Every morning I watch the seagulls fly over the canal from the deck of my new home, a houseboat in the centre of Amsterdam. They are experts at catching an updraft, familiar with every twist and turn of the waterways, expending energy only when needed. Unlike the seagulls though, I am bewildered by my new surroundings. I feel like a fledgling pulsing between fascination and a desperate need to return to the nest. Moving countries can do that to you, especially if you’ve spent the last 6 years living in the Australian wilderness with only forest for company. When I was young, I dreamt I could fly too. I soared high above mountains and through valleys. I wasn’t a bird in my dreams. I was me, flying. It felt completely natural and it was exhilarating. I haven’t experienced anything quite like it since. It coincided with a childhood exploring the woods surrounding my home, boundless and free of self-doubt.
Finally last weekend, after months of extreme heat and little rain, we got our first summer flood. And it was a proper flood, isolating many small communities along the waterways that weave their way through the local river valleys. I realised that of all the things that I cherish about living here, it’s these flood days that I love the most. That might sound strange but floods are part of life here and, most of the time, they are an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the serenity. I think they’re also a rite of passage. You haven’t truly lived here until you’ve experienced a flood. I still remember the excitement of our first one. We couldn’t wait to get down to the river and watch the bridge disappear. We had three that first summer, one isolating us for 5 days and leaving us with out power for longer. Since that time we’ve had many more with each one a time for rich connection with family, neighbours and neighbours we never knew we had. Even hermits come out to …
This week I started reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, a former forrester in Germany who now works actively for the return of primeval forests. He writes that forests are in fact a social network supporting the sick, nourishing the young and working together to regenerate in times of devastation. They flourish in community just like humans and a tree is only as strong as the trees that surround it. Both nature and nurture are recognised as having an impact on lifespan with the ‘maternal instincts’ of mother trees playing a role in the nurturing of young trees, passing on their legacy through their fungal root connections. In our human world, it seems nature and nurture are also inextricably linked. Entangled together manifesting as our innate disposition and our inner voice, influencing our behaviour, our relationships and our longevity. We are a potent mix of our essential selves and the accumulated experience of those that have come before us. A cocktail of DNA and generations of lived experience.
Welcome to my hillside perch. In 2012, our family of three made a run for it and escaped the rush of city life in search of a slower and more nourishing life on the land. I was born in the bush, came of age in the city but always felt the pull of the country. To be back in the wild, a place where our daughter could experience the freedoms that I knew as child. So here we are by a river in a lush little valley on the East Coast of NSW. And after finally coming up for air, I’ve decided to write about our unique tree change journey and what I’ve learned about myself along the way.