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.

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Posted on December 26, 2011, in Daily Blog. Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. Dearest Miranda, tears streaming down my face as I read your blog. The forest really is part of everyone’s family, when you talk of the Styx for me it is as if you are speaking of our children (those we love the most), and hopefully the right decisions are made and they are allowed to grow and prosper surrounded by friends and family and who wouldn’t want that. (It is unimaginable to me that any one would want to make there beauty and strength disappear for a few gold coins). The Floz, this part of the forest has brought so much joy and so much sadness; heartbreaking stories have been told and tears for our lose are still shared often and especially at times like Christmas when we all remember those that are no longer on this earth.
    Your writing is so full of love for what you are doing for all of us, you are brave and amazing.
    Love and strength sent to you in abundance.
    Jacqui xxx

  2. Hey there wonderful womyn, thanks so much for so eloquently writing about how I think so many forest activists feel. Your words had me crying for the grief that I feel for so many of the places that I have loved which have been destroyed. Having seen most of the Weld Valley destroyed by this brutal industry, I am now pretty much terrified of ever falling in love with a forest again. It leaves a burnt out hole in your heart that never seems to heal. You are brave, but as you said, there is no way you can be out there in such a beautiful, magical place and not fall under its spell. The love you are feeling right now is worth the hardship that may come later. Thanks so much for everything you are doing xxx

  3. I am speechless……except to say Thank you beautiful lady for sharing your story so passionately and making this older heart cry. xxxx

  4. You bring the forest to us so vividly Miranda. I cried when I read your blog and I remember the intensely excruciating heartache for you when Front sit was felled, and the pain of losing some hard battles. I am so glad you are there Miranda and sharing the forest with us, though I worry for your safety, I know your strong spirit braveheart. much love and gratitude xxxxxx

  5. One of the best pieces of writing on the Tassie forests that I have ever read.
    Thanks, Miranda.

  6. Yes Miranda, I understand why you feel that way. Anyone who can walk through these places and not get moved is not a whole human being. The forest to me is where we came from and where we most belong. I feel inspired to write when in the forest and often that feeling starts a whole new chapter in my working life. I really appreciate what you are doing to help save these special places and know that we, those who are whole human beings, are with you in spirit.

    David Leigh.

  7. Oh Miranda you wrote with your heart and it will touch others just as it touched me and reminded me of what we are working so hard for. To be strong when we know that there will be times where trees fall for the most incomprehensible of reasons. And to pick ourselves up again and work harder to make sure it doesn’t happen tomorrow and the next day. I try not to use the words ‘fight’, ‘war’ or ‘battle’ because it is the commercial managers and ignorant politicians that order the destruction. It is an action of commerce that orders those with chainsaws into the forests. Yet I must say the word ‘peace’ is what propels me to continue. Peace for the trees and all that call the forest home and peace for those who love the forest and those who have cut them down. My dream is that tree fellers will become tree guardians in the future. It is possible and it is just. And no I am not a hopeless dreamer I am a hopeful and practical dreamer.
    I will become a grandmother next year and I hope as you hope that there will be magical places to walk with the next generation.
    May you have warm nights and fair breezes – Thank you Miranda

    • It does happen! People involved in the Australia whaling industry (which ended in the 1970’s) are now heavily involved in the movement against whaling in the Southern Ocean. There is hope!

  8. Anne Layton-Bennett

    You’re an inspiring woman Miranda, and thank you so much for your amazing commitment and determination to show the world the extent of destruction taking place in Tassie’s forests. Know that many, many people are with you in spirit. Look forward to reading more of your wonderfully observed descriptions. Take care up there won’t you. xx Anne

  9. Oh boy! You’ve done it with words, Miranda. If we can’t be there, and up the tree with you, and if photos and videos don’t do it, your writing sure does.

    I feel privileged to be a part of this. Yet I’m in Melbourne at the moment. I was in Launceston when the Observer Tree was first announced. I’ll be in the Liffey as soon as I can get there in the New Year. I’m saying that we are with you in many different places. The issue is important. It is our native forest which continues to be under attack. Our island. A part of the world environment. To be torn down for what? Wood-chip? A government that refuses to implement its own agreement to protect these forests. I support everything you are doing Miranda, and those who are giving you close support.

    Your writing! It is very good. You have given us something to help our understanding. I have visited the Floz twice, as a member of the general public who came down to show support for you forest defenders.

    One occasion was called something like ‘Valentine’s Day – Be My Florentine’:

    1 [ http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/article/sunday-in-the-florentine/ and view the photo-text story in the “tap_flozza_convoy.pdf” link that you’ll see there]

    and the other was ‘Mother’s Day in the Florentine’:

    2 [ http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/article/mothers-day-in-the-florentine/ and view the photo-text story in the “Ed_Hill_florentine.doc” link that you’ll see there]

    I remembered, jogged by your blog, a girl called Jacki in an American police jacket telling me about this relationship of love that develops…

    “Jacki (above right) should be a real cop. She would be protecting the forest. We were waiting to see if those arrested would be brought out, We wanted to wave and support them. Jacki told me how without choosing, spending time in the bush, with wonderful trees, it happens that bonds are formed between guardian/keeper and tree. By this time, the chainsaws had stopped, the noise of falling trees had stopped. I didn’t know, but while police had been occupied with the arrests on the road, and with those entering from the east via Timbs Track, others had gone directly through the bush and by entering the logging site, caused the felling to stop. This was while Jacki was explaining how she was worried for a particular tree with which she had bonded. [That is my word, not hers] If I remember correctly, she had spent some time (months) previously down here, and had returned and was anxious to know how her tree was. “I just want to go and give my tree some energy, but I can’t” (because of the exclusion zone). She told me how one of the guardian trees had been felled, but not used for anything.” [you can see her pic on pg 28 of the (2) Mothers Day article link above]

    I felt inadequate in trying to report what Jacki had said to me at that time. Miranda, you have hit the nail on the head with this blog. You’ve told us just how it is. Yes, just like my fellow commenters, I read with emotion. The dilemma. To be open, to be committed, is to be open to hurt. Oh gee! Ali asked me would I write a book on how people’s psyches are/have changed during the course of these years of defending our forests. I told him I’d talk to him in the New Year about it, as if if he still wanted me to do it then, then of course I would. I don’t need to do that now. Your (today’s) blog has given me my answer.

    Thank you, Miranda.

    • A good book on such topics is ‘After Shock: Confronting trauma in a violent world. A guide for activists and their allies’ by Pattrice Jones.

  10. Thanks Miranda for your story, a couple of tears being fought back here too. Maybe that’s why I am not down there because I think watching it all come down would just crush me.

    Peace Power and love to you

  11. Thanks Lilia, I’m jumping on the bike, off to Angus and Robertson’s who have a copy in stock! Google said corner of Bourke and Elizabeth!

    Good on you Duncan and your beautiful children.

  12. Hi Miranda,

    I would like to thank you for everything you are doing, although the words “thank-you” seem like a more appropriate expression to use when someone has passed a cup of tea, and seem completely insufficient to express the gratitude i feel for the amazing work you are doing for all for us, up there in the tree.

    Here are some beautiful words from Fran Peavey, that your blog post reminded me of:

    “Listening to suffering is one of the most important things a social change worker can do. The job is not only to listen but to also let the suffering fully into your heart without denying its reality. This task takes both courage and vulnerability on the part of the questioner…When faced with the pain of others it is vitally important that you give it your fullest attention, as if someone’s life depended on it. Though you may be tempted to think that the pain you may be witnessing is only an individual suffering, all individual suffering is tied to our collective suffering”

    I have written a bit about them here http://followingthebreath.com/2011/12/06/329/

    Bless you XX

  13. Thanks for what you are doing Miranda. I am sorry for the stress it is putting you through, I have only seen the aftermath of a clearfell and that always makes me feel like there should be a funeral for the trees destroyed, animals dead or homeless.

  14. Katherine Hobman

    Beautiful story Miranda. Heartbreaking yet full of hope. Thank you for it, and for what you are doing. Truly inspirational.

  15. Thank you Miranda.I am Honoured to know you and to be part of your family.Thank you for sharing the forest with us all. I know you will not give up, you will not stop till the forests of Tassie are safe.THANK YOU for all you do i love you sis xxx

  16. Thank you Miranda. You have in fact taken me into the Floz. The smells, the sights, sounds and the intimate contact with its inhabitants. The physical touch of leaves and the different barks of different trees. After reading your piece I feel like I have been there for a stay. So the Floz is not entirely lost – although the wanton destruction a kind of insanity that cannot be undone and the actual loss of life cannot be compensated. Still to read such eloquent description is to be there for a moment.

  17. Captured so beautifully the in forest experiences and what it is that drives so many people to devote their energies and their hearts to doing all they can to protect the forests of Tasmania, and forests across the world.

    Brave writing and brave campaigning.

  18. Hey Miranda, have you thought about writing a book? beautiful and heart wrenching, your words resonate. thank you sista

  19. Thank you Miranda, for your courageous actions to protect Tassie’s forests and the Florentine in particular. I really admire you. You write about your experiences so well! Happy New Year! Best wishes, Alice 🙂

  20. Amazing piece of writing Miranda. Thank you for reminding me what it feels like to be in an ancient forest as I sit here in the concrete jungle of Sydney about to spend New Years Eve surrounded by people I love, but without any trace of the natural world. Thank you for sharing this and for what you are doing.

  21. Maggie Cashman Bailes

    Dearest Braveheart Miranda,
    You have reached the soul of life and its true meaning and are indeed one of the many who have gained the wisdom of the ancients by your very actions. By all that you (and many, many others) have done for all life forms, we can join and support in as many ways as we can this cause for our special environment. Wish I could have found you yesterday, had a nice salad sandwich and cake for you, but I get nervous driving so far away from help these days, (already 10ks down to a huge log over the Mueller road, but looked at every tall tree with images of the most precious bravehearts up in each. You have a wonderful place to know life in all its forms up there. Take every bit of care, never forget each movement, each step, each handhold is your safety harness too. Wish I could join you, but at 72, struggle with feet on the ground, but Miranda, you have given so much and I shall appreciate our precious places even more than ever. Wonderful words I read from your high up tree sit. Do you need anything? I could drive out again and find you. Love, Maggie from Wsterway

  22. Such an honour to have met you Miranda, an ever inspiring person…how can one not have tears streaming down their cheeks seeing our old mother being shredded into pieces. I think it’s impossible once you fall in love with it…….

    You are our angel, our rock, our tree that sends out connectivity across the globe,
    Your calmness and vigour is analogous to the silent awe of the ancient forest.

    Love from Brissie.

  23. hey Miranda,

    I was just in the Floz for the first time in 2 and a half years and after reading your blog and seeing the destruction that has happened in that time is all really quite jarring. Your inspiring energy is helping rebuild a determination for me and many others in protecting our ancient forests, keep going!! reckon i’m going try write a song about this!!!

  24. Dear Miranda,

    Thinking of memories of front sit, very special times, but sad as well, reading your blog in a internet cafe in the middle of sri lanka, trying not to get too emotional. The joy and the heartbreak of tree sitting, it’s a powerful thing to be a part of. Stay strong, I’ll be thinking of ye, so far away and so high above the tree tops.

  25. Thank you. Sending you strength.

  26. Hoi Miranda,

    Deep respect for your will to do something for the forrest and this world. Tazz-courage, is the new expression.You can proudly wear that for the rest of your life. We all own you a lott.
    Oh , and perhaps you know, you are in good company (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Butterfly_Hill)
    Girl power!

    Love from Holland

  27. Miranda,
    Hi you just brought me to tears, after reading your story,i spoke to you some time back, just want to say again, you are a very special lady, doing a fantastic job. I am doing my bit sending money to the Wilderness Society, every month, plus emails etc.
    You know their are people in this world that have so much money sitting around in banks, that they will never use, i hope your message gets to just a few of them, come on you top movie stars, get on board, its your world to, this needs suporting now before its to late…
    Cheers from Antony Lucas Sunshine Coast Qld

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