isle of skye

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P1180705.jpgThese types of strange mountains rise up unexpectantly throughout the Isle of Skye, one of the islands of ‘Argyll and the Isles’ in north west Scotland. It’s a rugged landscape that presents a challenge for those on foot. Certainly in earlier days when the great dense pine forests (now sadly decimated by harvesting) covered the island, the combination of seemingly impassable forests and steep exposed mountains slit by gorges led to the inhabitants preferring to travel by boat around the island rather than across country. 


a friendly ‘banksia’ man

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Most Australians who grew up in the 60s are familiar with the May Gibbs stories about Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, two little gum nuts that have adventures in the Australian bush, helped by lizards, birds, possums and other native animals. The bad guys were ‘the bad bad banksia men’ modelled after the cones that are left once the banksia flower stems have fallen out and the cones have hardened. There are 76 banksia species and the banksia is named after Sir Joseph Banks, a naturalist who travelled to Australia with Captain James Cook. If you are familiar with the banksia tree it is easy to see where Gibbs got the inspiration for the bad bad banksia men as they mostly look kind of wicked.. but there are friendly and jovial ‘banksia men’ to be found, like this little guy that I spotted at North Head, Manly, Sydney on a recent trip.

the reef, at dawn

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Long Reef, Sydney Australia at dawn.
Long Reef, Sydney Australia at dawn.

I was down in Sydney town a couple of weeks ago… a seven hour drive down south from my usual abode … staying in an old house that belongs to my family. The house was originally a four room ‘holiday’ home with an outside loo, and while it has grown somewhat over the last seventy years, much of the original remains. From the deck, or ‘verandah’ to some, the view looks north-east towards a large promontory that juts into the Pacific Ocean surrounded by extensive reefs, an extinct volcano where I wandered as a child, picking up fossils as easily as one normally picks up shells. Over the years the trees have grown and a new house has gone up next door, yet even they could not damper the beauty of the early morning sky just before the sun came up, a fitting tribute to the molten heat of a once active and fiery volcano.

sun kissed clouds

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At times I am privy to the most spectacular sunsets here on the north coast of NSW Australia. On this evening there were amazing low clouds doing all sorts of cloud things and when the sun set the whole sky exploded with incredible beauty, or as described by a very excited 6 year old grand-child ‘it’s a strawberry milkshake in the sky!’

the elephant-ray

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Left over from the shedding of bark on the Spotted gum, this elephant head/manta ray shape is one of many shapes that seem to embody the Indigenous perception that the gods are evident in nature.

tree sprites

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When Spotted gums shed their bark lots of interesting shapes appear that can be read by the observer however they like. Here one looks like a smiling reindeer, and the other a face- thanks to the naturally positioned gum leaves, but you may see other sprites altogether.