we could & let it rejunenate but it has taken years & I was furious in the beginning because all our topsoil had been nicked. I had to start by making soil & buying soil & it is never the same. The small native wildflowers won't grow in it.

Jan Lyn said...

I loved reading you reminisce about your home and I'm quite naive to the entire region. Thanks for the glimpse of the flowers and it is so sad when all around us changes--where I grew up not too far from here as well. Your last sentence is quite beautiful to me: "I would rather a sea of wildflowers than anything a man could make."

Anonymous said...

I love God's world rather than man's world, too. It's one great thing about living out here - we won't get built out, as it's farming country!

Constance said...

It's sad that mankind leaves no room for delicate beauty. On a different spectrum, I think of America when it was first "discovered" by the Europeans. All of the vast wildlife and flora, no wonder they were mesmerized! Now, we have small pockets preserved so that it's not gone forever. Still, I wonder at what has already been lost that we never even had knowledge of.

Sandra said...

This mad me sad. Not only for you and your country, but for ll of us.

Sandra said...

I should look at what I write. Not mad, but made. : )