A Single Tree assembles the raw material underpinning Don Watson’s award-winning The Bush. These diverse and haunting voices span the four centuries since Europeans first set eyes on the continent.
Each of these varied contributors – settlers, explorers, anthropologists, naturalists, stockmen, surveyors, itinerants, artists and writers – represents a particular place and time. Men in awe of the landscape or cursing it; aspiring to subdue and exploit it or finding themselves defeated by it. Women reflecting on the land’s harshness and beauty, on the strangeness of their lives, their pleasures and miseries, the character and behaviour of the men. Europeans writing about indigenous Australians, sometimes with intelligent sympathy and curiosity but often with contempt, and often describing acts of startling brutality.
This collection comprises diary extracts, memoirs, journals, letters, histories, poems and fiction, and follows the same loose themes of The Bush. The science of the landscape and climate, and the way we have perceived them. Our deep and sentimental connection to the land, and our equally deep ignorance and abuse of it. The heroic myths and legends. The enchantments. The bush as a formative and defining element in Australian culture, self-image and character. The flora and fauna, the waterways, the colours. The heroic, self-defining stories, the bizarre and terrible, and the ones lost in the deep silences.
There are accounts of journeys, of work and recreation, of religious observance, of creation and destruction. Stories of uncanny events, peculiar and fantastic characters, deep ironies, and of land unlimited. And musings on what might be the future of the bush: as a unique environment, a food bowl, a mine, a wellspring of national identity . . .
From Dampier and Tasman to Tim Flannery and assorted contemporary farmers, environmentalists and grey nomads, these pieces represent a vast array of experiences, perspectives and knowledge. A Single Tree is an essential companion to its brilliant predecessor.