The Blasted Tree
“With outstretched arms and bosom bare,
Appealing to the troubled air.”[Erasmus Darwin]
This blasted tree, this grandmother of she-oaks,
Reaching out to the briny air and dawn’s embers.
Having long surrendered to prevailing storms,
Leaning, teetering, a terminal genuflect,
With roots still hooked in shallow hungry soil,
Somehow, still lifting it’s tiring and twisted frame.
This tree stands in Narawntapu – a place once frequented by the First Nations People. What was their understanding of the environment gleaned from millions of days? How did their looking and seeing inform their culture? What would their storylines say about this ‘blasted tree’?
The colonists looked at the land and did not ‘see’ the First Nation’s functioning agricultural systems – they failed to appreciate their inherent sophistication.
What of settler John Glover’s ‘looking and seeing’ in the new land? Glover was a student of the ‘Picturesque’ with it’s contrasting ideas of ‘sublime’ and ‘beautiful’. ‘Glover’s sketch books often comment on the unusual, bizarre, mysterious and extraordinary’. ‘Glover anthropomorphised trees imbuing its limbs with a Medusan quality so that they writhe like snakes.’
But did Glover’s imagination tend to pareidolia – finding a meaningful interpretation in nebulous stimulus such an object or pattern?