NA­TURE'S CAP­I­TAL

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - UPFRONT - M ARY-ROSE M ACCOLL

Ikeep telling my­self we are go­ing Bush­walk­ing, with a cap­i­tal B, this week­end, and then we don’t. Bush­walk­ing is how we best ex­pe­ri­ence Na­ture with a cap­i­tal N. It in­volves hard­boil­ing eggs, buy­ing whole­meal rolls, pack­ing a knife, nuts, wa­ter, salt for leeches and tweez­ers for ticks, and head­ing off on a two-hour drive to the Bush with our Boots, walk­ing all day and then driv­ing home.

We of­ten go to Binna Burra, on the Lam­ing­ton Plateau, 75km south of Bris­bane, a place I first vis­ited in my trou­bled teens. The rain­for­est land­scape seemed to re­flect my chaotic mind, all the while do­ing its heal­ing work. That work is hard to quan­tify. It’s some­thing to do with the way light comes through the tree canopy and un­ex­pect­edly finds a red berry to il­lu­mi­nate. It’s the sense of be­ing cool even on the hottest day, chilly in the win­ter months.

Once I saw a dingo, 20 me­tres from the path, just stand­ing there, look­ing at me calmly. There are rare trea­sures you can hope to come upon: the bower bird with his lit­tle box of blue, the lyre­bird that sounds like all the other birds in a string of song, and the shy noisy pitta I al­ways pre­tend to have seen. Some­thing is al­ways hap­pen­ing, and yet, when I go there, like an old friend, noth­ing of the key char­ac­ter has changed.

The­o­ries about why na­ture re­stores us to health in­clude the no­tion that its par­tic­u­lar chaos might have a pat­tern we recog­nise, which soothes. This might also be why shop­ping cen­tres, which are chaotic but un­nat­u­ral, drive me in­sane. Hos­pi­tal pa­tients re­cov­er­ing from gall blad­der surgery – a stan­dard pro­ce­dure with a pre­dictable re­cov­ery – showed dif­fer­ences if na­ture was in the mix. Those who looked out a win­dow at trees com­plained less, needed less pain re­lief and got bet­ter faster. They were four times bet­ter off than brick wall view­ers.

When I spend time in na­ture, I am healed in small ways. Still, we don’t have time for a cap­i­tal N whole day at the mo­ment. But we can walk up the hill to the fig tree our Cana­dian friend showed us was so eas­ily climbable. In our back yard are cur­ra­wongs, and at the close of a late win­ter day their song is so sweet it al­ways makes me stop and lis­ten.

I can swim in the cold wa­ter of the lo­cal dam with eels and tiny fish, feel lilies brush my legs, peer into the dark wa­ter and won­der. And not far from our house is an ea­gle’s nest. Here are the ea­gles, back and forth, tend­ing their com­ing young.

Na­ture doesn’t need a cap­i­tal N. It just is.

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