Yesterday, I drove a friend out to see the magnificent Waratahs currently flowering right beside the road on the way to nearby Patonga. We were just about to leave, when I spotted this striking yellow flower. I almost didn’t see it. I’m so glad I did! It was such a magnificent find. Wow! I love how nature is like that…an absolute treasure trove.
However, what really surprised me was that I haven’t seen this flower before. At least, not at a conscious level. It’s apparently an Isopogon anemonifolius, which gets its name from Isopogon – two Greek words meaning ‘equal’ and ‘beard’ (alluding to the hairy fruits of some species); and anemonifolius – with leaves like those of some Anemones. Meanwhile, it’s common name is “drumsticks”, which refers to the rounded fruits which can be found on the bushes throughout the year. It’s a small to medium shrub from about 0.5 to 2 metres in height by a similar width, and it flowers in late Spring and early Summer. By the way, it’s other claim to fame is that it was apparently one of the first Australian plants to be cultivated in Europe in the late 1700s.
Anyway, now the big question is whether to try growing Isopogon anemonifolius at home. This is a big question, because I seem to have great waves of enthusiasm for buying plants, which almost burns out as soon as I get the plant home. Too often, they die of neglect before they even make it into the ground. However, I used to love gardening and the garden used to look quite pretty. It’s this former glory, which keeps renewing my hopes. Takes me back to the nursery , and send more unfortunate victims to early graves.
Oh no! This reminds me that I haven’t planted the two gardenia’s we bought a few weeks ago on our wedding anniversary. So, I’d better give them a good water before I go to sleep tonight.
Meanwhile, I’ve spotted a magnificent yellow flowering native around the corner, and I’m wondering whether it’s one of these. From a distance, it looked a bit like a yellow waratah. So, I’ll have to get a photo and check it out. I’ll keep you posted.
Have you photographed any wildflowers lately? I’d love to hear from you.
The magnificent Waratah, floral emblem of NSW and Australian cultural icon, is rather elusive in the wild and difficult to grow at home, even if it does claim to “thrive on neglect”. Indeed, up until this week, neither Geoff nor myself had seen a Waratah growing in the wild, and we’ve covered quite a lot of territory in our time. Moreover, although we tried to grow a couple of Waratahs when we first moved in, they didn’t last long. Instead of thriving on neglect, ours must’ve been of a more pampered variety demanding something better than our crappy sandy soil and drought conditions.
TO THE EDTTOR OF THE HERALD.
Sir,-“Ranger” (“Herald,” 3rd instant), referring to a proposed road from Ocean Beach to Patonga Beach, Broken Bay, ventilates a matter of the greatest import to nature lovers. The original plan contemplated a road via the cliff edge between Pearl Beach and Patonga Beach, affording views of surpassing beauty over a couple of miles and already partly constructed. The shire engineer now proposes to substitute a road from Ocean Beach a route scenically much inferior to that first proposed because, forsooth, a gravel pit will be passed en route. On this ridge is an area of, perhaps 15 acres, the flora of which is predominantly waratahs, native pears and native roses. This area was fairly secluded till about two years ago when the shire authorities cleared through it a line a chain wide to run electric light poles to Patonga, arid now vandals in motor vehicles and afoot invade the patch with impunity, till hardly a waratah is left by Eight Hour Day each year. The irony of the matter lies in the fact that branching off the road, as originally planned, is a by-road already used for the haulage of electric light poles, by which the gravel could be carted to the original road. The N.R.M.A. is, I believe, interested in the proposed scenic road, and I would suggest that they, and the naturalists societies, should view the two routes, after which they would, I feel sure, exert their influence in favour of the original plan.
I am etc.,
ANOTHER’ RANGER. . Patonga Beach, July 7. 1936. Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Thursday 9 July 1936, page 4
So, on Wednesday, the intrepid explorer headed out driving through the Brisbane Waters National Park from Umina Beach through to Patonga. I had no real idea of where to find them, only that they were just off the road and I headed for Warrah Trig, which looks out over the magnificent Hawkesbury River, North of Sydney. However, before I reached the turn off, I spotted a bunch of Waratahs growing right beside the road. Indeed, you couldn’t miss them. They were truly spectacular and miraculously, most had managed to survive the secateurs of the thoughtlessly selfish and greedy.
As it turns out, while 2020 has wrought devastating bush fires across the Australian landscape and Covid has forced us into lock down, isolation and cancelled travel plans beyond state borders, especially overseas, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom. Our local wildflowers are actually experiencing a very good year and the Waratahs are the best they’ve been, at least since we moved up here almost 20 years ago. Indeed, you could even say that 2020 is the Year of the Waratah.
Reaching For the Sky
Meanwhile, as a good Australian, I thought I knew all about the Waratah,. Indeed, as I and later we, walked along the bush track to get a closer look, I admired it’s solitary brilliance. That while there were brillant splashes of golden yellow and pink throughout the bush, the brilliant crimson Waratah with it’s stately solitary presence was majestic. Royal. Grand. Roll out the red carpet and take a bow.
However, even the Waratah is much more complex than I’d imagined. What appears as a solitary flower, is actually an inflorescence composed of many small flowers densely packed into a compact head or spike. Moreover, what appeared to be elongated crimson petals at the base of the flower, are actually “bracts”.
Now that I know more about the actual structure of the plant, part of me, would like to dissect a flower to inspect all its elements from more of a botanical perspective, even if it means destroying the beauty of the whole in my quest for understanding (of course, I’d have to buy my specimen and would never ever consider picking one from the bush). Moreover, while we’re being scientific, Waratah (Telopea) is an Australian-endemic genus of five species of large shrubs or small trees, native to the southeastern parts of Australia (New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania). The most well-known species in this genus is Telopea speciosissima, which has bright red flowers and is the NSW state emblem. The Waratah is a member of the plant family Proteaceae, a family of flowering plants distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. The name waratah comes from the Eora Aboriginal people, the original inhabitants of the Sydney area, and means beautiful. Meanwhile, its botanical name, Telopea, is derived from the Greek ‘telopos’ meaning ‘seen from a distance,’ a reference to the fact that the flowers stand out like a beacon in the bush.
Naturally, such a beautiful and outstanding flower has attracted artists and creatives alike. It’s long been incorporated as a decorative feature in Australian architecture and throughout art, literature and even on clothing. While its inherent beauty speaks for itself, the Waratah also shouts “Australia”. Distinguishes us as a nation, a landscape and a people. Moreover, going back in time, the Waratah naturally appeared in the Dreamtime Stories of the indigenous Aboriginal people. This one talks about how the Waratah, which was originally white, turned red: https://dreamtime.net.au/waratah/
Margaret Preston: “Wildflowers etc” Woodcut.
Lastly, we come to actually trying to grow the Waratah yourself. As I said, we actually tried this back when we were idealistic newly weds and were actually connected to our garden and had hopes for its future along with our own. Although the conventional wisdom is that Waratahs thrive on neglect, our usual modus operandi didn’t work in this instance and they didn’t survive long. So, when it comes to advising you on growing Waratahs yourself, I had to turn to the experts from Gardening Australia. Indeed, they’ve very kindly put a video together and the sheer number of flowers on these cultivated plants is very impressive and such a sight to behold. Indeed, I didn’t think it was possible to have so many blooms on one tree. They’re stunning and this brief clip is well worth checking out: https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/waratahs/9429106
Meanwhile, no foray out into the bush is complete without some form of incident. After going for an exhilarating fossick on Wednesday, I managed to lure Geoff out there yesterday during his lunch break. “Oh! You don’t even have to go off the road to see them,” I say. Well, this was very true. However, of course, we wanted to check out the surrounding wildflowers, which are also particularly good this year. The brightly coloured wildflowers were backdropped by blackened, charcoaled tree trunks survivors of a bush fire or back burning. It was hard to believe how many of these seemingly dead gum trees were actually still alive and had a healthy crown of gum leaves crowning out the top. many of which has somehow survived against the odds and are sporting an abundant crown of hardy leaves at the top.
Anyway, we kept walking along photographing the flowers and admiring glimpses of the ocean and distant Palm Beach through the trees. I spotted a large bulbous rock up ahead and suggested we scale it and check out the view. That was nothing special, but I thought the rock would make for a good photo and in my usual photographic zeal where I swing from the chandeliers before checking the prevailing conditions, instead of sitting down on what I thought looked like a set of rock stairs, it turned out to be a slope and as Geoff put it, I went “rock surfing”. I’m quite accustomed to falls. Indeed, I’d tripped earlier in the week and have a nasty bruise on my left arm. However, as my leg seems to twist in different directions, I sensed a whole different kind of horror and was half waiting for the snap…a broken leg. OMG! Such a simple manoeuvre as walking down a bit of rock in the bush, and there I am yet again calling out to Geoff. Once again, he’s watching his crazy wife fall, break and snap right in front of him and he’s powerless to intervene until its over.
Fortunately, I didn’t break my leg (or my neck for that matter). I managed to hobble back to the car after a brief wait and it is weight bearing. However, it does hurt and its not happy. It’s had some ice, voltaren and neurofen and is bandaged up. Hopefully a bit of rest will do the trick and it will be right as rain again. I especially don’t want to have a significant injury over something so simple when I could’ve been skiing, mountain climbing…being an adventurer.
After focusing on the Waratahs in this post, I’ll be back to share the myriad of other wildflowers from our walks and hopefully I’ll be back out there soon!
This week, we had the best good news story here in Australia, which really warmed and electrified my heart. On Monday afternoon, word got out that Will Callaghan, a 14 year old, non-verbal youth on the Autism Spectrum, strayed away from his family on a bush walk at Mt Disappointment in Victoria, and had gone missing. He was lost in dense bushland, and it was almost like trying to find someone in a fog. You just wouldn’t know where to start, and the only way forward involved trying to think like Will and somehow trying to crawl inside his mind and body, and do everything they could to be like him.
No doubt, this is what Police and emergency service personnel are trained to do. However, trying to find Will was next level, but they went there, pulling out all the stops to lure him out. Will’s favourite song is the theme song from Thomas the Tank Engine, and they were playing that from Police cars and loud speakers in the area. They also put food out for him, and warned locals to keep an eye out. That he could help himself to their fridge, or be asleep in a bed. They also encouraged locals to fire up the BBQ, as Will particularly loved the smell of frying onions or bacon and kept repeating how much he loved his food. The local response was so enthusiastic, they had to turn people away. Indeed, it seemed there was a real public surge of love and concern for Will and wanting him found
After spending two nights in the bush, Will was found by a volunteer not far from where he went missing. Despite all he’d been through, he only had a few scratches and was pretty much fine and unscathed. Indeed, on the way to hospital, the ambulance detoured via McDonald’s, and after a check-up he was allowed to go home. It was an absolute miracle, especially after being missing for 47 hours barefoot in sub-zero temperatures without food or water.
I was so struck by the efforts Police, emergency services, community, the media, everyone made to put themselves into Will’s feet (he doesn’t like wearing shoes and was indeed found barefoot), that I needed to write about and acknowledge it myself in my own words and share it in my little space here at Beyond the Flow. I’ve never seen acceptance, understanding or empathy for someone on the Autism Spectrum on such a grand scale before. Indeed, if you could write a wish list of how you’d like people to respond, this would have to be it. Moreover, I feel that this experience has embraced this community in a way we haven’t seen before. Well, not to my knowledge anyway. I hopeit encourages people to respond to people living on the autism spectrum with greater understanding, acceptance and flexibility in the future.
As a person living with disability myself, I know what it’s like to be misunderstood and be “beyond the flow”. I get sick of having to explain myself over and over again, and so frustrated having to make so much effort just to do this basics, and there are times where every day involves conquering an Everest of some sort. I have friends with children who are non-verbal and on the Autism Spectrum, and they have their good days and their bad, but I can tell you, they adore their children and step out and advocate for them so passionately. They endure often experience discrimination, judgement, pity and being cut off from family and friends because oil and water don’t mix. Yet, they also experience a love for their child which knows no bound.
So, while I’m grateful that things have come such a long way for people living with disabilities and their families, we need to maintain this momentum and take it further. The Wills of this world are counting on us and so am I.
Lastly, I hope I have got all the lingo right through this. There are so many ways of referring to people living on the Autism Spectrum. Some are quite fine with being called “Autistic”. Others prefer to maintain the distinction between what was known as “Asbergers” and “Autism”. Others say that we’re all somewhere on the spectrum. However, the point I wanted to make, is that it’s possible for all of us to find out more about how people on the spectrum experience the world and how to relate to them without pressing any triggers. That love and acceptance should be for everyone and we need to look at ways at making community more inclusive, even if people choose to go their own way. These are difficult conversations to have without tripping over the lingo. However, we still need to try, and that’s where I’m coming from.
My profuse apologies. If I’d invited you round earlier this weekend, you could’ve been having some caramel slice with your beverage of choice. Unfortunately, the last piece went last night so I can only offer you Vegemite on toast, which for most of you will evoke grimaces of torture.
How was your week?
Last week, was the first week of school holidays. Our daughter spent much of the week in Sydney with my parents. This is code for going shopping with my mum, and they seem to get caught up in the moment. My daughter doesn’t go completely overboard, but she gets mighty close and there always seems to be something my mum doesn’t quite get her head around. This time it was ear pods. The teenager is an expense beast.
Meanwhile, her brother was sick at home and was very kind to share his bugs with me. With my health issues particularly the lung disease, chest infections can become life threatening but there’s also a lot that can be done to ward them off even without taken antibiotics. So today, I took my spoonful of olive leaf extract and I’ve also got a few other tricks up my sleeve. Wish me luck. I’ve dodged a few bullets over the last couple of years, avoiding a serious problem. Phew!
On Friday, our nephew was visiting from Canada. We took him for a bush walk with magnificent views over Pearl Beach and Broken Bay, which is just around the corner from our place. Towering over steep bush-covered cliffs tumbling down into the ocean, the views are absolutely majestic.
Paradise. Pearl Beach is in the foreground looking out towards Lion Island. The body of water RHS is Pittwater.
You really get that sense which Keats describes so beautifully in: On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Our daughter is in the front row second from the left.
Friday night, Mother Swan was back for the Central Dance Company’s final performance of Swan Lake & More. In case you’re the only person on the planet who doesn’t know our daughter was part of the corps de ballet, now you know. Being the third performance, I went solo this time, although the dance school filled the row behind me. It did take me long, however, to strike up conversations with the four people beside me. That’s what I call my gift of being able to talk to strangers. It comes in handy and we were all quite friendly by the end of the show.
Guest Artists Cieran Edinger, Gary Bowles and Rebekah Petty photographed with Artistic Director, Patti Gleeson (second from the left).
They had the cast party afterwards. At this point, I became official photographer. We were also celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Central Dance Company. So, I was photographing dancers, the cutting of the cake and that’s when my daughter pointed out that my camera lens was smashed. Yikes. My anxiety almost hit the roof, except the lens has a lens protector and I was fairly sure that the lens would be okay. However, I couldn’t work this out at the time because the lens protector was jammed onto the lens and wouldn’t come off. I had to confess all to my husband when I arrived home and he asked: “What have you broken this time?” Phew. It wasn’t the lens.
After watching three shows of Swan Lake & More what with the sensational dancing, magnificent music and all those emotions both on stage and watching our daughter and her friends, I was completely overstimulated on Saturday and my mind was flying. During the last week, I’ve written two skits for the Scout Gang Show, 3 poems and a short story for the Australian Writer’s Centre’s Furious Fiction Competition.
Speaking of of the Furious Fiction Competition, I’m furious with myself. I misread the deadline and was also second-guessing myself and caught up in my perfectionist nitpicking and I missed out. That’s particularly annoying because the competition has a setting and a list of words which need to be included. There’s also a $500.00 prize. I’d have been lucky to win the prize, but I was pretty pleased with my effort which I’d set in the Shakespeare and Company Bookshop in Paris where I’d done a poetry reading in my early twenties. Oh well. All is not lost. I’ll have to see what else I can do with it. Perhaps, it will suit another prompt down the track.
Jazz in the Arboretum, Pearl Beach.
In addition to going to the ballet and doing so much writing during the week, I also managed to go to Jazz in the Pearl Beach Arboretum yesterday. My school friend’s son was performing and she initially invited me out for coffee, but a free ticket came up and off I went. That was great, because although this annual concert is local, I’ve never been before and it was great to check it out. The show was essentially John Morrison with the All Stars and the Australia Institute of Music’s Big Band (which included my friend’s son). In addition to the fantastic music, the bush setting was wonderful sitting on the grass surrounded by towering gum trees. At one point, a kookaburra appeared and was working hard to extract a large morsel from the ground, which might have been a beetle. Of course, the kookaburra thought he was the star of the show.
Performers Jazz in the Arboretum, Pearl Beach.
So, as it turns out, I had an eventful week.
What did you get up to? I look forward to hearing from you!
This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.
When you think of bush walking, you immediately think of feet, terrain and perhaps how many kilometres you’ve covered…especially if you’re the pedometer type.
However, isn’t bush walking more about what you see and experience and chance along the way rather than just reaching your destination. That is, if you indeed, had a destination.
We simply had two adults and two kids we’d just picked up from Grandma, a car and the camera. I should also mention that our daughter was wearing these roller shoe things which are sneakers with roller skates in them and from my thinking, ranked alongside high heels in terms of bush walking attire but she proved me wrong.
Who doesn’t love to climb a tree?
With dreadfully cold, stormy and no doubt rainy conditions forecast at least for the next few days, Geoff thought we should make the most of the sunny blue skies and warmth while it lasted and see what we could find.
Even though it’s Winter, spotting some wildflowers came to mind and also taking in some of the scenic coastal views.
In awe of the soaring gum trees.
However, even though the kids do Scouts, it’s been awhile since we’ve bush walked and needing an easy trail, we were a bit stumped. I remembered seeing good views and wildflowers over on the road to Patonga. That was our general direction and we pulled over at the water tank on the way with very faded memories of a bush trail.
We were walking in the hills above Pearl Beach on the way to Patonga. We are across the water from Sydney’s Palm Beach and about 2 hour’s drive North of the Sydney CBD.
Forgive us Father, we have sinned. It has been at least 11 years since we have done this bush walk and when we see the spectacular views and what we chanced across, it is indeed a sin not to be making the most of the incredibly stunning places right on our doorstep. We don’t have to spend a cent to get there. Well, just the petrol but it’s nothing like an International flight, is it? So easy to hanker after somewhere else and totally miss the treasures parked right under your very own nose.
Our bush walk begins at a huge old water tower parked on top of Mt Ettalong, about an hour North of Sydney and perched over Pearl Beach. It’s not a long walk and it has a clear designated path, not without it’s hazards and two official lookouts and various meanderings along the way. To be honest, we found it virtually impossible to stick to the trail as we were drawn off-track by wildflowers, views and incredible surprises. No, we didn’t see any kangaroos or koalas but there were other “personalities” to be found.
We’re perched on top of quite a hill and the gum trees with their undulating, twisting branches form a towering canopy overhead and I feel about the size of an ant as my footsteps crunch the leaf-litter underfoot and a musty eucalyptus scent fills the air. We heard the distant crashing of the waves down below and although we can’t see the Rainbow Lorrikeets, we can certainly hear them all the way from Pearl Beach. They’re having a very animated conversation.
What a breathtaking view: Pearl Beach & Lion Island.
We wander off the trail to a cliff lookout and I remember why we haven’t been hear for around 11 years. This is not the sort of place you bring young kids who love to run off and potentially over-explore the view. Too many cliffs, in other words.
Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree. They might look cute and sound hilarious but they have the last laugh once they’ve snatched the snags off your BBQ!
Although we thought we might find a few wildflowers and of course the birds, we didn’t have great expectations about seeing anything out of the ordinary. While there are some wild kangaroos or wallabies in the area, you very rarely see them and there aren’t any koalas around as far as I know but after what we saw yesterday, I might have to revise that.
What’s that hiding in the undergrowth???
We found echidnas on our walk. I am 45 years old and I’ve seen a bit of Australia and the Australian bush and I’m pretty sure the only other time I’ve ever seen echidnas was on a trip to Tasmania in 2005. That’s ten years ago.
Mister bravely patting a wild echidna. Watch out for those spines!
So, you can forgive me for my skepticism when one or both of the kids shots out that they’ve seen an echidna. It’s like saying they’ve found fairies but much to my surprise, they were right. We ended up finding 3-5 echidnas all up. While we did see one scuttling through the bush after the camera battery had gone flat, they’d actually curled up under a bush with their spines sticking out like some wacky spiky plant and we were able to pat them. Wow. Talk about amazing. That sort of experience, being a real live David Attenborough, makes your heart pitter-patter!!
What a pin cushion!!!!!!!!!! OUCH!!
However, after a whale hoax, I was again sceptical when Mister called out that he’d found a lyrebird. these aren’ exactly rare but I’ve never seen one of them before although we have heard one.
We also had a bit of humour when we found a gumtree “bleeding” thick, red sap. When Geoff was a kid, he covered himself with the red sap and like so many Aussie kids, said he’s “cut himself”…a great prank!
Bleeding bark on a gum tree.
Ha! “Bleeding Finger”.
Peering through the bush, we also spotted the home front and it was quite intriguing to see “our beach” from this new and fairly elevated perspective. We have a huge Norfolk Pine tree in our front yard and we did try to pick it out in the distance without success.
Looking towards Umina Beach, NSW.
Almost sunset. Time to go home.
Can you guess you fancied me for dinner? Found it groaning with terrible tummy ache on the bathroom floor. Thought it needed a bit of a make-over for publication!
So, after stumbling upon so much beauty, the four explorers headed home determine to undertake further journeys to see what other surprises are right on our doorstep.
Have you explored your local area? What have been some of your favourite finds and please share a post or two about your adventures!