Semi-circular silver-blue saltbushes dot the sandplains. It’s a pretty scene, or at least I think it is. Compact shrubs, unpruned but naturally neat. Not all species are equally attractive though, with rambling straggly grey and green saltbushes mingling with their sculptured cousins.
‘Saltbush’ is a generic term used for several families of low dry-country native shrubs that appear to thrive where not much else grows.
Some are covered in thorns. It’s not unusual to see a Bearded Dragon perched atop a spiky saltbush, soaking up the sunshine. Others sprout delicate, paper-like flowers that seem far too precious for such a harsh environment. And yet others supply berries every colour of the rainbow for the desert birds.
I like the saltbush landscape, with occasional stunted Eucalyptus and desert plants making a statement across the evenness of the pompom-strewn plains.
We’re travelling the Outback roads of southwestern New South Wales and South Australia. There’s not a great deal of traffic, but it isn’t easy pulling off the highway towing a caravan to wander amongst the vegetation. We go exploring after we’ve set up camp. That’s when I see a slim sandy-coloured skink wriggle to safety under a saltbush as my footfalls announce an intruder. And that’s when I get an up close look at the Singing Honey-eaters and an Orange Chat. Kangaroos lounge in the shade of the taller saltbushes, and I startled a hare that startled me.
And then we’re in mallee country. What the mallee gums lack in grandeur they make up for in character. Multiple skinny limbs fan out from an underground woody tuber, carrying tight bunches of glossy green gum leaves, providing umbrellas of shade for animals and birds. A grey carpet of leaf-litter occupies the drip-circle of each tree, naturally fertilising the tree after decomposition and rain.
Ribbons of bark flap in the breeze, exposing bronze and raw-green branches, with a natural brilliant sheen to them. It’s the details that I appreciate.
As I relax, writing, under the caravan awning, recalling the amazing scenery we’ve experienced, an excessively loud car-load of campers arrives to disturb the peace of this simple campsite. Why do these obnoxious people who have a need for noise and ruckus come to these out-of-the-way places? As friendly, considerate families try to enjoy their chosen surrounds, there seems always to be one inconsiderate and ungrateful mob who thrive on attention to spoil it for everyone.
Like the mallee gums, I feel stripped of protection, exposed and vulnerable. Although I generally feel that I have my mental health well under control, when I fall in a heap, my ragged psych on display is not a pretty being. So I’ll take myself off for a walk along the bay where the gentle soothing sound of the lapping waves will ease the tension before it overcomes me. I know my triggers, and I’ve come to know how to care for myself.
I am an amateur wordsmith. I am unable to articulate well all of my experiences or truths. Arrogance pushes my buttons, therefore I know that I still have much inner work to do on what I perceive as ‘arrogance’. A person repeatedly displaying arrogance is not yet at a soul level of growth whereby he/she can recognise this undesirable feature in him/herself. They may even be unteachable. The arrogance that disturbs me is not ‘their’ problem – it is mine. I must learn how to process these disturbances to my inner peace and emotional stability in a manner that allows me to move on quickly.
That peaceful walk on the beach is calling me.