Yes Baccharis! (No, noisy miner)
Last autumn, my dad helped me hack back the tree overhanging my balcony; its sticky pollen makes a mess of the tiles, blows through the house and torments my sinuses. In defiance, or perhaps thanks, it’s grown back with a vengeance. A family of nesting miner birds twit incessantly somewhere in there. During lockdown, the twit twit twit was like water torture, doubling my lack of affection of this hayfever and headache inducing tree.
This morning, I looked at the blooms and thought of Deborah Bird Rose’s ecstatic description of flying fox-eucalypt pollination:
“Let us consider the lush, extravagant beauty, flamboyance, and dazzling seductiveness with which Eucalypts say yes. They burst open sequentially, and when they burst, every branch and twig says, "Yes! More! More buds, more flowers, more color, more scent, more pollen, more nectar!"”
And for the first time, I thought: Yes! Then realised I don’t even know what kind of tree it is. The Seek app is also uncertain: we believe this is a member of the genus Baccharis.
Bringing in the bins, I see that the rouge vine wedging panels of our fence apart is also flowering. Seek identifies this more certainly as a Calico-flower. I pluck a velvety, vulva-shaped flower and seed basket.
Back upstairs, I dedicate the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee to sketching them. On hand is one of my dad’s old sketchbooks labelled, in his familiar handwriting, ‘1988’. Disappointingly, he tore the pages of his drawings out before passing it on. I use my son's cheap watercolours to paint. Using their tools, both these precious people are present to me, for the moment I dedicate to the task. I work fast and the sketches are ordinary, inaccurate, but the point is less what I’ve created, and more the process of paying close attention, a little meditation on nature before I start work for the day.
Author bio: Zoë is a designer, educator and amateur urban naturalist.