18 August 2007

Seven things that inspire me: three: gum trees/the bush

Gum trees -- how can you not love these? The smell of Australian summer. I remember being in the Greek islands on a forty degree day, and the breeze bringing the scent of eucalypt, and a wave of homesickness washing over me. What I love about them is that they're all individuals. No two trees look alike, unlike those pine clones (not cones!). Or elms or oaks. I love evergreens. Who cares about autumn colours? Give me green, green, green. Verdant canopies. The taste of eucalypt -- my dad throwing a few bark strips on the barbie and all the hamburgers coming out smoked. Yum.

Yes, the Australian bush is another important part of my psyche, so perhaps it's no surprise it features heavily in my fiction. Not for me the European forests, but the gums, the tea-trees, the bottlebrushes, the black boys, something about Australian plants. So how does this all fit into a medieval, feudal type society? Terraformers, of course. My world has been seeded by terraformers, which gives me freedoms that other fantasy writers don't have. So you could well see a wallaby or two. But I wonder if that's not part of the appeal of fantasy -- the quest journey and all that time to have my characters out in the open air. I know I love reading about the journey in other people's work. I loved the ents in Lord of the rings for example -- even if it meant leaving my beloved Aragorn behind. Yes, I was having a relationship with him well before Viggo put flesh on his bones (and that was some flesh!).

Being city grounded (I was going to say "bound" -- in terms of being bonded, but it seemed like it meant "on the way to"), I don't get to sit in the country often to just contemplate the bush, but I love the sense of peace and stillness, and at the same time, the sense of activity in all the wildlife -- the insects, the birds, the animals, just the movement of wind through grasses. Occasionally, when our writers' group has had a retreat up in Mansfield, it's almost as if my characters are at my shoulders the whole time. Just being in the kind of atmosphere I'm writing about makes me want to bring out the computer and get typing. Or is it just that time, alone with writers, spending a few days talking writing? I don't know, but whatever it is, it works!


Lisa66 said...

Although I have spent most of my life in the city I feel most at home in the bush. I think it's in my blood! My father grew up in East Gippsland, which is one of my favourite places on earth. I did live in Gippsland briefly at the beginning of my teaching career.

When I was living in England I headed off to Kew Gardens on a day when I was feeling particularly homesick. I headed straight for the Australian Natives section hoping for that familiar scent of eucalypt. The trees were there but the disntinctive bush smell was not! It made me miss home even more.

Tracey said...

Yes, smell is such a potent reminder. And landscape -- yes, it's in my blood too. I was going to have one of my inspirations about landscape but then realised I've already used landscape twice. When I was leaving Clarion, I got very emotional about leaving my room behind, because for six weeks it had been mine, and I knew I would never be in that room again. Everyone else (almost) couldn't wait to see the back of the student dorms, but I didn't want to leave it, so I know what you mean.