An important book to read

Recently I worked my way through Richard Powers latest novel The Overstory. This is one of the most profoundly significant books I have ever read.

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In 2018 it was short listed for the Man Booker Prize and then last year in 2019 the book won the Pulitzer prize. Now, if books that win such prizes scare you away – I know from experience I have found some of the past winners to be dense and impenetrable and for me, downright boring and tedious – then I am delighted to say that none of these characteristics are to be found in The Overstory.

The book has been described as follows:

A wondrous, exhilarating novel about nine strangers brought together by an unfolding natural catastrophe. An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. An Air Force crew member in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. This is the story of these and five other strangers, each summoned in different ways by the natural world, who are brought together in a last stand to save it from catastrophe.
‘Breathtaking’ – Barbara Kingsolver, New York Times
‘It’s a masterpiece’ – Tim Winton
‘It’s not possible for Powers to write an uninteresting book’ – Margaret Atwood
‘An astonishing performance’ – Benjamin Markovits, Guardian

Autumn makes me think of leaves, which makes me think of trees, which makes me think of The Overstory, the best novel ever written about trees, and really, just one of the best novels, period. – Ann Patchett
[The Overstory is] the best book I’ve read in ten years. It’s a remarkable piece of literature, and the moment it speaks to is climate change. So, for me, it’s a lodestone. It’s a mind-opening fiction, and it connects us all in a very positive way to the things that we have to do if we want to regain our planet. We’ve got lots and lots of trees where we live in Scotland. If I’m feeling unwell or unsettled in any way, I always go and sit with a tree or walk through the trees, and that’s incredibly healing and helpful  – Emma Thompson * New York Times *
An extraordinary novel … It’s an astonishing performance …He’s incredibly good at describing trees, at turning the science into poetry …The book is full of ideas … Like Moby-Dick, The Overstory leaves you with a slightly adjusted frame of reference … Some of what was happening to his characters passed into my conscience, like alcohol into the bloodstream, and left a feeling behind of grief or guilt, even after I put it down. Which is one test of the quality of a novel. * Guardian *
The time is ripe for a big novel that tells us as much about trees as Moby-Dick does about whales … The Overstory is that novel and it is very nearly a masterpiece … The encyclopaedic powers of Powers extend from the sciences to the literary classics. On almost every page of The Overstory you will find sentences that combine precision and vision. You will learn new facts about trees … [An] exhilarating read. * The Times *
[The Overstory] whirls together so many characters, so much research and such a jostle of intersecting ideas that, at times, it feels like a land-bound companion to Moby-Dick’s digressional and obsessive whale tale … One of the most thoughtful and involving novels I’ve read for years … This long book is astonishingly light on its feet, and its borrowings from real research are conducted with verve … The propulsive style and the enthusiastic reverence of Powers’s writing about nature keep it whizzing through any amount of linked observations on literary criticism, political science and statistical analysis. It’s an extraordinary novel, alert to the large ideas and humanely generous to the small ones; in an age of cramped auto fictions and self-scrutinising miniatures, it blossoms. * Daily Telegraph *”

The Overstory is a great read; the type where you keep wanting to turn each page to read more. In particular I revered the way in which the entire novel is underpinned by factual contemporary plant/tree/forest science.  Sometimes it is possible to overstate the value of an opinion, event, an object, or a person but in the case of Richard Power’s book The Overstory I feel strongly it should be compulsory reading for the world.  As he remarks somewhere in the story but using my words, you cannot change behaviours by spouting facts only by telling appropriate stories. Powers has given us one such story and a mighty story at that.

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Exhibition creates further awareness of the Tarkine

A recent exhibition designed to increase awareness about the value of the Tarkine was titled Frontlines : takayna to Adani. It was shown in the Long Gallery within the Salamanca Arts Centre in Hobart.

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Introductory information is available here. A media release gives further information here.

From here you can read additional information about the exhibition given below:

Frontlines is a celebration
of climate activism and protest across Australia;
an exhibition that honours the ecologically
valuable wild places and wildlife
that are currently under threat of destruction,
and the dedicated activism that is taking place
to defend climate and Planet Earth.

Frontlines is an exploration of environmental activism and protest across Australia and aims to represent and celebrate the commitment and often unrecognised dedication of people on the frontlines of conservation and environmental crises across the country.

The frontline is a place, an action, as well as a community. It is a space where active citizens are offering a solution in this age of climate breakdown, proving that people power can preserve nature or be defiant in the face of threats to the wilderness, which has existed for time immemorial.

From Tasmania’s forest battles in takayna / Tarkine, to the proposed Adani mine site in the Galilee Basin in Queensland, there are communities taking action and holding ground across Australia. As they defend vulnerable and irreplaceable places, these communities and the places and wildlife they seek to protect are under direct attack from our country’s leaders and government.

For the first time in a gallery, a small collection of the Black Throated Finch project #1000finches will be exhibited.

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This exhibition seeks to celebrate the both the landscapes and the people who seek to protect them, as well as the act of protest itself.  With over 50 artists from right across Australia, this exhibition reflects the dedication, beauty and passion that comes from the environmental protest movement often inspired by the splendour of nature itself.

I was privileged to be a volunteer minding the exhibition for one session during the ten days of its display, and to talk with visitors from all walks of life.  Coming from a professional art and exhibition career background, I was very impressed with the hang of the show. The following photos which I took that day give a sense of the scale of the exhibition and the variety of work on show.

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Then, on the final day, I assisted with dismantling the exhibition and wrapping the art work ready for collection by those who had made purchases.  Again all sorts of people wandered in and looked at whatever was left on the walls. I was surprised, pleasantly, to meet people who had just returned from the blockade and protest group who are currently sitting it out in the Tarkine.  Very interesting.

This very successful exhibition operated as a fund-raiser for the work of the Bob Brown Foundation and its work to protect specific areas of environment around Australia.  A portion of the sale price went to the artist and a portion to the Foundation.

A professionally presented catalogue with coloured reproductions was printed.

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Copies are still available for sale. Contact Molly Coburn at the Bob Brown Foundation on (03) 6294 0620 / 0455 035 320 or molly@bobbrown.org.au

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  Protests against logging

Once again the Tarkine forests are being noticed by the public.  Read a report here and another here.

A protesting blockade has been re-established in the Sumac area to hinder further logging. The Bob Brown Foundation says ‘while we wait for political leadership, we will occupy these forests in a peaceful vigil aiming to prevent their loss to logging’.

For interstate and overseas followers of this blog, the Tarkine covers a large area in the north west of Tasmania.

Located south-west of the popular and iconic Sumac Lookout overlooking the Arthur River. This very old Myrtle and Eucalyptus forest is an integral part of the Sumac catchment forest ecosystem, extending southward into core rainforest of the Tarkine. It is an important habitat for the endangered Tasmanian Devil.

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There has to be more

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There is a saying which I live by: Nothing great is achieved without effort. I would like to use this as the basis for a new saying: Nothing about the land is understood without walking across it.

We expected to explore the coast, rivers, dunes, forests, sinkholes, lagoons and much more of the northern Tarkine.  Nevertheless, our shortened trip has helped me to understand something of the nature of the land north of the Arthur River – I hope you have found my record of my visit to the Marrawah area to be informative and stimulating.  If you haven’t been to Marrawah, there is great deal to see and experience in the locality – and there are many opportunities for walking and swimming.

For reasons of unexpected ill health the extended trip, around the Arthur River further south, did not occur and so a future trip must be planned. This means that while the posts on this blog will cease now, you can be sure they will restart after the next visit.

In the meantime I am always grateful to receive Tarkine related information, so please feel comfortable to send me any leads, articles or other information and I will relay these to other blog readers.

I will leave you with this video showing the glorious Lighthouse Bay and beach at West Point – with wind accompaniment.

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To Nettley Bay

From the West Point lighthouse we took the narrow gravel track along the coast until it ended at an isolated quality shack near Rusty Rocks.   20171226_131722.jpg

20171226_133814.jpgSplendid isolation I thought.  By contrast Jeanette tried to determine a reason why someone would want to stay there. I suggested love was the reason. I loved the tiny inlet from the bay which, although challenging, would let a dinghy out for fishing. I loved the endless irregular rocks. I felt the big sky would liberate and stimulate anyone.20171226_133817.jpg

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20171226_134002.jpg Without the energy to walk and discover, and with my eyelids drooping, the decision was made to call it a day and return to our Marrawah cottage. At the best it can be said that we have a taste of what West Point looks like, but I have not experienced it first hand for any length of time.  Quite simply, I have not explored. I have not walked this land. Another time!

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West Point Lighthouse

This lighthouse was built in 1916 and demolished when Bluff Hill Point Lighthouse (located further south) was built in 1982. We took a side road off the northern side of West Point Road to visit the remains of the West Point Lighthouse (on paper maps this road is named Nettley Bay Road).  We found a concrete structure inserted into a rock mound – the base of the old lighthouse.      20171226_131623.jpg

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20171226_131340.jpgThe view from the top included the following: 20171226_131433.jpg

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20171226_131554.jpg Mt Cameron West could be seen in the distant north.  The Port Hills are the smoother ‘lump’ to the right of the mountain in the photo.20171226_131545.jpgAt ground level there were other concrete remnants and a grass infested lagoon.20171226_131207.jpg

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20171226_131257.jpgWhat did the lighthouse look like? Thanks to the wall of information and photos at the Marrawah Tavern, we have an image.West Point lighthouse.JPG

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Rugged rocks at West Point

According to an ABC new story, ‘the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania said West Point or nungu included a hut depression excavated in the 1970s. It said there was a cremation in the centre of one of the huts and a seashell necklace was also uncovered there.’  We did not know the location of this depression.

Jeanette thought the landscape was rugged. A very raw environment on a serene calm day.  20171226_121738.jpg

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20171226_124605.jpgI look at my travelling buddy’s photos and I am excited by the appearance of these rocks. The upthrusts are dramatic.  I can see orange and yellow lichens have grown on them despite (or is it because of) the dramatic weather and salt that these rocks endure.  Even with extreme weathering, these rocks haven’t developed a smooth rounding making me guess the rock is granite or a similar very hard igneous rock type.

Lately I have been watching movies and documentaries set in New Zealand which have helped me to realise that the geological age of their mountains is so much younger than those in the very old and worn Australian landscape. When I researched the geology of the Tasmanian west coast area, I found it has the oldest rocks; Pre-Cambrian 1000-600 million years old.  This was a time before soils had developed and plants had evolved, therefore the rocks were unprotected and the wearing down process began immediately. During the Cambrian period 600-500 million years, volcanoes erupted across Tasmania. It is possible some of the West Point rocks emerged at that time.  Geological studies indicate this West Point area is fundamentally Pre-Cambrian; incidentally that was a time in history when Tasmania was connected to north America – apparently Tasmania has rock relatives in Montana, Idaho (USA) and British Columbia (Canada).

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