At the time, it didn’t feel like much of a gift at all. There wasn’t something solid and tangible that she could take to school for show and tell. It wasn’t some present that would inspire awe and envy amongst the other kids. There wasn’t even a photo, like some of the kids who’d been taken to fun parks, their faces distorted with joy and terror as they plummeted from a great height. Alice had wanted to take something during the adventure, as her Dad had called it, but he said it was important to leave everything just as they had found it.

But over time she began to realise the significance of that first visit to the national park. It was one of the city’s overlooked gems. Surrounded on all sides by suburbia, there was a world within its boundaries. There were numerous tracks crisscrossing the terrain, and there was the river which twisted and turned its way from one end to the other.

On that first visit, her Dad had taken her along one of the easier tracks, pointing out different plants and gently showing her how to be still and observant. She had wanted to trot on ahead, keen to see where the path went. But he held her hand and talked softly, with a kind of reverence. With his words guiding her, she could see parts of the previously drab landscape come into focus. There were the fragrant but bristling blooms of the tea tree and the elegant sprays of grevillea. But what entranced her on that first visit was the red flare of the mountain devil. Its shape so intrigued her that she wanted to take one home but Dad had said that they had to tread lightly and not take anything away. But she could draw the plant and anything else that caught her fancy.

Alice still had that drawing. It was the first of many that connected her with nature, giving her a deep love of the land and its multitude of gifts.

I’m participating in this blogging challenge for the month of January, which supports starting the year on the “write” track. You can find other posts with #bloganuary and join in the challenge.

Photo: Mountain devil (Lambertia formosa)