Mid-Winter in the Blue Mountains

So far the consensus is that winter has been relatively mild in the Blue Mountains. There have been days starting out with fierce frosts, and there have been periods of bleak rain and uncharitable winds, but these have been interspersed with days of sunshine to take the sting out of the cold nights.

But we are only just past the halfway mark and there could be some cold snaps in store between now and the end of winter. In the upper mountains in particular, seasons tend to pay scant attention to the rigid start and finish dates, and snowfalls have been known to occur in late spring and beyond.

Early morning walks are characterised by frosts on lawns, roofs and car windshields. I keep an eye out for the subtle changes throughout the coldest months, endlessly fascinated at the gradual emergence of buds on bared branches offering the promise of an abundance of blooms when the warmer weather arrives.

There are spots of colour to cheer me on. Bright puffs of wattle blooms, winter bulbs in flower and carpets of spent camellia petals draw the eye. Creamy daphne flowers and early blooming rhododendrons mingle with late-blooming roses and ever reliable geraniums and lavender to provide points of interest. There are still sprays of salvia and delicate fuchsia blooms in the garden, as bright green spikes of freesias and jonquils feel their way into the world.

The cold is a necessary part of the seasonal life cycle and it always surprises and delights me that there is so much activity happening at a time when the natural world appears to be dormant.

What is winter like in your part of the world?

{Photo: red wattle bird spotted against backdrop of winter branches}

 

In Stillness: A Photographic Exhibition @ Everglades, Leura

It was one of those days when it would be so easy to stay at home. The weather was undecided, and then the skies darkened, a large storm approaching at speed. I waited until the worst of it was over before heading out, still feeling like it might have been a good call to stay put.

In driving rain I made my way to Everglades at Leura. I’d spotted a notice for a photography exhibition called ‘In Stillness‘ with the following blurb:

The photographs exhibited each draw on the essence of the Irish proverb, “In stillness, the world is restored”. The concept of stillness is explored by each photographer in their own way, with works ranging from monumental mountain landscapes to exquisite native birdlife to impressionistic interpretations of the landscape. The breadth of style and subject matter will give visitors to the exhibition a chance to join with the photographers in experiencing the concept of stillness in a myriad of forms.

There are three photographers exhibiting work: Louise Bishop, Fiona Huddleston and Dilshara Hill. Each photographer has an overall theme and style, but the work is complementary and creates the sense of stillness that it promises.

Winter is the setting for Bishop’s work, a time of ‘waiting, conserving, decaying and surviving’. The intrinsic stillness of this time of year, inherent in nature, is demonstrated in a myriad of forms including the nakedness of nature in winter. Decay is evident too, illustrated in landscapes and through dilapidated buildings. The quality of light itself is different in winter, and this too is captured in the work. Animals and landscapes feature throughout the photos, with a variety of textures and filters used for different effects. I particularly enjoyed the following: Sunrise, Kanimbla Valley; Once a Home, Hartley; and Winter, North Yorkshire Dales. The Hartley home is one that I have spotted on the Mid Hartley Road. I have also wondered at the lives that echoed within the old house.

Trees are the defining element of Fiona Huddleston’s photographs. They are identified as symbols of life, wisdom, strength and knowledge, amongst other things. Each part of the plant is revered: root, stem, leaf, trunk, branch. In her overview, Huddleston writes that her aim is to ‘endeavour to see rather than just look and to express rather than just capture’. Her exhibit is stunning in its range, with the works offering both depth and transparency. Tree of Contemplation, Tree of Connection and Tree of Imagination stood out for me, particularly with the gold highlights. It made me think differently about something that I see everyday.

Native birds feature in Dilshara Hill’s photographs. Her aim is to capture the world around her, recording the beauty in landscape and nature, and she hopes her work encourages and inspires others. The birds are captured in a striking array of poses: in bird baths, gracefully gripping grevillea, poised to take nectar from a camellia. And the range is broad: rainbow lorikeets, eastern spinebills, pelicans (a personal favourite), brolgas and zebra finches amongst others. The silvereye stood out, along with a clutch of fairy-wrens and an eastern yellow robin. But for me the showstopper was the gang-gang cockatoo, captured with a cheeky, over the shoulder look. I smile whenever I think of it.

There are prints and cards of some of the work available for sale, in addition to the exhibition pieces. When I wandered through, one of the photographers was there, providing an overview along with a friendly welcome. It was such a treat.

As I headed back through the mist-cloaked gardens of the Everglades, my mind was abuzz, filled with the wonderful images I had seen. Definitely worth leaving the house for.

Everglades Gardens Gallery, 5 – 27 November 2016, Wed – Sun 11 am – 3 pm.

[Photo: pool at Everglades as mist rolls in]

 

A Late Winter Walk

Whilst this winter hasn’t been particularly harsh, it seems as though it is finally beginning to relinquish its hold. This is no guarantee that remnants of winter won’t linger on for months, or make surprise appearances such as snow in October, but there is definitely more than a hint of spring in the mountain air.

The incremental lengthening of sunlight, day by day, helps winter to recede. There has been a run of days with more sunlight than rain, and plants are responding by sending out shoots, forming buds and generally bracing themselves for spring. The high temperatures during the day are reaching double digits. Frosts are still in occurrence but they are less frequent and their intensity is diminished.

A late afternoon walk around my neighbourhood further fuelled my suspicions. Daffodils are out, their bright yellow heads nodding politely in the breeze. Camellias are still blooming, their graceful branches weighted down by white, pink and magenta flowers. I brushed past a hedge bristling with daphne blooms, a sensory delight. Lavender plants are sending up spikes, a portent of perfume to follow. The fruit trees are budding, new growth sprouting along the branches. There are flower beds with pansies and violas and calendulas, and daisy bushes are starting to open their bright faces to the sun. Early bristles of hebe plants provide a soft flush of colour against foliage. There are bright flares of wattle in flower, always heartening to see. Rhododendron trees are studded with tightly budded flowers, ready to unfurl. Some early starters are out already, delicate petals with splashes of colour.

But once the sun dips below the horizon the cold creeps back in.  Wood smoke curls its way into the air, fragrant and comforting. There are still stacks of wood alongside most houses, ready for the variable weather ahead. Galahs and cockatoos swoop and pirouette in the air above, probably keen for the spring growth to provide some variety after winter pickings. Kookaburras gather in the tall trees and laugh as the day fades away.

Are the seasons beginning to change in your neighbourhood?

[Photo: wattle in bloom]