Field Guide to Falling in Love in Tasmania

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  • Mountains of Diminishing Opacity

    Mountains of Diminishing Opacity

    I am reminded again that we each perceive and measure the passage of time differently. The seasons do not simply pass in a sequence, in four successive movements. Sometimes you belatedly catch that an important chunk of your life has finished, that you have gone beyond it. You jump out of the car to open the gate, and discover that it is prematurely dark, and that the metal of the gate is peculiarly cold. You realise that a companion has left you, and that you suddenly must decide what to do with the rest of your life.

    Yet again I recently found myself bushwalking through forests of memory, over the last lost petals of the leatherwood trees, ragged white clumps lying in the dirt like the wings of an extinct moth. To me, this is the most sentimental sight in the world; leatherwood flowers remind me of lost loves, of dreams that fell away from me, of opportunities I squandered, of certain things of which I have been deprived. The flowers burst like stars as the year turns, and then fall shredded to the black earth as the summer ends.

    The rainforest started hissing. Hard snow was rushing into the green ambience, snowflakes falling in helices, streaming towards invisibility, in union with the moss and lichen. Like skinks’ feet, they were sticky; I caught them on my eyelids, they clung to my leg hairs. Neon tigers glowed in the gloaming – I speak of Eucalyptus subcrenulata, the alpine yellow-gum, whose bark begins to radiate bright caramel yellow at this time of year. It is as though they have swallowed the summer’s saturated light, its endless days, and have held onto it all for this moment when twilight comes crowding in. These trees are electric, powered by heavy rain. It is another of those symbols that I take to my heart.

    At the height of summer I found myself on one of those mountain ranges from which you look out and see only more mountain ranges, layered against each other, jagged blue strips fading out into an impossible horizon. These mountains of diminishing opacity, they are like dreams of the future, or of the past. They disappear into an unclear haze of the faintest blue. Now summer is over and the other day, from such heights, what I saw were sheer silvery veils, the colours of minerals, and a hefty storm swaggering towards me as if it were a footballer with their chest puffed out. And I thought, so that is over. I thought: the time has come to begin to wonder keenly – almost painfully – what is next.