Walking the Overland Track in Tasmania was transformative. At the completion of the six-day, 80 km walk my body felt infused to the core with wild nature. This sense of peace, pureness and oneness with life was singularly special. Indigenous Tasmanians, early Europeans, hikers, ‘influencers’ like Sarah Wilson, and many others have traversed the ancient, rugged and awe-inspiring landscape before me. Each person responds to the energy and pull of this place in their own way. My experience was fully immersive in the capricious elements for which the high country is renowned. At the close of each day I intuitively chose which element had captured my spirit the most. On returning home, it was timely to reflect on the local and global environmental changes that have occurred since the walking track was formalised in 1931. The extent and magnitude of these changes challenge the conservation and protection of this rare and precious World Heritage site like at no other time.
On November 29th, 2019 I was awarded the prestigious Ecological Society of Australia (ESA) Gold Medal for my substantial contribution to ecology in Australia. The title of the Plenary Address was ‘Woman on Fire: Insights from an Elemental Career‘.
The slides and text following the introductory image below were used in the award presentation at the ESA conference in Launceston, Tasmania. Some additional information is provided in this blog, as well as links to the programs and publications referred to in the presentation. The post is around 5000 words in length, so find a comfy chair, grab your favourite drink, relax and read on.
Vulcanoes are vents in the earth’s crust through which pent-up energy and molten material is released from the interior. Deriving their name from Vulcan, the Roman God of Fire, volcanoes have been treated with awe and respect over human history. With their explosive energy and fiery antics they are the poster-child of books and media related to Planet Earth, ‘natural’ disasters and incredible adventures. My first encounter with these shapers of the earth was in Hawaii. It was there that I fell under the spell of Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Volcanoes – one of many gods associated with volcanoes around the globe. Created by passing over a submerged volcanic hotspot, both the Hawaiian Islands and the Galapagos are testament to the constantly moving nature of the earths surface. On land the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ exemplifies the clustering of volcanoes along the boundaries of mobile tectonic plates. While fire and volcanoes are synonymous, the elements of water, air and earth also play a fundamental role in the birth and expression of these conduits of energy. The creation, impact and flow-on effects of volcanoes on our lives makes a fascinating and sometimes surprising story.
Nature is a powerful teacher, especially if we pay close attention and use our full range of senses. In the UN International Year of Soils (2015) I wrote about the soil as teacher. In 2018 I pay homage to mountains as teachers by sharing a recent and remarkable experience in Japan. Led by three Shugendo masters, the two day pilgrimage I joined on Mt Ontake in January 2018 was extraordinary. The energy of the mountain, forests, snow and waterfalls was palpable. First published on my sister blog ‘elementaljapan.com‘, here is the link to ‘Shugendo now – a winter pilgrimage on Mt Ontake, Japan.’
My 100th post is dedicated to my mother Edna. Our wonderful and marvellous mum passed away on December 22nd this year at the age of 90. She has returned to the elements – her body to the earth and her spirit to the heavens. She, and we, ARE the elements. The elements represent expressions of energy that can take many forms. These are the two messages that have come across most strongly in the 100 posts written in my two elemental blogs – fireupwaterdown.com and elementaljapan.com. These messages embody the intimate connection many cultures have with the elements: earth, water, fire, air, metal, wood, ether and consciousness.
Breathing is a wonder we take for granted. This is the first sentence of the essay titled AIR by Alan P Tory in his book ‘WONDER. Learning the “Ah” of things‘. I was struck by the poetic language that Alan uses and by the wise words of a Zen Master he shares, that we must learn to understand the “Ah” of things. To admire the works of art that surround us in everyday life. Through images, sound and excerpts of Alan’s text it is my turn to share the “Ah” of Air.
Today marks the third year anniversary of my exploration of the elements across the globe through my blog FireupWaterdown (https://fireupwaterdown.com). Seventy six posts later, it is timely to review the topics explored so far, which ones have been widely viewed and which less so, the connections I have made over the last three years, and to reflect on the question ‘when people want to learn about the elements, what do they search for?
The Occidental (western) New Year and the Oriental Year of the Rooster fall 28 days apart in 2017. Now two weeks into January, we sit nicely between them. The United Nations has adopted this year as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Adding to these titles, I proclaim 2017 as the Year of The Elements. Please spread the word. It is time to raise our connection to nature to another level. To delight in its beauty and respect the powerful forces that nature can express. To better appreciate and care for our amazing planet. This post shares a selection of my personal experiences of the elements in the first 14 days of 2017. Fire and water predominate. Around the world people have engaged with the elements in their own way over the same period. In the year ahead I will continue my two blogs on the elements, fireupwaterdown.com and elementaljapan.com. I will also be experimenting with new ways to share the wonders of the elements that shape our world and our responses to it. I wish everyone a wonderful new year and look forward to others joining me on the elemental journey.
It dawned on me today that it has been three months since I wrote a post on FireupWaterdown, my blog that explores the elements across the globe. Where has the time gone! Over that period I have written some posts on my ‘sister’ blog ‘Elemental Japan’ (elementaljapan.com), which I’d recommend visiting. Whether or not you have a specific interest in the elements in Japan, I like to think that you will find something to captivate you. Elsewhere in the world there are many elemental topics and events to catch up on. Like the upcoming extreme ice marathon in Siberia in January 2017. It builds perfectly on my most recent post ‘The cool dude on the bike‘. Then there was the spectacular sunrise over Hobart this morning and the sunset over kunanyi/Mt Wellington the other night. What glorious reminders of the elemental nature of our lives. Plus I’ve come across some stimulating ideas about representing and connecting with the elements through art. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Continue reading
On July 7th, 2016 I had the great fortune to experience the name of my blog, ‘Fire up, Water down’ in real life. It came as a pleasant surprise. The location was at Kinpusen-ji Temple in Yoshino, Japan (near Nara). The occasion, a Shugendo festival that included a remarkable fire ceremony where flames and purifying smoke reached for the sky. Fire up. Down a flight of several hundred steps from the main Temple hall there is a small shrine called Noten-o-kami, where one can drink from a small spring said to promote health. Water down. I have written about fire and water being complementary and opposite. Here, they are part of a long and shared history of respect of and engagement with the elements to gain spiritual power. I will let the pictures tell the story.