‘Twas Mulga Geoff from ‘Gambie Lake…

geoff serpell

One of the treasured things in our family home at Sandringham 70 years ago was a small piece of mulga wood on the mantelpiece with an inscription stating “Life is but a day at longest, but it is a grand opportunity”

Our family has tried to live up to that in that we generally let nothing or nobody dissuade us from a course of action we feel is worthwhile.

That piece of mulga wood is long gone, along with millions of trees around the world, needlessly destroyed for dubious agriculture, new suburbs, producing palm oil, or a variety of other money-making reasons.

Trees are the lungs of our earth, purifying the air, storing carbon in the wood, and providing habitat for near extinct animals and birds.

Geography was one of the few subjects I did at Hampton High School which fired me up. A couple of class field trips showed me the destruction of good land by erosion. Years later, my youngest son Andrew had a hobby of collecting seed from roadside locations around country Victoria, planting them in plastic tubes in our backyard. When ready, he planted the seedlings back on people’s properties with an organisation called TreeProject.

Janice and I are blessed to have three grandsons and one granddaughter. I figured that owning our bit of country and revegetating it with Andrew’s seedlings would be a good message to plant in young minds.

So in 2002 I acquired 100 acres at the back of the Nagambie Lake. The land title had a covenant with Trust for Nature, stating that the owner would not profit from the land and would be responsible to nurture flora and fauna, and preserve native habitat. I paid $55,500 to Trust for Nature for the pleasure of ownership, finding later that the site was donated by Merle Stewart, the daughter of a sheep farmer for the purpose of securing the future of the hundreds of red ironbark and grey box trees, some centuries old.

Looking back over the past 16 years, I am grateful for the extended family endeavours. We have erected a large shed to facilitate our planting activities, including solar power and cooking with gas and tank water. Around the property, several tanks adding up to 10,000 litres hold water for the seedlings. Many a time we spend a night or two just chilling out, though there is always a project available along with a BBQ dinner and time to sit around the camp fire yarning and singing. A glass of Tabilk red certainly assists harmony. Several government grants towards the cost of fencing, planting and provision of nesting boxes clearly indicate that what we have achieved is recognised as worthwhile.

One may ask how healthy is the world that we and future generations live in? What can we do as individuals and in local communities to improve the health of our planet, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat?

While a significant number of world leaders try to agree to cut back on pollutants such as burning coal, what can you and I do in our small corner of our God-given world to make a statement? Can we reduce our waste of discarded clothes and unwanted food and lower our consumption of commodities to what is needed rather than what we want?

Maybe we can be more discerning about the source of the products we acquire, having more regard for the production workers, their conditions of employment, and worker exploitation that exists in some countries.

Next time we consider an overseas holiday, maybe we should be more concerned with how our destination countries stand in the eyes of the world. Are they demonstrating fairness to their less privileged, how cooperative is their government in battling pollution and global warming?

Planting our own vegetables, shrubs and trees, and using a china mug instead of a so-called plastic disposable container for the daily coffee, are ways we can all be an example to our offspring. Hopefully, they may notice and learn from our actions.

God has given us a wonderful place to live our lives. By fulfilling our deepest desires, let us not lose the opportunity in our small corner of the world to pass on a better place than the one we found.

We can make a difference and discover the joys of living simply. The values the mulga wood taught us 70 years ago – to live life as a grand opportunity – live on in my family today.

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