Tattoo.

Today is new tattoo day.

This tattoo honours my late father, my family, and my unique identity within it. My family’s surname is Dutch: Groenenboom, which translates to ‘green tree’.

I am thankful to be starting the new year by doing something to deeply meaningful. It is a positive way of acknowledging those who have passed, including my own father six months ago, those who are still flourishing, and my connection to them all.

I spent ages choosing the tree design, as there are myriad options available and many are gorgeous. I chose this one because it symbolises strength, beauty and grace. The maple leaf represents me, obviously, unique among the other leaves, but strongly connected and coming from the same source.

I am so proud that this symbolic tree is now part of me.

Mt Emu Creek, Ecklin.

People often think of Australia as hot, dry and dusty. They’re not altogether wrong, but it’s not always like that.

A line from one of my favourite Australian poems talks of Australia as a land “of droughts and flooding rains”.
We’ve certainly had those flooding rains lately.

Mt Emu Creek usually meanders quite sedately through farmland in western Victoria where I live, and joins up with the Hopkins River north of Warrnambool.
Recently though, it turned the farmland into a floodplain and created some new, beautiful imagery of its own.

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Vermont.

Vermont is one of those places that is stunning everywhere you look, at any time of year. We drove south across the border of  Quebec at Morse’s Line hoping to see some Autumn colours and to see  some ski trails on the mountains.

We saw some absolutely breathtaking colours and scenery.  We headed through Enosburg and Montgomery, enjoying gorgeous scenery with beautiful mountain backdrops.     

  

  

 

From there, we headed to State Route 58 and into Hazen’s Notch. Incredible colours ranging from yellow-green and gold to deep red danced with the sunshine along winding gravel roads, with the scenery opening up to reveal whole mountainsides covered with vivid colour. 

  

  

 

After Hazen’s Notch, we turned at Lowell and headed up to Jay Peak, where the ski runs were lined with magnificent trees in every shad of Autumn.

   

 

We headed up to see where the Von Trapp family moved after leaving Austria. Looking at the mountains surrounding their lodge, it’s easy to see why they chose this part of Vermont. It’s safe to say that these Vermont hills are alive too! 

 

We then circled back to Montgomery and, from there, turned toward the ski resort town of Stowe via State Road 108 and Smuggler’s Notch. 

Smuggler’s Notch is even more stunning than Hazen’s.  The same kind of winding roads and trees team with rugged mountain cliffs and enormous boulders that have fallen from them to provide stunning scenery that reminds you of your relative insignificance in relation to the size and forces of nature. 

   
 

Stowe is a very attractive looking town, but you can tell it’s a playground for those with lots of money. There’s nothing about this “resort village” as it calls itself that says ‘budget family holiday’. The hotels are enormous and the condo blocks are fancy. Glossy red gondolas leave the centre of the town and carry people up the mountain. In all honesty, I was glad we drove straight through because I much preferred the surrounding scenery than the town itself. 
   

 

Vermont is blessed with a wealth of majestic scenery. It’s one of those places where there is natural beauty everywhere you look. 

OTWAY RANGES SCENERY.

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Lofty mountain ash and other gum trees in the old-growth forest with tree ferns lining the edge of the road.

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Younger trees pushing the boundaries of the car park at Melba Gully.

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A view through a forestry/logging area deeper into the Otway Ranges. 

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Kangaroos enjoying a feed on fresh green grass in a clearing on the road into a logging area. 

Melba Gully.

Driving through the Otway Ranges from Princetown to Cape Otway, the road snakes through lofty forests of mountain ash, often lined with tree ferns and vines.  In more than one place there is old growth forest on one side of the road and views of the Southern Ocean on the other. Pine plantations dot the landscape, sometimes prim and green, sometimes cut and messy.

We took an “unscheduled detour” down a dirt road that led to one of the plantation logging sites. The bush hugs the side of the road even more closely, enormous trees towering overhead. I have no idea how those enormous log trucks negotiate those tight bends on a narrow road, but the signs that warn one to “proceed with caution” should not be taken lightly.

As we took advantage of a clearing to turn around and head back to the main road, we saw a mob of kangaroos in their natural environment. There was a big male in the group who would have easily stood six feet tall. I think he is the biggest kangaroo I remember ever having seen.

We headed further east to our destination for the evening: Melba Gully.

Melba Gully is tucked into the Otway bushscape not far from Lavers Hill.  It offers beautiful scenery and some well-maintained tracks for walking.   During the day it is magnificent, but as the sun drops behind the forest the gums and ferns take on an other-worldly quality and one’s other senses become more alert. The chatter of the birds and the gurgle of the Johanna River at the bottom of the gully become more prominent. The smell of the eucalypts and the damp forest floor is refreshing  and clean.

At the end of the track is a section of boardwalk which keeps visitors on the track and out of the surrounding forest. All along this section of the walkway, glow worms twinkle like fairy lights. It’s a bit like looking at the stars in the night sky except that these tiny creatures are embedded in the bank about a meter away from where you stand.

It’s a beautiful, serene place to enjoy a little of nature’s magic.

If you ever have the chance to visit, wear good shoes for walking and take a torch so you can find your way back up the track in the dark.

Driving home.

Silver misty moonlight mood-light,
dark silhouettes of drowsy gums,
their trunks briefly illuminated, 
ghostly, striking majestic poses,
eerie in the passing light.

A young kangaroo, eager for the
fresh, bright grass on the roadside,
staring as the intruder rushes by, 
then resumes his evening feast
alone, in the dark, with 
nothing but the soft breeze
and the whimsical moon
for company.