One of the interesting things about travelling is the different light. Canberra in mid winter is very, very different to Tikorangi in mid winter. A special family event saw us convening in that city a couple of weeks ago.
Canberra, being inland Australia, has what I recall from my days of school geography as ‘a continental climate’. In mid winter, it is cold and dry. In mid summer, it is hot and dry. Much colder, much hotter and very much drier than our verdant climate at home. And in my many visits there since our eldest daughter took up residence about 15 years ago, I have never experienced wind. In winter, this is just as well because, when daytime temperatures are often only single digit (celsius), a wind would make the cold intolerably bitter.
You can see how much colder it is by the daughter’s Crassula ovata (commonly called the jade plant or money tree). She forgot to cover it and hopes it will survive. We never have to worry about that sort of thing and it grows quite happily outdoors, all year round.
In my mind, I see Canberra as being dominated by muted golden colours. This is largely on account of it being such a dry climate. This is the entry to a major sculptural installation at the National Art Gallery. I never tire going to experience American artist, James Turrell’s Skyspace ‘Within without’ each time I visit and thought I had shared it before but it must have been just on the garden Facebook page instead.
It is an astonishing piece, all angles, flat planes and light and shade. Truly glorious. We had hoped to catch the last day of the Cartier jewellery exhibition in the gallery but so did everybody else and the prospect of queuing for over an hour just to get in did not seem appealing. New Zealanders are not used to queuing.
This is the entry lane to Skyspace and probably as close as you will get to a group shot of the family on this public site. It is minus me as photographer and minus the only representative of the next generation whose second birthday we had gathered to celebrate.
Public architecture and landscape in Australia is on a more lavish scale than we tend to have in New Zealand – a sign of a larger and wealthier economy. The parliamentary precinct houses many other facilities as well and goes well beyond utility provision of services to enable federal government to operate. I hadn’t see this particular water feature before.
This is the wider context – a staircase waterfall, designed to be safe for the public while capturing light, movement and gentle sound in what is an arid environment.
What Canberra may lack in terms of plant appeal in mid winter, it makes up for with its birds. Flocks of birds, in this case a convention of king parrots on the road side in our daughter’s quiet street. Daughter tells us that the red head on the front bird is a sign that it is the only mature male amongst the 20 or 30 juveniles in that group. New Zealand birds are generally restrained in colour whereas Australia has many birds that are bold, brash and colourful.
We rarely see the muted, mystical light of a winter morn in Canberra. This may be because we have far more wind – a disturbed westerly air pattern, as Mark refers to it. This is just a suburban street scene – eucalypts, eucalypts and more gum trees. But no koalas on these ones. There are more than 700 different eucalyptus species, most of which are native to Australia. I once offered to buy the daughter a book on them so she could start to learn the different ones but she did not take up my offer.
We came home to a place where the dominant colours are green, green and more green but with plenty of highlights of pinks, reds, yellows and all the colours of late winter breaking into spring. It is very different. My next post is likely to be ‘And suddenly it’s spring’. For this week, we have left winter behind here.