A walk in the mountain forests – What is this book?
I’m not sure how to describe A walk in the mountain forests. My previous books were relatively easy to pitch: Here’s a book that you colour-in, here’s an introduction to nature journaling, here’s a kid’s fantasy-fiction book… And now I’m letting my most recent book-baby A walk in the mountain forests out into the world… and what is it?
I don’t know of another recent Australian book like this. A walk in the mountain forests is a collection of nature journal entries: drawings and writings about Australian nature, created in contemporary times (from 2017 to 2021, to be precise). The entries are arranged chronologically but there’s no additional overarching narrative. The subject matter is eclectic, not systematic, because it reflects whatever aspect of nature revealed itself to me at the time. The geographic focus is primarily Beechmont and Binna Burra, but what an enormous natural diversity resides in these places!
When I first started exploring the nature of this area I was overwhelmed by the enormous amount of stuff going on. Wow look at that bowerbird, what is that plant? look at those fungi, I can hear a dozen different birds calling, see 4 or 5 different butterflies fluttering… I began to respond to it, question it, record it, write it down… when I had a moment. Juggling the times for nature journaling in amongst other responsibilities.
What emerges in this book are a wide range of characters – in animal, plant, fungal and even landscape form – that I meet and am slowly getting to know. Maybe some I’ll never meet again. Others are becoming more familiar. I try to work out their stories, their intertwining lives. I live now in a kind of dynamic uncertainty, gaining knowledge but stumbling upon new things, more richness, every day. The curiosity is never quenched, if anything it runs deeper, and a new level of understanding begets more questions. The joy of always being a beginner, with fascination all around.
This is what I hint at in the book: that I will never fully know or understand the nature of this place. And that is just fine by me. Actually, it is a great comfort, a great joy. Enveloped by this heady richness, surrounded by vibrant nature, this is a wonderful place to call home.
Many people, probably all people, have had difficult times over the last few years. I’ve had fearful times, sad times, times when I lost my confidence, times when I thought I was losing my mind. But nature was one of the great reassuring threads that helped me through this time. A forest of wonders I could lose myself in. Mountains of awe where I could grasp how small my problems were. A place of solace that reminded me that life arises anew, again and again. But also that everything has its time, and all things pass.
Perhaps more people are starting to realise this truth (other have always known): Nature is there for us if we need it. And oh how we need it!
What do you, reader, do with this book? I hope you get a sense of what pleasure can arise from spending time in nature, slowing down, observing closely, and drawing and writing in response. I hope it transmits some essence of the amazing nature where I live. And I hope you find moments of recognition, beauty, wonder, inspiration and cheer in its pages. Hopefully it also inspires you to spend more time in nature yourself. You know it’s good for you!