Thirty minutes from suburban Melbourne, as the road winds its way through native forest, we enter the tranquillity of the Dandenong Ranges. Mist rises from the forest floor. Late afternoon sunlight dances across ferns. Thick folds of discarded bark hang from pale grey trunks of eucalyptus regnans, the grandest of the forest trees, their column-like trunks stretching upwards, branches forming a protective canopy.
On a weekend in late May, my mother and I retreat to the forest for the afternoon, a respite from the day-to-day tasks crowding us whenever we are home. An opportunity to breathe deeply of mountain air, momentarily clear our heads, turn our minds to the grandeur and beauty of nature. A chance to share memories: curved foot bridges reminiscent of a favourite Japanese garden in Clingendael, yellow Ginkgo leaves evoking special times in South Korea, pink camellias reminding us of a cherished family home.
Sheltered in the valley, we are surrounded by sounds of the bush. Tiny creatures scratch in the undergrowth. Blue wrens twitter and dart from one branch to another. A flock of white cockatoos flit high above our heads, flashes of white wings and sulphur crests stark against the green foliage, their raucous screeches filling the air.
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order,” wrote nature essayist John Burroughs in the late nineteenth century.
As a writer, I spend a great deal of time indoors, sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen, touching plastic and metal. I often hyperfocus on my work, losing track of time, momentarily forgetting the numerous benefits and delights of spending time in nature.
My visit to the Alfred Nicholas Garden in Victoria’s Sherbrooke with my mother has been a timely reminder for me to make more effort to seek out places of natural beauty and spend more time outdoors. I know it will lead to my senses being restored, my heart soothed, my mind rejuvenated and inspired.
Do you have a favourite place outdoors which revives and inspires you?