Today, back in the forest country, on those intermediate heights of Victoria's wooded mountains, ranging, say, from 1500 to 2000 feet above sea level, the wattle bloom begins to attain to the full measure of its golden opulence. Tardier in its blossoming here than upon the plains below, it still holds, for those city dwellers who have not yet grown weary of its ubiquitous yellow, a fairy-like charm, conspiring with the cloudless skies of recent days to make a sentimental symphony in gold and blue.
Quite four months ago or more, the hard green flower buds began to form upon the wattle boughs. For the whole winter through, defying every savage assault of wind and rain, of frost and snow, these valiant, tight-lipped little alchemists pursued their mystic ways, patiently biding their time until the coming of Spring's quickening sun.
Within a week or two the golden glory will be gone and then, one morning in early summer, looking out, someone will exclaim, "Why, every single wattle tree about here is dying.
"Those silver wattles along the creek have hardly a leaf left. A few days ago they were a dense green bank; and now you can see right through them to the hills beyond."
Well, perhaps the diction will not be quite so stilted as that; but every summer, without fail, someone has found occasion to bewail the apparent doom of the wattles.
Closer inspection reveals a small green caterpillar -- millions, myriads of him to every tree -- quietly and unobtrusively playing havoc with the foliage. He is not to be confused with the green, looping abomination that blighted so many gay gardens last summer, but is far less lively, a rather lethargic wog who apparently lives to eat. One supposes he has a name - and not a very pleasant one.
But before the green gluttons have time to damage the trees beyond recovery, Nemesis arrives one day in the form of flocks of the one and only cuckoo that has not earned my contempt. Ornithologists know him, I believe, as the Golden Bronze Cuckoo.
Bronze-green above and barred brown and white below, he is rather a handsome, brisk little chap. And how he does deal with those green caterpillars! He sings as he eats -- sings rather monotonously, and, while he fails to reach those depths of misery plumbed by his pallid cousin, his brief song -- "Pee-ree! Pee-ree!" -- ends upon a wailful note that is characteristic of his unhappy and parasitic tribe.
A week or so after his advent, the most patient search will fail to discover a single marauding grub. Then the cuckoo also passes on and the ravaged wattles put forth fresh leaves.
As summer draws to its waning the wattle trees begin to assume what is to me their most alluring guise, drooping long tresses of purple-brown as the seed pods change color and ripen in the sun.
Soon after, these, too, fall: and then, one day in late April or early may, when there is a hint of frost in the air, or when, maybe, those nearing drums in the vanguard of winter begin to sound behind the furthest hills, some slightly shivering optimist will remark:
"I saw fresh buds forming on the wattles today. Imagine it! So early! It surely can't be far now to next spring."
And so, round and round the wattle-tree, the march goes on.
"C. J. Dennis"
|Copyright © Perry Middlemiss>/b> 2003|