Dedicated to the lifeforms of the Living Museum's Wetlands, the Wetlands Mosaic is a stunning piece of artwork born from the arrangement of a vast number of mosaic tiles. Looking somewhat like a picture straight from an Aboriginal painting, the mosaic certainly has an indigenous feel to it, perhaps it is the pictures of Australian wildlife that give the piece this feel. Alternatively, it could be seen as something straight from a church stained glass window, but less artificial. Since the mosaic is near trees and wildlife it seems all the more alive than any ordinary artwork; capturing elements seen in church artwork combined with an indigenous touch.
My boss, Mr.Peter Haffenden, asked me to take pictures of the mosaic construction crew as they put together this nifty little piece. By the way this is all taking place in Pipemakers Park, Maribyrnong.
I was only on work experience, but hey, I didn't want to get fired for my first (paid) job, so I did what I had to do, even though the whole task was a little new to me.
Anyhow, it took me a few minutes to find the construction crew seeing how they were not working on the mosaic, but when I did find them, much to my surprise they were actually planting strawberries. It was all in the name of park improvements, to provide food for a select few of the surrounding bird wildlife.
The crew is actually a group of people on a Work for the Dole program, a group organised by an associate of the Living Museum, Mr. Brett Hosie, who finds valuable manpower for the Living Museum's work. Although they may work for the dole, they're certainly no bludgers, as they were visibly working quite hard on planting the miniature fruits for the museum's winged friends.
A picture of the crew planting the strawberries.
Not only does the Living Museum organise people from the dole to help them with their environmental projects, but were also involving autistic adults to assist them in these environmental projects.
In fact this diversity didn't astound me the slightest, I had only been working at the museum a couple of days but I could easily see that people from all walks of life are welcome in the Museum's environment. Islamic, Aboriginal, Croatian or Asian, it really didn't matter what race that you are, you would be accepted none the less. It was a refreshing change from the racist attitudes of some of the people I've encountered in my life.
I decided (well, quite frankly was assigned) to delve into the actual character of the Museum's surrounding park.
Of course to characterise any part of nature (except animals) is no easy task, let alone giving an entire park a persona. So I had quite a mission ahead of me but with my natural adolescent smugness I set out to do what at first I thought would be a simple job.
Enough of my rambling, I'm writing to you about the park, not about myself.
So what is the character of the park? First let me tell you a few facts about the park.
The photo above best describes one aspect of the park. You see all those nice trees? I bet you'd never guess what is just below them. Rubble and rocky remnants.A meat canning industry and a tallow boiling down works were once on this land instead of this lush scenery. However they were long demolished and most of their remains lie buried beneath the earth.
When Pipemakers Park actually became a park, rich soil and other natural elements helped further bury the geological waste beneath the ground. Eventually, out of the soil trees grew from planted seedlings and eventually a grassy woodland came about. Once the site of a vast factory, what could have been called a purely industrial area, is now a beautiful park rich in a variety of flora and fauna.
However, this does not mean that the rubble is non-existent, it still lies beneath the Earth, covered by a natural surface.
Do you see what I'm getting at? At times looks can be deceiving and although the park has a very naturalistic feel the remains of the industrial ruins are not too far beneath it's surface. Knowing this may make the park seem a little more artificial, like it is wearing some kind of make-up, but the intent of this description is to show how much of what you see on the surface can be quite different to what also resides; a saying used to describe not only land, but people and animals as well.
So how does this relate to the character of the park? Well, in a novel every character has (or should have) a backstory, and Pipemakers Park is no different. It has a long and interesting story which gives it personality and depth.
Speaking of personality while I was working in the museum I noticed it had somewhat of a relaxed one. Sure, things can get quite hectic in the museum with deadlines and set-dates, but there is even a relaxed and fun-loving aura about what should be a serious and chaotic place. Not that I'm saying it shouldn't be fun; its just quite different from what you would expect.
Like the Museum, Pipemakers Park also has a relaxed and somewhat fun-loving personality, but in another way it has a very gentle and caring side to its nature.
Birds, frogs and a variety of mammals all reside in the park. The park tends to all these animal citizens and treats each one equally, but at the same time the park is also solemn and detached. If one of its creations is threatened by a predator it does nothing, as it believes in letting events play out. The park a firm believer of letting nature take its course.
The park has all the love of a caring mother and all the wisdom of a detached god; as does all nature. However, the park seems very different from other natural places. It has its own spirit, its own feel, its own vibrancy.
Progressive and ambitous may be one way to describe the park if it were to be incarnated as a person. Shall we have a look at this progressive and ambitous park?
A very big tree and a few small stumps.
What strikes you as odd about this tree? The cut down stumps near it of course. Yes, they were cut down manually, but why do you think that was so? In addition to this, do you see the size of that tree? Its HUGE, a symbol of an enterprising outlook. The other trees near it were cut down, my guess is because if they were going to grow as big as the tree in said picture, they wouldn't have had too much room to grow and would have intertwined with each other which could have caused all kinds of problems for them. Perhaps the tree you see in the pictures was not cut down because it grew bigger and faster than its cut-down brethren. This is what I mean by the park having an ambitious nature, where even the trees have to be quicker and bigger than the rest to be guaranteed survival. So naturally most of the park's inhabits are keen to ensure their lives, which is pretty much what we humans do in our modern lives.
Speaking of modern life, the park is surprisingly close to the very symbol of it. Highpoint (a very big shopping centre) is located practically around the corner from the park (I should know, the first time I found Pipemakers Park was by accident when I was looking for a shortcut from Highpoint to my house). But how does this relate to the character of the park? Well it gives the Park's character contrast; its something so natural and yet something so synthetic as a shopping mall can be found right next to it. Its almost like the park represents a person with a pseduo-ludite view. Its character disdains technology, as I tell you, it is very hard to find much technology in the park (well aside from the machines the museum uses to keep itself running). Yet I feel that the park still recognises that technology does have its upsides, even though it has not forgotten about how technology (e.g. the abundance of factories that once resided on top of it) abused its being.
While I spent my time working for the Living Museum, I was also asked to photograph some wildlife. I enthusiastically agreed as I thought it would be a great opportunity to get in touch with the character of the park even more so. During this time, I noticed how much of a friendly atmosphere that Pipemakers Park had about it and I'm not just saying this to make the place I work at look good. The park just seems friendlier than most places; it just seems that everyone gets along here. I mentioned the people who worked for the dole before, well when I first met them they were very easy-going and quite friendly. The same goes with the inhabitants of the park who lack speaking skills (animals). Although the animals somewhat wary of humans, they are a lot more fun-loving and trusting than most of the animals I have seen in my time; they just take a little while to warm up to people. I know it sounds absurd, but even the flora seems somehow friendlier than trees and plants in other areas.
I don't know what it is, but this tree just seems friendly.
So Pipemakers Park indeed seems quite a friendly place, everyone seems to have a good attitude to one another here. But what about the park's attitude to people? I mean, wouldn't you be a bit pissed off to have your home demolished and an ugly factory built on it to replace it? Well this pretty much sums up what happened to the park. I don't know what Pipemakers Park looked like before factories were built on it (Hell, I wasn't even alive to see the factories!), but I can guess it wouldn't have a single trace of concrete on it, it probably would have looked somewhat like it does now!
Of course, a pipe factory WAS built on the park, and concrete WAS built over the vegetation, even if the park was remodeled into the lush garden you see today. So, continuing our little scenario, your house was just demolished and replaced with an ugly factory, but about fifty years later some nice people demolish the factory and make you a new home! Everythings all right now, isn't it? Not really, the place you truly belonged, your home, was taken away from you for fifty years, and after this, as compensation, you get a new home on a piece of land that should have belonged to you in the first place!
Of course you would probably be grateful to the people who helped you get your home back (even if you would think: "It took you long enough!"), but you would still be very angry at the people who took your home away to begin with.
This is basically what I think the park feels, even though it is pretty presumptious to guess what a non-verbal being thinks. It is probably angry that its land has been abused for so long. It probably does discirminate against humans, but not in an extremist way. The park probably either sees people as greedy villains or caring humaniatarians based on its history. Because, as I said before, no character should be without its backstory and the deeper the backstory the more you understand.
However there is more than just nature in this park. People, particularly people from the Living Museum, have contributed to make the park rich in history as well as ecology. In addition to the Wetlands Mosaic there is also an Aboriginal garden (The Wurundjeri Garden) populated with indigenous plants, an Aboriginal-art style mosaic and a symbolic Aboriginal earth oven. There's also the "Garden of the Future" which features many Astrological and mythical mosaics (I Ching, the Planets, Koori, Day & Night) and also "The Temple" drawing on both colonial and Mediterranean influences.
There are many more gardens than this such as the "Hume Pipeworks Garden", the "Industrial Archaeological Garden", the "Colonial Garden" and the "Early Settlers Garden". All these gardens enrich the park's character, in a way. Mankind also helped this park as much as they once abused it, as new, more exotic flora was planted which drew a greater variety of animals into the park. It became prosperous once again in 1988 when restoration was carried out in the park and it became even bigger and better than it once was. People started to visit the park. If anything, it was probably made better than it had been before the factories. But does this in itself mean the park is content? Surely it is now a haven for humans and animals, but is the park happy with its tempered being, or would it rather revert back to its natural state?
Being so culturally diverse, if the park was a person it might be a scholar or a professor, as so much is contained within this park. History of native races, Industrial works and settlers are all contained with the "History of the Land Discovery Trail" and the presence of the Living Museum adds to the historical intelligence of the park.
So in conclusion, this is the personality of the park, a versatile schloar who is both relaxed and ambitious. Both a caring mother and a detached father. Fun-loving and friendly yet witholding somewhat of a grudge. That is the character of the park.
Did I suddenly cut this piece short? Most probably, but that's no reason to stop reading now! That would be like finishing half of a... long book and putting it down never knowing what happens at the end!
So I thought to myself (or in all honesty, encouraged to think) to keep you enthralled (or again, in honesty, let you start to be interested) to put words in the mouth of the park persona - and the answer suddenly came so simple to me... PIE!
Not really, that was just a joke. No, a dialogue would be the best answer. Seriously, who doesn't love a good dialogue! People watch about 100 sitcoms just for a couple of lines of dialogue that don't completely suck! So it dawned on me, what kind of dialogue could I do that relates to my piece? How about a dialogue between a man talking to a tree in the park!
A young man, Matthew, stands near a tree. He sports an attractive pony-tail from his black hair. Judging by his face, he looks about 22. He has a tall and slender figure and wears a simple black top with dark blue jeans.
He kneels next to the tree, deep within the wilderness of Pipemakers Park, as if it were a person and starts to speak to the tree.
Matthew: 'Nature I have returned as I said I would and as usual I have many questions to ask of you.'
The tree almost seemed to understand what he was saying as it seemed to whisper in reply.
Tree: *chuckle* 'Please, call me Bob.'
Matthew: *surprised* 'Bob? Ummm... pardon me for questioning you, but why Bob? You were happy with me calling you nature yesterday.'
Tree: 'Ah... but that was when I was talking to you about nature. I was trying to give you a sense of what it is and telling you my name would have taken up valuable time about what I wanted to say then.'
Matthew: 'I see...'
Tree: 'I allowed you to call me nature because, yes I am a part of nature, as are animals, although I do not know their origin. Their cells may have begun to develop in the same place where trees did. You see, a tree itself is not nature... but a child of nature... we have our own existence... much like you... much like the many plants you put in your garden...'
Matthew: 'Yes I see, you want me to call you Bob, as it shows that you are a living being instead of being just part of one. It shows you are an individual.'
Matthew: 'But why Bob? A man's name. Are trees not genderless? If they have to have a gender, why not female as they give life or bear fruit.'
Tree: 'Hahaha. Do you really think women could give birth without men? Women give birth but both genders create birth.'
Tree: 'However, because I do not need another being such as myself to create a seedling that will eventually drop and create a new tree, my spawn. I like you can choose a name of any gender I want, as I am neither. I choose based on I am seen as masculine or feminine, not for my own sake, but to identify with others, I myself know I am but a tree, a spawn of nature. However I choose to be named Bob, and be called Bob by your kind as i like the sound of the name.'
Matthew: 'So trees have likes and dislikes?'
Tree: 'Not exactly... we do not have brains like animals remember. But we still live. So what does that mean? It is confusing to me as much as it you. Can a soul exist without a brain? Does that mean we are unimportant?'
Matthew: 'No, without trees we would not have oxygen and thus we could not breathe.'
Tree: 'I guess that is how we are important, but is our existence solely to serve animals? We can not see, we have no eyes, nor do we have ears. Our existence... it is... somewhat without purpose...perhaps.'
Matthew: 'But you are alive, and that means you can at least feel.'
Tree: 'Oh yes, very much so. We feel everything. We are sensitive even though we do not have nerves like humans do. Even though we do not feel real pain, we are sensitive to our environment. We are living and we therefore feel.'
Matthew: 'You feel? Do trees feel when they are cut down? Does it cause their death?'
Tree: 'It numbs us when you cut us down. We are reduced to stumps as most of our being is carried away to be made into paper or something like that. Unless we grow back into how we once were, our life would feel even more meaningless and hollow. The seeds we drop from our branches... they are in no way another incarnation of us, they are our children and they are individual from us... if we are cut down and have no hope of growing back... then we leave a hollow existence indeed...'
Matthew: 'That's so... sad...'
Tree: 'Hahaha... perhaps more bitter-sweet, at least we get immortality... or a taste of it... everything has its time to die and we are no different... to think someone would question the ethics of destroying a plant. No, it's absurd... we always live and we are always a part of nature... even if we are uprooted traces of us are still in the soil... you have to cut us down for justifiable reasons... we know. We have to accept the way of nature, as the food chain is a part of life so is our desecration. We will usually live a hundred years before we are cut down, we have a long life... we accept this...'
Matthew: 'But what about the trees that are cut down very early?'
Tree:' It is a part of our life... as people die early sometimes in your culture... so are trees cut down early... by fires, lightning or axe...we know its a natural part of life.'
Matthew: 'But aren't you angry at us for this? Especially what we did to Pipemakers Park so long ago.'
Tree: 'We cannot hate... we feel differently.... we do not know that it is humans which cut us down the most ...Or if it is humans who built the factories over us years ago... perhaps on a wider scale the park itself... the web of nature... the plants, birds and animals all together know what was done.We in no way enjoyed the destruction of our home by the factories... our brothers... the trees... and... and the animals of the park were either desecrated or forced to flee...'
Matthew: 'Of course you did not enjoy it but I thought you said trees have neither like or dislike.'
Tree: 'I said we don't exactly like or dislike.. We... have things that we don't want to happen... we remember too even though we have no brains.....if a branch of ours is cut off we forever remember it as the abscence of branch... will always remind us of what happened...as we remember the destruction the built factories caused to this park.. if we have lived long enough to remember it.. those who remember it hate it... the air became more polluted... we couldn't live... it was like an animal being drained of all its moisture until it was shriveled up... some of the trees who were left in the park when the factories built.. well they were in no way the lucky ones...no we do not hate, but we live, and like all living things, we will do anything to avoid pain and death... if we knew the humans were a threat to us, we would do everyting in our power to stop them from coming in contact with us....but of course, we cannot see and we do not know how humans had hurt us and even if we did, we are but trees and the only thing we could do in our power to stop them would be to grow leaves.'
Matthew: 'But from your point of view, how did that destruction make you feel?'
Tree: 'Sad, very, very sad... I can comprehend why the destruction took place, but... it was so needless, so unnecessary, and at the cost of beauty, yes, beauty was sacrificed for the modern way of life. All forms of nature reject this way of life, perhaps it is the right way of life for humans... but technology causes us nothing but suffering; I would rather it didn't exist but I can see why you want it too, so convienient... and so necessary! To help prolong what little time you have, yes! Life, living that is the goal of all beings; to live!'
Matthew: 'To live? I see. But where? Where would prefer to live?'
Tree: Ha! I never move! This, this park is my home! Home to wildlife and flora, that of which is my family and friends! This park is my home! Home, which should truly describe where you belong; yes; to live where you feel you belong... that is the goal of all life is it not? This park... how I love it... like all parks it has its own aura...'
Matthew: 'Its own aura?'
Tree: 'Yes! Can't you feel it? Not an aura.. maybe thats spirtualising it too much. Its own feel. Pipemakers Park has its own feel that its history, land and animals contribute to! As do all places! Highpoint has its own feel, a fast-paced and exciting one; perhaps in contrast to the relaxed feel of my haven! Every area, concrete slabbed over it or paved with leaves, has its own distinct feel. Really Matthew, you have a home yourself, does anywhere else on this planet really feel like your home?
Matthew: Not really... although I know places just as secure as it, no place really feels quite like it.
Tree: Exactly, of course through different perceptions a place can feel differently to each person... but nature is indifferent. However some people can hate nature and hate the feel that get from parks. Yes, the feel from different places are like tastes, some people love spinach but hate chocolate. The feel of this park will always be the same. Although some people might not like it, this park will always be my home. The place where you belong is always the place where you can fully appreciate the feel of the area, whether you belong in a lush woodland or in a hi-rise office.
Matthew: And what does this park mean to you?
Tree: Everything, it is my home..., and is home to everything that lives here: the frogs, the ducks, the fish, the herons, the muscles... even the insects. The whole vast array of life which resides here calls it their home. It is all I have ever known and if I were to leave it I would surely never find a place I feel which is as safe as my home. If your home is a safe place... well, then you never want to leave it...
Matthew: Yeah, I guess that is pretty true, but how does a place get to be home... how was this park made home to creatures and trees? Is it merely living somewhere your whole life that makes a place your home?
Tree: Hahaha, no of course not. Some people... even some animals are born in places they do not like. These are not thier homes. Sometimes they have to search for their home... Sometimes they are born in the place they call home. But for us, trees, the place we exist will always be our home, we cannot change that... It is the source of our life and thus it becomes one of the central focuses in the life we have.
Matthew: Ah, okay. So how do you feel when... people, intruders enter your home?
Tree: Well, we can feel the presence of a new life form entering our home... as our sense of feel is broader than yours... probably to make up for the dullness of our other four senses. We treat them with a mixture of waryness and welcome. Remember, we trees are still life forms and our lives are important to us. We cannot see the lifeforms or here them, but we can feel them walking on our turf, and we are wary. We cannot usually define what is coming into our homes but we can usually tell how big it is, and the bigger it is the more fear it strikes into us...
Matthew: I'm sorry we humans have done so much to your home... this park... the world...
Tree: Hahaha! Do not be sorry Matthew, we're all individuals! You have done little wrong to us and you deeply regret any damage to the environment you have done! You can't go wearing the burden of others wrongs on you! Do what you can to stop it if you want, to make sure the future generations of your race have a place to live. But don't blame yourself for the damage others have done.
Matthew: I won't
Tree: And as always, Matthew, neither I, or my bretheren will judge you... or your race for that matter...
The Wetlands Mosaic... well, part of it.
And that's me, I don't have a mullet really, the angle of the shot just makes me look like I have one, seriously, believe me; I don't have one, I have sideburns and a fringe, hence; no mullet.
© Francis Taylor 2005
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