While at university in the 1960s friends and I would sometimes head off, away from the city, our books and study. One of the favourite spots to which we would travel was the Blue Gum Forest.
We camped for a couple of nights one Easter in this special part of the Blue Mountains National Park in New South Wales, Australia.This month marks the seventy fifth anniversary of the Blue Gum Forest being gazetted as a public reserve.
About twenty years ago I listened to an oral history recording made by Mr Jack Harris who lived with his family at Blackheath. The tape is part of the Blue Mountains Oral History Collection. Harris tells of an experience that befell his brother Ted and himself in those youthful days around the 1920s. It has to do with the vandalism of what he refers to as “a truly magnificent tree” in the Blue Gum Forest.
After listening to the Harris tape I felt moved to write a poem which retells this sad little piece of history.
I hope my poem also underlines the constant need to value and protect the wonders of our natural environment. I know this comes through strongly in Mr Harris’s account of this senseless vandalism by people whom he says “had absolutely no regard for Nature and what it meant”.
The Forest’s Secret
Darkman’s tribe has walked this forest
Touched its spirit, and reached Dreamtime
Not disturbed these natural wonders
Watched the blue gums skyward climb.
It’s a place to come to and smell the bushland
See its beauty and hold in awe
Light the campfire and boil the billy
Marvel at the things you saw.
These trees have stood for countless years
Have seen the pioneers of old
Whose unsure footsteps trod this country
But quickly gained a firmer hold.
One tree stands out above the others
A blue gum of enormous height
The biggest tree that guards the clearing
This blue gum is a magnificent sight.
But some who pass are not so caring
They must destroy, then disappear
Into the bark they brutally carve
“J.C. and R.M. have been here.”
A tree so noble and so stately
Bleeding from a senseless act
Still others fire the ground beneath it
The tree’s foundations no more intact.
Well, J.C. and R.M. are no longer
Nor the tree that bore their name
The Blue Gum Forest holds the secret
And those who know it, share the shame.
September 4th, 2007 © Jim Low