25 December, VIRUS 2020
I prefer reading number plates to Christmas morning. Melinda Smith, I prefer from Perfectly Bruised, Flying island Books, 2019
I think that what this pandemic has done, in a very strange way, is made an awful lot of people suddenly aware of how valuable and important the natural world is to our psychic well-being. NY Times (David Attenborough)
An early walk into the forest. Our Christmas tree is anyone of these. The forest is a church every day a feast day for the eyes, ears, heart.Jagun Nature Reserve is relatively new, from a forest of Gumbaynggirr hunting and food gathering it became a cattle farm. Plenty of trees were logged, but the stumps are now living history, habitats providing food and shelter for invertebrates, fungi, mosses, lichens and a food source for small amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. I would prefer a tree to stay in the ground it is meant be in, interconnected with many other trees in a forest its ancestors helped seed. Yet, everything dies, and more living goes on in dead wood than living and the wood slowly breaks-down returning materials back to the soil. I call these stumps Jagun’s living/dead sculptures. Some have slumped, the staves separated and collapsed inside the cavity, home of the soft tissues.
Many large Victorian gardens had a stumpery which coincided with a fashion/craze for ferns. They were an area where old stumps, logs and tree trunks were arranged for their look and provided a shady habitat for ferns.
Our Christmas decorations are minimal this year, no children, no fuss. We used to cut down nearby pine trees with friends and have a breakfast party at our place a few days before Christmas – they are weeds and proliferating in this area.[i]
The Carbon Trust report that a real Christmas tree has a significantly lower” carbon footprint than an plastic tree, particularly if it is recycled.[ii] Though we had a tree that lasted twenty years. Ian Rotherham an arboriculture expert from the UK suggests:
‘1) Buy a real tree, put it in a pot and use it over several years and finally plant it outside to live on. That way you will even mop up a little of your carbon footprint from other Christmas celebrations.
2) Recycle your real tree after use as woodchip or compost. Don’t bin or burn it.’[iii]
Now we have a flowering Christmas Bush and I have no reason to doubt the existence of Santa Clause or sin.
And with the wattle gone, the King Parrots are eating the tiny Grey Myrtle seeds.
Andrew has driven up from Sydney for a few days, has had a COVID test, friends are older now, with delicate histories and immune systems. Leaving for the party he said watch my car – a new Audi convertible, and I did, hitting the garage wall as I backed out. I have known him for nearly sixty years, from boarding school in England, unfathomable.
We celebrated Christmas at a friend’s farm with surfers and artists – a wild concoction, temporary insomnia.
My mother, in strict lockdown, had to eat by herself. It has been a terrible year for her and for millions of others. She tried to sound cheerful and I got her talking about her childhood, the aunts and uncles she loved dearly, her memory clear, mine is an uncertain truth. She is 94 and brave and clever and funny, but has lost her energy and is too often sad, having lost all her friends. I love her so much from half a world away, unable to see her even if I flew over.
[i] ‘Radiata Pine can have a dramatic effect on the environment. The thick pine leaf litter can reduce the fertility and change nutrient cycling in soils as well as changing the water cycle. This leaf litter will also create a thick layer that prevent seedling establishment especially of native species reducing plant biodiversity in the area . . . In Australia they are known to invade into open dry environments both in native remnant vegetation and forests.’ Dec, 2011. https://profiles.ala.org.au/opus/weeds-australia/profile/Pinus%20radiata
[ii] Sabrina Barr, ‘The Great Christmas Tree Debate’, The Independent. 30.11.2020.
[iii] ‘How green is your Christmas tree?’, The Conversation, 28.11.2020.