As some of you might know, I grew up on a small farm on the western plains of New South Wales: the daughter of an English immigrant and a fifth generation Scott who never called Australia home until well into her seventies. Until I was in my late thirties I had met only one person of Aboriginal descent, and poor, put-upon Francis Glass would have been unlikely, and probably unwilling, to explain the meaning of Country to the new girl, who took her under her wing as an act of pity, and shame. But a recent photo challenge promoted me think about “Nature” and my place in it, and after thinking about it on and off for the past week or so, I think that a little of what country means for the first people of Australia, is what I mean when I think of nature.
Like my mother, I didn’t always feel I had a strong allegiance to the nation of Australia (distrusting all forms of jingoism, and the forced sense of camaraderie inherent in the cosy notion of mateship and nationalistic fervour). But unlike her, no matter where I was, where I was living, a visceral attachment – like an umbilical cord – kept me connected to that piece of this Earth from which I came, to its scarce and denuded soils, its prehistoric rocks and ravaged mountain ranges, its trees and “The Animals Noah Forgot”. And, like a child who jealously guards everything it perceives to be its own, I have noticed a vigilance on Australia’s behalf – I mean the land, that squashy shaped continent that rides the waves between Antarctica and Asia – only half acknowledging a love so deep that the only way I can describe it is protectiveness.
Now, I have been aware of this attachment, this protective impulse, for a long time, because I have been feeling its pull on me since I can remember. But beyond this sense of place, the competition challenged me to question what I really mean when I think of nature. I don’t think I have ever consciously tried to formulate a definition before – you know, it’s our environment, and I’m a good citizen of the world, I don’t litter, I turn off lights, walk when I can, I support the Greens, you know, nature. For the competition I came up with some facile distinction between animate and inanimate and would probably have left it at that (because I’m not in the mood for introspection right now), except that a comment by orples (about what ‘man’ is doing to the environment), and Mothergrogan‘s “that’s the end of that Journey” post (of a freshly felled tree), prompted me to concentrate a little, dig a little deeper.
Call me a child of the ’7os, call me a ‘tree hugger’, but what I realised was this: to me, nature describes all that is – every atom and every molecule, every particle of sand, every rock, every mountain, every stream, river or sea; every blade of grass, every flower, every tree; the air we breathe: everything that pertains to our planet – and beyond, because to me, nature also includes the Moon and the Sun, the tides, and the energy which fuelled life from the primordial soup, and the cycles which continue to support the life of every organism on our planet, and keep Earth in orbit around the Sun.
When a person asks you “what is nature” and you are told “everything” you might be sceptical. But I’m one with my fellow countrymen – the original inhabitants of my piece of ground – who say “country is both a place of belonging and a way of believing”. The only difference is in scope, and belief. Just as our world was created through attrition and accumulation, one anomaly at a time (I’m sorry, but that’s what I believe), I have to believe that we can begin to reverse the negative effects of our short but disruptive tenancy of our place in the universe.
I start with a definition, and end with a plea; seems I feel protective of everything.
PS If someone could just magically make me understand how to proclaim myself a Post A Day girl, I’m ready to give it a go …