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  The centre of the universeLiz Downes
  Licuala palm forest (Photo: Mike Trenerry)  
  Licuala palm forest (Photo: Mike Trenerry)  

Touching these living columns
lifting their leafy heads through layers of heat,
I remember how once I laid my hands like this
on cold Canterbury stone.

Grey, green or colour of the earth,
these pillars too reach dreamingly
towards a chance of heaven,
but spread beneath no roof their moving arches.

Here the embellishments are wrought by fig
   in high relief.
Matching the medieval art of stonemasons,
root-buttresses project their strength and grace
beneath fan-vaulting of licuala;
tapestries of wait-a-while.

Here foliage, not glass, green-stains the light,
no organ sounds
but wind rushes through leaves,
thunder rolls or cassowary booms.

No choirboys, ruffed and surpliced, shuffle in
but orioles among the golden-guinea flowers
   sing alleluias,
Fruit doves reverently coo responses,
fireflies light candles in the hallowed dark,
frogs make evensong.

Here no doors close at regulated hours,
no signs demand ‘Silence – service in progress’.
Here, day and night,
year after thousand year,
the quiet miracles ceaselessly occur.
The mass of life’s in constant celebration
   of wholeness, holiness.

Hang on (Meditations on a mossy log)Liz Downes

Mossy log (Photo: Campbell Clarke)
Mossy log (Photo: Campbell Clarke)

Rainforest is a lifeline –
winding like one of its own lianes
between the ancient past and distant future.

Evolving through the ages,
forever dying, decaying, sinking back into the earth
but forever renewing, growing, reaching for the sky.

Rainforest is a keeper of secrets –
so old they are lost beneath the centuries of leaf litter
or wrapped in the mist that swirls through the canopy.
So new they await discovery,
like the shoot that bursts from the seed
or the fledgling that breaks from the egg.

Rainforest is a process of patience –
as the sapling grows slowly,
waiting, waiting for its chance at the light,
and of impatience
as the strangler claws hungrily, ruthless, demanding.

Rainforest, like a vine, weaving backwards and forwards,
ascending, descending,
linking us with prehistory,
guiding us into tomorrow.
Hang on!
Don’t cut the lifeline!


Liz Downes

Liz came to north Queensland from the UK in 1970 and found that involvement with local conservation and natural history groups was an excellent way to adjust to a radically new environment. Through the Townsville branch of the Wilderness Preservation Society of Queensland she became involved in many campaigns, including those directly related to rainforest conservation such as the Downey Creek, Kennedy Bay and Cape Tribulation campaigns. Her own experience has taught her the immense value of wilderness and the natural world for our imagination, creativity and artistic lives. Liz is employed at the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library at James Cook University and has two grandsons, Max and Ben, whom she hopes will be able to explore and discover the riches and rewards of the rainforest long into the future.

Mike Trenerry

Growing up in Cairns, Mike developed a keen interest in ecology and photography. After various jobs and a stint as a tour guide he began work at the Environmental Protection Agency where he still works assessing development proposals. Mike’s natural history photos have appeared in more than 200 books and other publications worldwide – in posters, postcards, bookmarks, newspapers, magazines, brochures and advertising. His photos include now extinct species and the first photos of particular Wet Tropics animals. Mike has assisted in the discovery and description of new species and published scientific papers in a variety of fields. He is a generalist with expertise in disciplines such as aquatic ecology and terrestrial vertebrate animals. His other interests include tropical fruits, fish, biogeography and climate.

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