Sometimes, all it takes is a one-word prompt to get us writing. Today’s Daily Post writing prompt: YELLOW.
“So… do we take any notice of it?”, I asked my companion as we stood by the yellow warning sign and prepared to step out onto the suspension bridge.
“Well, maybe we should give it the benefit of the doubt”, she replied. “I’ll go first”.
“I think they’re being overcautious. I’ve crossed older bridges not unlike this one and none have fallen down and dumped me in the river”, I said, my tone revealing my skepticism. “I can’t see the parks service building a bridge that is likely to collapse if more than one person steps out onto it”.
“I don’t think it’s about the bridge falling down. It’s probably about more than one person walking across and making the thing swing wildly. You know how the suspension bridge at Cataract Gorge swings when there’s a few people on it? The hand cable on this one is not as high and maybe someone could topple off onto the rocks or into the river below”.
She’s right, most likely. Analytical as always, my partner. She displays much common sense and clear thinking devoid of overt emotion. Isn’t that — reacting rationally rather than emotionally — a trait of the Stoic mindset? Yes, she’s probably a Stoic but doesn’t know it. She’s not one to delve into ancient Greek philosophy or into any philosophy at all. Yet, she displays philosophical thinking in her own way in her daily life.
In the mountains
The narrow suspension bridge spans the fast-flowing waters of the Meander River. It is not a wide crossing but it is perhaps ten or more metres above the stream that, here, rushes around the rocks that punctuate its length. The crossing is at the start of the long walk up to Meander Falls and beyond, if you are so inclined and energetic. The bridge, negotiated one at a time without falling into the Meander, took us to the track that starts climbing through the dim recesses of the cool temperate rainforest.
Here, it is a world of tall Nothofagus, an ancient tree whose origins have been traced back to the era of the Gondwanan supercontinent in the time before plate tectonics ripped it apart to form Australia, Antarctica and South America… and, of course, Tasmania. Sassafras, too, reaches up to form a tree canopy below which tall tree ferns thrive in the shade. Below, a world of lichens, mosses and ferns makes the forest floor glow green where a scarce shaft of sunlight penetrates.
I looked down at my hiking shoes. “Probably get a few leeches here”, I said to my partner. Among the smaller wildlife of the rainforest, leeches detect the warmth of nearby humans. I had long ago learned, through experience, how they rapidly loop their way across the ground to climb aboard and gorge themselves on our blood. Satiated and bloated, they then drop off, leaving an itchy swelling behind. Not always, though. It is common for bushwalkers to take off boots and socks at the end of the day to find them smeared with the red of their own blood after a leech has dropped off into the boot and been squashed.
Today, the Meander was running at its normal height but only a few months ago a period of wet weather swelled the streams draining the Central Plateau and the Western Tiers that form its steep, craggy edge. The Meander rose in flood, sweeping through the informal bush campsite further down. Other stream did the same, the Liffey destroying the camping area on its banks, damage still being repaired when we came through. A bridge nearby had been swept away.
The sign wasn’t the only yellow thing we saw that day. Higher up, well above the river where the rainforest gives way to drier but still moist eucalypt forest, we had stopped to look at the bright yellow of small flowers in bloom on a wiry shrub almost a metre in height. My partner likes botanising and identified it as a plant of the pea family, a legume. “It converts atmospheric nitrogen into the nitrates that enrich the soil for plant growth”, she had authoritatively stated. “Probably a Dilwinnia”, she ventured.
“What about this”, I asked her a little further along the track, pointing to a tiny, yellow, mosslike plant on the end of a dead branch. “I don’t know about mosses and those kind of plants”, she had responded. Neither do I.
Yellow, according to the psychologically inclined, is supposed to impart a state of positivity and energy. I don’t know if this is one of those things that are culturally dependent, that are accepted within a culture but that might have different meanings in other cultures. What I do know is that yellow is a common colour, though not the dominant one, of Australia’s eucalypt forests. Perhaps the colour was chosen by nature to attract pollinators to the flowers to ensure their propagation and continuity. That made sense to me.
Yellow on the other side
We walked back to the clearing that serves as a car park for people setting off on the walking tracks in this part of the Western Tiers. Here, our minivan awaited to take us down to the lowlands where we would stay overnight in the camping area on the riverbank in Deloraine. Next day, we would set off to climb the Tiers and cross the Central Plateau, heading south to eventually reach Hobart.
We crossed that suspension bridge again and, on reaching the other side, I glanced at the sign we had encountered on the way over and was reminded of Woody Guthrie’s old and well-known song, ‘This Land’. One of the verses tells of how a sign said ‘no trespassing’, but on the other side ‘it didn’t say nothing’. This one, however, did, on that other side that was painted bright yellow.