Tarkine Wilderness Lodge
March 28th, 2016
Leaving our peaceful campsite in the burnt forest… we pack the car and drive to the Tarkine in Motion (TiM) rendezvous at Tarkine Wilderness Lodge. En route, we stretch our legs at Sumac Lookout to gaze down on Arthur River, wending its way amongst a variety of foliage and tree shapes. Up the mountain slopes from the river, huge eucalypt stags tower over the forest canopy, their dead crowns like gigantic antlers. I am trying to learn tree names and am unsure what lies before me. Names of Tasmanian trees swirl through my untutored mind: celery top pine, sassafras, king billy pine, huon pine, myrtle, leatherwood, pencil pine, soft tree fern, Australian blackwood, Tasmanian oak, native plum… and an understorey of horizontal scrub, ferns, butterfly orchids, mosses, lichen, liverworts and fungi… I’d have to live here for years to learn just the basics!
We arrive at camp just on dark, and join about 50 artists, (writers, photographers, film-makers, print makers, cloth dyers, painters, musicians, drivers, helpers…) – a great bunch of people, all come in from diverse habitat camps. They’ve already eaten, so we grab ourselves a vegan meal lovingly cooked by volunteer caterers from the TiM team, with ingredients sponsored by the Bob Brown Foundation, organic growers and crowd funding. Tummies happy, we join the others around the campfire.
I have not touched my shakuhachi for days, and my arm spasms have calmed down considerably. I don’t not want to miss the fun though, so grab my bundle of bamboo flutes and join the jam. Great to hear what each singer, poet, muso has to offer, and to hear photographers talking of their adventures. We enjoy jamming with Steve Ward on his BBQ-gas-bottle-spaceship-tone-drum, and with Dave Reynolds on didge, and we listen to many different styles of music, by a range of passionate song writers and poets. I am especially struck by the voice and lyrics of Ruth Langford.
photo by Dave Reynolds
29th March Tarkine Lodge
The next morning, after a late breakfast, I leave camp and wander for five minutes into the cool, temperate rainforest. I find an inviting moss-covered log, and sit, listening, in a moist fairy-land of soft green. About me are tall ferns, fungi, and upturned mossy roots of ancient trees that toppled long ago. I spy oddly carved crumbling totems of rotten myrtle, sculpted by cockies shredding bark and pith from grub ridden trees – testament to successive hunts and a thorough harvest. Perhaps our blackened forest once looked like this?
As my breathing quietens, a faint but constant sound fills my ears; a hum, hidden behind the delicate twitters, chirps and trills of unseen birds; a constant subtle presence I didn’t hear in the burnt and blackened parkland of the last few days. What is it?
Insects! A hovering halo, somewhere far above me, out of sight, in the forest canopy. A delicate distant buzzing of millions of tiny beings, swarming, collecting, interacting, and (presumably) energetically eluding darting birds. The sky heaves a sigh, and healthy supple leaves add a shower of high frequencies, reminding me of a fine waterfall… a delicate shivering sound, more subtle than the brittle rustle and rattle of dead leaves of the past few days.
Above the insects and sporadic leafy shiver, a huge variety of avian voices can be heard. My ears long to label these bird-calls, each so different, each so beautiful. I find my lips stretching wide – a reflex response to manifest joy; to this place of peace; a forest undisturbed by recent fire or logging machinery.
It is quiet here… a rich collaborative quiet, only audible when I sit still, but soon lost when I tread the mulch underfoot, stepping over moss covered logs, brushing past ferns and low branches of tiny droplet-leaves of myrtle. It is time to get back to camp. I have an appointment to keep.
Five minutes it took me, to walk into this mossy world, but after twenty minutes of wandering, I cannot find my way out to the cleared paddocks where our camp is! Ruth Langford had suggested that if I didn’t emerge from the forest after 50 minutes, she’d come in and give a cooee to wake me from my reverie. We’d planned to go together to visit “the world’s biggest myrtle.” Well, I can’t find my way out, and I haven’t heard a cooeee, and it is now way more than an hour since I came into the forest. I spy occasional pink ribbon markers tied to drooping branches and decide to follow them. It worked for Hansel and Gretel didn’t it? Alas, these markers have been put in by someone with a Grimm sense of humour!
walking in circles
lost in filtered light and moss
I decide to cooee, and an echoing cooee soon returns. Ruth! I think… but after several shouts and a few minutes threading my way between mossy mounds and leaning vegetation, I meet a lovely artist [whose name now eludes me]. She has just walked for 40 minutes through the forest from “the world’s biggest myrtle.” She rescues me, and leads us on, now fellow pilgrims of the pink labyrinth. We go in circles together, until she decides the quickest way out will be to find the creek and return to the ancient Myrtle and then head home across paddocks from there. At the board walk to the giant myrtle, we part.
Lying at the base of the grand old tree for a while, I gaze at the many ferns and lichens, moss and orchids, fungi and insects and unnamable plants that grow in its presence. Indeed, it is broad and tall… and inspires a reverence for both the passage of time and for stillness. For life. It may not be the biggest in the Tarkine, but it is the biggest myrtle in this forest. What a being. My eyes close. I feel tempted to sleep at its feet and forget about everything else…
Alas, deadlines call… A reluctant withdrawal from a place of magic and an easy walk along a board walk and through a paddock, wondering at the forest that must have once stood in this cleared field of grass… Back at camp, a quick catch up with Ruth, then Em and I help clean up the kitchen area, say our farewells, and part from our companion Dan. Just two of us now, on our way to explore the acoustics of a lighthouse, and make preparations for four days of concerts… Farewell takayna.