Keeping it in the family - by Dr Fiona Boxall
So welcome to the blog and my first proper post. Over the coming weeks we’ll be introducing you to our moderators, but we’re also hoping this will become a place where our group members can read, and hopefully contribute, to more in-depth discussions. For instance one that has been brewing around the moderators' table for a while has been the subject of kurrajongs. I had barely heard of these trees until I moved to Canberra a few years ago, and now I find myself searching for them on my walks. I have a burgeoning collection of the immature leaves as well as the seed pods and have plans to draw them to my heart’s content.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I’m out in nature my collecting instinct becomes much more pronounced. But I’m not collecting Tupperware containers or floral cushions (although I have been known to like a cushion or two). I’m collecting experiences, special moments and knowledge. As a small child I was always out in the bush making cubby houses and exploring. Regardless of the weather, rain, hail, shine and often snow, my mother would shove my sister and I out the front door where we would meet the other ejected kids in our gang and off we would go, often for the best part of the day, returning only when it became too dark to see where we were going.
Not much has changed, particularly since I retired, although my mother no longer has to encourage me to get out into the fresh air. A day with no time spent wandering one of Canberra’s many nature reserves seems a bit wasted to me. And now my granddaughter is old enough to enjoy an outing, I am introducing her to the wonders of the wild too. While unicorns and princesses are high on her list, recently acorns and fungi have caught our attention, both of them becoming regular elements in her own prolific art output. There is nothing more heart-warming for an old nature nerd like me than to see her beloved grandchild dashing around under the trees spotting fly agorics while dressed in a tracksuit complete with fluffy fairy dress over the top.
Time playing and exploring in nature is for all ages. One of the most surprising pleasures of lock down has been seeing cubby houses popping up in reserves all over Canberra, not to mention families out and about. Hopefully respectful enjoyment of these places will continue long after this is a distant memory.
Meanwhile my search for mistletoes and kurrajongs, not to mention my fascination with native grasses and eucalypts, not only continues, but is becoming more informed. My studio is cluttered with so many collections of dried grasses, leaves, bits of bark and seedpods that it has been suggested by my family that I must be getting ready to build an enormous nest.
As an aging ex-academic I still believe knowledge is power. But more than that, it adds to our enjoyment of the natural environment and influences the way we respond to it. For me, taking time to observe, experience, photograph poorly and draw and paint the natural world helps me to know and understand it better. It builds a respectful and passionately committed relationship, and it’s great fun too. So if there’s a topic you’d like to explore a little more, let us know. Clearly from your Facebook posts there’s a veritable brains trust of knowledge and experience out there, so don’t be shy, send us a message or a request and we’ll do our best to make it happen.
Dr Fiona Boxall is an anthropologist and retired editor who has graduated to being a passionate nature nerd with a particular love of mistletoes. Her current goal is to visit as many of Canberra’s nature reserves as she can and document them in her nature journal.