My sister and I were talking about the Australian Christmas Tree last night. "Aren't they wonderful?" She said. "But I've never wanted to go near them, let alone pick one of their flowers. They're sort of strange."
Driving by a grove of these trees is a delight. They are sort of strange. They are parasitic and can travel their roots hundreds of metres underground searching for a mate, even plain old grass, to feed upon. They look like nothing all year and suddenly, at Christmas time they sprout outrageous flowers of a colour I have difficulty defining. Seeing them in the bush can be an epiphany. It's yellow. No. Orange. Life itself? Pumpkin stamens? Not quite. The closest I get to explaining their colour is the colour of the jumper my grandma knitted me for Christmas (from balls of wool discarded by farmers' wives who knew better). I wore it on the veranda on Christmas Day and was so overcome by hungry bees that I ripped it off and never wore it again.
I've always found it interesting that in local lore, these trees are the places where the old peoples' spirits stop to rest awhile, before heading off to the otherworld.
Have you experienced seeing one of your friends/dogs/folk in the weeks or months after their death? I've seen them and felt them and my sister agreed that she has too. Not so long after a loved one has gone ... in the supermarket or down the street, I see them. I've seen their brindle flash, a head of grey hair or a crazy smile from the corner of my eye. It is always from the corner of my eye. Sometimes they stick around for months and it is never a bad feeling. It's like they stay to know that we are all okay and then one day, they are gone and when they go, it's like an elastic band snapping.
A lovely connection between Noongar and European culture on this south coast is this same same law, when it comes to the Christmas Tree:
You must never cut down, break a branch off, or pick the flower of the Christmas Tree because you may disturb the newly deceased who are 'resting', looking over their families to make sure they are okay, before they leave forever.
You must never cut down, break a branch off, or pick the flower of the Christmas Tree because it has been designated as a protected species.
Have a look here for Moodgar, Nyutsia floribunda, and other names for the Christmas Tree.
Image: Nyutsia floribuna in Cape Le Grande National Park.