Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 13
I want to tell you something. And maybe it’s something I shouldn’t tell you. Maybe it’s something I should keep to myself, because it’s not the right image I want to portray for the campaign. But I’m going to tell you anyway. Because I just want to write honestly. I had a plan for you – I wanted to share this forest with you in order to make you fall in love with it. But the trick was I wanted to do that without loving it myself. I don’t know how I expected to convey a sense of wonder about this place without feeling it too. But you know what, I felt scared. I felt afraid to love this forest. I didn’t want to become connected to it and then have to sit here and watch it get torn apart limb by limb, tree by tree. I’ve already done that in my life and I didn’t think I could manage another round.
I’ve briefly mentioned the Floz a few times in my blog so far. It is the place that I found something people search their whole lives for. I found home, belonging, a sense of place. I spent the best part of a few years in the Upper Florentine Valley. Almost every day I went for walks. I visited my favorite grove of sassafras trees. The ones that twisted up around each other, and seem to almost droop, laden with moss. I liked to climb up into their branches and I liked the distinct smell of sassafras and moss that lingered in my clothes long after I’d gotten down.
I liked to visit that patch of bauera and boronia that seemed to appear out of nowhere. You’d walk through tall eucalypt and suddenly be in an area open, but bursting with flowers. I loved the smell of the lemon scented boronia, and the joy of seeing the little flower buds appearing in spring.
At night time I’d climb up to the top branches of Front Sit. Every night’s climb was unique. There were the clear dark nights, when I’d dangle from the rope suspended in the darkness, looking up into the stars. There were the nights when the moon was so bright you didn’t need a light. It would throw shadows of tall trees across the forest. And you’d climb out of the darkness into the brilliant light of the moon and back into shadow again. I loved the moment in each climb when I’d pop above the surrounding sassafras trees and get my first glimpse of The Needles mountain range. And Mount Mueller.
Then there were of course the rainy nights. When I’d be sitting cozy by the fire and thinking…. hmmm…. do I really have to climb tonight?? But off I’d go – climbing up into the rain, the water running down the inside of my sleeves, and pooling around the bottom of my pants. My fingers painfully cold, gripping the rope. I’d never regret it when I got to the top and look out across the snow-capped peaks of Mount Field, the needles and Mt Mueller. And then settle down in my swag, drifting off to sleep with the sound of rain on the tarp.
And those who know me will know well the story of my first time seeing snow. I like to retell it often because I have absolutely come to love the snow since moving to Tasmania. Being from Brisbane originally I’d never seen snow till I came here. And it was one cold winter night when I’d just made it to the platform in Front Sit that I noticed the small specks of light reflecting in my head torch. And then more and more of them. Glistening white. I sat out in the snow for hours that night, perched on a branch, watching it gather on the tarp, the platform, the branches around me. Watching in wonder as it gathered on my pants and my jumper, my shoes, my rope. Finally I went to sleep. And woke in the morning to a wonderland of white beneath me. Looking down over the forest, the sassafras, myrtle and celery top pines bending under the weight of clumps of white snow, clinging to their tiny leaves. The tree ferns making amazing patterns as you look down on them from above. And I never got sick of the snow. Every winter (and sometimes even in summer!) I am overjoyed when the snow comes to the forest.
I could almost talk forever about the Floz. Just now I am thinking of a million stories, about the double circular rainbow I saw from Front Sit, the echidna I’d always meet along Timbs Track, the sugar glider that would visit the tree sit, the pair of Wedge Tailed Eagles that soured above me…. so many stories to tell.
But I guess the point I wanted to make was this – falling in love with the Florentine was the hardest thing I ever did. But I guess love is like that right? I will never forget the day that Front Sit was felled. It’s funny because I had a feeling, a sense that morning that it would happen. And when I heard that the police had been checking to make sure no one was walking along Timbs Track I knew straight away what it meant – they were going to fall Front Sit. It is a strange feeling to stand there and let it happen. After all those years of trying to defend it, of sitting in that tree and feeling like we were a team together, like I’d be there for Front Sit when it came down to it, that I was here to protect this forest. I really felt like we could. And then to stand there and do nothing, as the chainsaws started. I wanted to run, right through the police line, right in front of the chainsaw. I wanted to be one of those irrational and hysterical people you see on TV, screaming and flailing their arms. But maybe I’m too rational and I knew that it wouldn’t help. That running towards the tree would only have me arrested, that I’d never get through that solid line of cops. So I stood there. I just stood there and watched. I kept thinking – if your friend was being killed would you just stand there and watch? Or would you try to save them, even if there wasn’t much chance that you could, wouldn’t you at least try? I kept thinking that. But I didn’t try. I just stood there with the video camera and filmed it. I don’t know how I stayed steady enough to keep filming. Through the sound of the chainsaw. Through the cracking of wood. Through the earth-shaking thud as the tree hit the forest floor, bringing a few sassys down with it. At the end I turned the camera off and sat down on the ground, on the side of Gordon River Road and cried.
I didn’t feel crushed, like I thought I might. I didn’t feel broken. I felt strangely strong. I felt undefeatable. The whole time I had lived at the Floz, I’d always thought: “I don’t know how I’ll cope if they cut down Front Sit, I just couldn’t cope.” But I did. I felt like they had taken from me the tree I loved the most in all these forests, and if I could survive that loss, then I could survive anything. That they could never break me, no matter what they did.
The stump of Front Sit remains right by Camp Floz. When no one is watching I go and sit with it. I will always feel a sense of loss there. But it reminds me to be strong. And it reminds me that I will never give up. I know that one day this forest will get the protection it deserves. I know that it has to, because otherwise we will be losing something that we can never replace.
But in order to continue to fight this battle for the forests, I thought that I could never let myself feel that connection again. I walked through the forest with different eyes since then. I walk through the forest with campaign eyes – looking for places that would make a good photo to really get people noticing. Walking through clear-fells semi-detached – look at that massive stump smoldering in a bed of ash – that’ll make a great photo that will really get people paying attention! Well, I mean, not completely that detached, but you know what I mean. When I thought about The Observer Tree project I really wanted people to find a connection to this forest, I really wanted people to fall in love with it so that they would be inspired to take action and help to save it. But I felt in my own heart a need to be guarded. To protect myself if the time came that I would have to sit here and watch it be destroyed in front of my eyes.
It seems almost crazy, doesn’t it? For someone who loves trees to willingly sit and watch an area of spectacular ancient forest be clear-felled? But if I don’t watch it, then who will? This amazing area of irreplaceable forest would be lost forever and nobody would know. It would be done out of sight, hidden behind locked gates. Just a few kilometers away tourists would drive past on Styx Road, on their way to see the few trees protected in the Big Tree Reserve, none the wiser that right that minute an ancient ecosystem is being wiped off the earth as the bulldozers move in. That to me seems the greater loss, for it to just disappear without any body even knowing it was here. The only ones to see it, the people with chainsaws in their hands. And so, even though I know it will be hard to watch, I want to be here, so that I can bring this out of the secrecy of hidden broken promises, into your lounge rooms and offices. And maybe when the world sees this, they will step in and stop this devastation from continuing.
This brings me back to the point that I started with. It has been a long winded explanation, but I guess you needed some context of my forest experiences to know what I meant. And so I was sitting here tonight. Having a break from the phone and computer. Perched on the edge of the sit looking out across the gully to the ridge on the other side. And I realized that no matter how hard I try….I can’t keep it out…. it just creeps in on you. It is impossible to live up here in the canopy of this tree and remain disconnected from the forest.
Bit by bit, without meaning to, I start to know this forest. The little hollow in the tree next to mine, where I was so certain the other day I could see an owl staring out at me, but after it didn’t move for a whole day I realized it was the shape of the rotting wood inside the hole. The distinct shadows of the tall eucalypts across the ridge. The glimpses of tree ferns and celery top I can see below me. The feeling of sitting on the edge of this platform, with nothing beneath my feet, like I could almost soar off across the valley, joining the yellow tailed black cockatoos as they effortlessly pass over the forest.
I wish I could show you. Not through the computer screen or the video camera. But really show you. I wish I could bring you up here to see for yourself. Because the video can never do it justice, can never capture the way it really is. I wish you could see the way the afternoon light dances across the trees, turning them slightly golden. Or the way the mist subtly reveals silhouettes of trees in the distance. I wish you could feel the wind penetrating through your jumper to bite at your skin, as it softly rustles the branches and the tree sways slightly beneath you. I wish you could hear the silence, interrupted only by the boo-boo of an owl. If only you could see it the way I can, if you could sit up here day after day and let it take hold of you the way it is doing for me……
Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. They say. And I think maybe they are right. I would never trade my experiences in the Floz for anything. No matter how much sadness I have felt from watching my home smashed there. The joy of coming to know the forest and what that brought into my life – I will always be thankful for. And so here I am again. And yes, I guess I am willing to take the risk, willing to let myself fall in love with this forest. I think I just have to be, because it seems to be giving me no other choice. Maybe this time, we will gather enough support and enough momentum in this campaign so that I don’t’ have to lose it. Maybe we will save it for long enough that you will be able to come and see it for yourself. Maybe we’ll even save it long enough for your great-great-grandkids to see it for themselves too? I can only hope so.