15 Feb 2006 THE LURE OF THE WILD
'Until I came to Australia, where the energy of the earth beats so powerfully, I had known only civilisation . . .'
I arrived in Australia in February 1987. I came straight from London to Tamborine Mountain. Half my luck, as they say here.
I was bowled over by the natural abundance of the place – the brilliant colours of the birds and the size and profuse growth of the vegetation.
I had not long been in the country when I visited nearby Lamington National Park and went for a walk on one of its many trails. Someone I happened to tell of my visit, remarked that there were gorges and gullies in the park that no human foot had trodden.
This had an enormous impact on me.
Also in those early days, I took my five year -old son on a car trip north along the coast and then west into the interior. The look of the land impressed me deeply, particularly the immense flat expanses where the appearance of a solitary tree became a notable event.
As you fly for hour after hour over Australia’s vast, trackless and empty centre – containing minimal evidence of human existence – you realise that humanity, with its sparse population, only has a toehold in this country, overwhelmingly crowding the coastline of this huge landmass.
And then it hit me. Until I came to Australia, where the energy of the earth beats so powerfully, I had known only civilisation.
All of Europe is effectively overlaid by its veneer, even nature. And there are other parts of the world where this applies, if not to the same extent. In Australia wildness is always close by.
The world’s deadliest spider is found on Tamborine Mountain, as are some of its most venomous snakes. There are numerous creatures and plants that will hurt you. Fortunately they can all be easily avoided, but their presence adds a real zest to life which is lacking where civilisation holds sway.
I saw that civilisation represents a loss of connected-ness to the earth.
I grew up loving the culture of Europe, its art, music, literature and architecture, its science and inventions. I loved the scenery and nature. And I still do – yet in Europe I never encountered wildness nor felt that energy.
More than the culture of Europe, whose museums, galleries, libraries, cathedrals, palaces, opera houses and their contents are substitutes for being able to feel the energy of the earth, I love the flora and fauna of Australia.
There can be no denying the fondness for the bush which most Australians would admit to, even if it is not as profound as the feeling which the aboriginal Australians have for the land. But, ironically, people who have lived all their lives in Australia may not be as conscious of the wildness and energy of the place as I am, particularly if they have not had the opportunity to encounter civilisation as I have described it.