A year ago I wrote my last blog post as I wrestled with the current situation of fires threatening all the places that I had lived in and responded to with my last body of work. Internally I felt a deep sense of grief and sadness for these places and the irreplaceable loss as a result. I also mentally struggled to understand how my work, which in essence is a celebration of place, would change its meaning if the places were no longer.
And now, a week before installing my next exhibition I reflect on how this moment has influenced my feelings and concepts behind the work that I have created for this exhibition. I've spent over two months over three seperate trips in and around Cradle Mountain. Over this time, spent in solitude, I feel that I have deeply connected and listened to the place and my response to it has come from a deeply personal place.
The most poignant moment during my time there was a journey into February Plains, an area within the lines drawn and awarded World Heritage Status, approximately 16km as the crow flies from Waldheim, my forest home. In trying to research this area before I went in, a number of people had said that it got off lightly from these fires, However, I witnessed something different.
This plain is no stranger to fire, it has been used for thousands of years as a pathway by the Tommeginne people and as such fire would of been used to manage and live with the land. After European arrival it was used as grazing land and fire was once again used. But as a result of changing land use and climatic changes the fires that these lands experience are now more intense and more frequent than ever before.
I felt I saw Tasmania in a nutshell in a spagnum moss bed that measured 200m by 100m full of Pencil Pine stags that I assumed had been burnt in the 60's fires. I tried to count them but I reached about 100 and then I lost count. There were only 5 left alive and every single one of them had been burnt by the most recent fire, only time will tell if they manage to survive, at least one of them definitely won't.
I discovered the loss of Basil Steers hide hut, a tradegy to lose. It had been the worlds only surving example of one of these left and now all that remains is charred remains and crumpled roofing iron.
For the fire to reach this area and travel across the plains, it tore through broad streches of forests and who knows how many marked, scared and sacred trees we have lost. Such important clues to deepen our understanding of a proud culture that is an integral part of this island.
I don't think I slept the night that I spent up there. My mind was wrestling with what I had witnessed as I walked through the burnt wasteland and knowing how much other land had been burned through Tarkine/ takayna and in the Lake McKensie fires. I am thankful that the fires stopped when they did, however the feelings remains of the fragility of place and knowing what we have already lost from both cultural and natural history perspective. I was filled with a sense of urgency that we need to be talking and doing something to protect the ancient heritage of this land.
I was comforted to return to Waldheim deep in the King Billy forest and felt so thankful that the Windorfers and others had acted in timely manner to protect this place.. I wish I could call them back into being to help us go forward. The ancient forest provided comfort to my spirit. Knowing of this landscapes vulnerability makes me slow down even more, makes me want to imprint these places so deeply within me so I will always know them for I am blessed that I have been able to experience what I have. It inspires me to tell its story in the hope that somehow I can contribute, just a little bit, to a wider conversation.
Its a story of massive geological forces at work, glaciers hundreds of meters deep, ancient conifers and the first flowering plants on the planet, the oldest living culture in the world and the early European explorers trying to understand the land. These stories were whispered to me as I walked and these are the stories that I tell.