Home TravelAustralia Reflections on a familiar landscape

Reflections on a familiar landscape

by GypsyHeart

This is part of a piece I wrote in 2014 on a visit home to Australia – a time of reassessment & contemplation:

I am back in the mountains that are blue after 10 years away. It is a very different visit to the last. That one was short and filled to the brim with people and food and fanfare and society. It was warm and inclusive like a long-missed hug from a distant love. It was a celebration of all the wonderful connections that I have in my world. This time, I have arrived back to a more contemplative space. Circumstance on arrival has left me with time to myself where I had planned to be busy with people and things. More space, less people; much more time just spent with me for a while. It feels like my solitary travelling days before the move. And it is good for me.

I have had 10 years of a world filled with noise and people: living & working in a pub where people flood through the door 12 hours a day and noise rises through my floorboards even when I am not at work. Now I am in gentle mountains silence. In a simple space with only music & books to keep me company unless I choose otherwise… and long blissful sleeps. I see that I miss it.


Where once I used to fight against the solitude, now I relish the chance to stop and observe. It is a trait of my nature after all. Perhaps it is the reason I choose to endlessly travel and seek change?


Today I searched in the gaps of the memories as I took a long, overcast walk out along the sandy road to Mount Blackheath. It is a place that echoes with the trace of many events in my mountains life. But today I tried to look beyond that. I have devoured 3 books in the week since arriving and they have been strangely influential in opening my mind to my current journey. The first – an account of the early settlers confronted by the harsh Australian life and landscape; the second – a diary of a forty-something woman who’s moved to the mountains, planting a garden and dealing with solitude and the disappointment of relationships; the other a study of the follies of memory.



It is natural to compare my two homes and to seek where I connect with each.

One of the key things that draws me is the landscape. My heart always seems to resonate best with the rolling green, deciduous world of the northern hemisphere. But my sense of an aesthetic is the one that loves the Australian bush: my photographer’s eye, my writer’s brain. In a discussion with friends as we walked the rambling tracks of their beautiful bush paradise, I reversed my view of the two landscapes. I had seen the Australian bush as big and harsh and confronting. I always felt that it shook your collar with its sheer grandeur and made you take notice of its virtues. The rolling hills and babbling streams of England seem softer, less confronting, more inclusive. But now…after stopping to reconnect, I see I was wrong. Those now-distant green hills and meandering rivers are the ones that take you by the scruff of the neck, whisk away your breath and shout of their beauty quickly and easily. But to find the connection in the wild, scrubby bushland of this harsh island, you have to stop and breath gently, look at the patterns; observe the colours and the lines.

Walking alone out on the track today, I took the time. There is a sort of subtlety all around. This is a confused, busy landscape. There is constant contrast. The emphasis seems to be on texture and line. The knife-edge angry serrations of the Banksias against their own impenetrable pockmarked trunks, the smooth silk of a eucalyptus trunk dressed with the ragged skirt of their own peeling skin. On the ground lies an endless kaleidoscope of differing shapes from fallen leaves. Tiny fine flowers amongst brutal twigs with curling abstract forms full of minute detail and design…not easy and welcoming like a sunny daisy or a romantic rose but strangely exclusive and architectural in form. All about me dark, foreboding seedpods cluster in the shadows of tangled bushes. Then there is the colour. None of the warmth and vibrancy of a spring woodland in my other home. Here there is a limited and yet seemingly limitless palette. What seems like mere grey at first glance melts to a symphony of variations: blue grey, the softest of grey pinks and mauves, a flash of a honeyed orange in a flower and then back to green grey perhaps flecked with the tiniest burst of a deep, scarlet red. On a soft misty mountains’ day with no burn of the harsh sun, this all comes to life in a glorious blend of tonal harmony. But it is only to be seen with a pause and a breath.

This is a landscape for peace and contemplation. It is meditation and thanks.

It is at first so exclusive in its inaccessibility and yet so welcoming in its beauty. Today, I have acknowledged that this place merely frustrates my photographer’s eye. It is a moment of ‘moving on’. I had somehow once decided that I couldn’t relate to this landscape and had almost closed the door to admiration out of simple frustration. This alone was the sticking point. What our eye does in observation is pick out the details and dart from one focal point to another. In a busy view such as this, my sight switches between the seductions of the curving gumtree and the riot of leaves and texture all around it but the landscape refuses to let me capture that easily through my lens. And in realising this at last, I accept it. Perhaps it begs me to change my ways?



The lesson of this journey is to accept difference, to stop in the space it creates and just breathe. No photos today, please – just observation. So I see that this landscape is just as precious to me..for contemplation. Mount Blackheath remains one of my treasured places.
I have returned here time and again over the years; in all weathers, in all moods, with many friends and often alone.
But always – as I trace the threads of tenuous, fickle memory – I see that it has been a place of silence and observation; and one of subtlety and contrast. It has been stargazing at midnight with a new love, it has been awaiting a new life, it has been lamenting a loss and it has been celebration of friendship. And for all of that, it will always remain in my heart – wherever I may be – and I will always return with pleasure to stop and to breathe in those gentle colours.
Many of you have already sat there alongside me.
I hope you will all join me in spirit.


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