Weekly photo challenge: Spring

Um … hello? Just wondering if the good folks at WordPress realise that it’s only spring in a small band of countries in the northern hemisphere?

Here in Sydney, Australia, we’re in the last month of Autumn, at least according to the European calender. If you were to go by the calendar of the traditional owners of the area that I live in, we’re in the time of marrai’gang, the quoll. Bana’murrai’yung is the time when it’s ‘wet, becoming cooler’ which is exactly what the weather is like today. It’s the time for mending your winter cloak in preparation for the colder months ahead, and gathering lilly pilly fruits. It’s also the time when quolls used to be heard calling for their mates in the bush. There are few quolls in Sydney now; they can’t compete with cats and dogs.

Perth November 2013-calendar

Australia is a vast continent, with many different ecosystems, so the seasons recognised by the traditional owners vary from place to place. Right now in Perth, Western Australia, it’s djeran: the time when the hot weather eases, banksias flower, and seed cones form on the casuarina trees.

I was in Perth last year towards the end of kambarang, the season of wildflowers. Similar to notions of spring in other cultures, kambarang, which overlaps with Australia’s official spring, is described as the season of birth. It’s also the time when you have to watch out for snakes! Here’s one of the spectacular flowering gums that I saw on my wander through the Perth Botanic Gardens.

giant gumnut

The gumnuts are the size of a child’s fist.

But right now, in Sydney, in bana’murrai’yung / autumn, I’m seeing exotic flowers bloom in the gardens around my home.

strelitziaI posted this pic to show that flowers, the icons of spring, can belong to other seasons, in different climate zones. Then I realised that these flowers also tell a story of colonisation and change.

Strelitzias, or bird of paradise plants, were apparently taken to England from South Africa by the same Joseph Banks who documented Australia’s flora and fauna — and people — on James Cook’s voyage of ‘discovery’ along the Australian coastline in 1770. (Coincidentally, Cook’s ship the Endeavour dropped anchor just downriver of where I now live, at around this time of year.) So now I have plenty of strelitzias in my neighbourhood, but probably no quolls. Fortunately, in spite of all colonial England’s efforts to the contrary, there are still Aboriginal people here.

And thinking of change brings me back to the seasons. Only yesterday I was watching a documentary about climate change (The Tipping Points) which interviewed Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and Tiwi Islands. Elders spoke of changes in the seasons they’d observed: the wattles are flowering too early; the lilies, which are a food source, too late or not at all.

I know some of you northern hemisphere people have just had a particularly bitter winter. I don’t begrudge you your celebration of spring. Enjoy it while you may. Who knows what the future will bring, if the world keeps warming? Just don’t assume the whole world is in the same climate zone as you. Please.


This post was written in response to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring.

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6 thoughts on “Weekly photo challenge: Spring

  1. I thought exactly the same thing when I saw this week’s photo challenge. We’re no where near spring here in Australia and it feels weird talking about the season! I liked your explanations of how Aboriginals talk about and get ready for the change of seasons. It’s raining and windy quite a bit here in Melbourne of late, makes it a bit hard to get around. Hopefully that means water for plants that bloom in winter.

  2. Thanks Mabel, hope you are not too cold! This is the first day it’s been really chilly in Sydney, it hasn’t felt like autumn at all. It’s not that many years since I found out about seasons as defined by Aboriginal people. It was a real eye-opener. It’s good to get the information out there I think.

  3. We’re in spring but it’s theoretical. We had 10-14 days scattered through December and January where it actually got a bit chilly. Days in the 10-13 degree range. The rest of the time it’s been summer weather. This week with temps of 36 and above is the 3rd or 4th such week this year. Usually it’s between mid 20’s and low 30s.

    But there’s no climate change…no not at all!

    • 36! Sounds crazy. As I think you know, Australia had its hottest year on record in 2013. And we’ve had a very warm autumn. Depressing.

    • Not for humans Janice, they’re very hard, although possibly you could suck out the nectar as you can for some of the other bush flowers like grevilleas. But they are stunning. Thanks for dropping by.

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