Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Dunphy Wilderness Walk; recent haiku


Photos by David Noble (Copyright)

In late September, it was one hundred years since Myles Dunphy and Bert Gallop had set off from Katoomba to explore the largely unmapped country of the Kowmung river. It was the start of World War One. In those one hundred years, threats of commercial exploitation have been largely defeated, and the area is Sydney water catchment, National Park, and World Heritage-listed. That is largely due to the bushwalking movement which Myles Dunphy pioneered, which then morphed into a conservation movement. Alex Allchin, a nineteen-year- old student from Sydney thought it was a good idea to commemorate this walk by retracing it. The “Dunphy Wilderness Walk’ was born.

Bridge over the Cox's river

My small part in this event was as a driver. The entire walk was broken into sections so that some people could just do a portion. I drove Guy, Myles’ grandson, into the camp at the start of the Unirover trail.

Snake on the road!
I swerve on the gravel
tyres make an 'S'

                           Boyd Plateau

At the camp I met Alex, and was fascinated to see that he and Sierra were as far as possible, using the same clothing and equipment that was in vogue a century ago, and used by Bert and Myles. He told me that the clothing ( of wool) was surprisingly practical.

Rather than carry a pack, Alex used a swag in the same way that Myles had: weight carried on the front and back, and held by leather straps, a billy strapped on the outside. 

Dave Noble walked the entire distance (Katoomba to the Six Foot Track and Cox’s river, Jenolan caves, Kowmung river, Yerranderie, and across the Wollondillly river to The Oaks) and here is his excellent blog… 

…and his amazing photos

 'Twas wonderful, at the beginning of October, to be warming oneself and cooking over a fire. Wyn decided to make the great Aussie ‘bread’.

beyond the smoke
watching his fingers
squish through damper

It is baked in the ashes, or twisted onto a stick. 

On the drive out, Keith Muir (of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness) regaled us with the story behind the eucalypt forest through which we drove, along the Boyd Plateau. I had noticed the stumps left behind of the forest giants, on my morning walk. In 1970, the NSW Forestry Commission planned to clear fell the native forests, and replant it with Pinus radiata. But by now the Colong Foundation had saved the caves, which were to have been dug up for the lime industry, and they went on to work out a deal by which the forest could also be saved. It was finally handed over to the National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1977. We drove through a small section of grassland. This had been an in-holding. The Blue Mountains Conservation Society bought it from the farmer, so that the entire plateau is now a coherent area for the enjoyment and livelihood of the cockatoos who flew overhead as I erected my tent, the kangaroos, the echidnas, the snakes… the walkers and drivers too.

I felt proud to be a member of this organization when I heard this.

Here is a link to the short film made by Gary Caganoff, called “Dunphy’s Kowmung Adventure”.

There is an excellent account of the original Dunphy - Gallop walk in "Kowmung River - discovery, history and development" 1993 by local historian Jim Barrett. It is available: 

  • in Blue Mountains libraries
  • at the Turning Page bookshop, Springwood
  • Megalong Books, Leura
  • Gleebooks, Blackheath  
  • contact the author.



I’ve been brushing up my navigation skills, going out with map and compass. Where am I, expressed as a number?   (Photos below are mine.)

the names of the flowers
I am a flower

         Faulconbridge ridge (733730)
Sun orchid   - Thelymitra epipactoides
Oh dear, yes. It’s that season again. Already we’ve had two fires in the mountains, but they were contained by our redoubtable firies.

smoke billowing
from the north - 
still in my pyjamas

Have a good Christmas season, everyone. The El Nino creeps closer and closer. May you all be safe. 
Angophora costata - smooth-barked apple

Diana Levy

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Conversations about Climate Change, Springwood

pink message says:"Live frugally - Live an alternative"

“wish and hope and FIGHT” : this was one of the messages pinned to the message tree at the Climate Change Conversations in Springwood Town Square on September 21. It encapsulates everything that we need to keep in mind if we are to bring about a massive change in direction, a change in our business-as-usual Co2 emitting world.

Beth Hill and I wanted to create a space in which people could sit down and have a conversation with me, allowing them to air their feelings about the inexorable warming of our world. It was not  your conventional rally. They could also write messages on pieces of paper and then pin them to the tree. Gordon had brought a beautiful blossoming spring branch and we planted this in a bucket of sand. I wish… I had a photo of it! (all deleted sadly). To wish, and to hope, is to have a vision of the future which is not a catastrophic burnt dystopia. Of course, it is important to act on such dreams, otherwise you are a Walter Mitty eternally in a pleasant dream of your own creation.

That is where the last word of this message comes in, “FIGHT”. In this context this word means to strive, to struggle, to be prepared to meet opposition. It does not necessarily mean setting up the ‘other’ as a foe to be vanquished ( see my piece on “Mother Nature Has Pneumonia” in this blog). What do you say, for instance, about our PM who declares categorically that coal is good for us?  (As I write this, a long convoy of coal trucks rolls along the Blue Mountains line, bound for the port at Wollongong.)  Do what, when climate change is excluded from the agenda of the G20 meeting in Brisbane? ‘Nothing’ is not an option.

“Wish”…here’s another wish from the tree :

I sat in a cane chair, under an umbrella and listened to people one at a time. I heard anger, utter frustration, confusion and a slightly dazed state, as if a cicada had been blown around in a strong wind. I heard people talk about their frustration  - here is the house burning down but no-one is talking about it! - their fury with politicians. 

Such bland responses, if any, they have received in reply to their letters to the government. My overall impression was of a big gap: between the strong feelings aroused, and an appropriate channel in which to act – perhaps to fight.

GetUp! was the motivator behind our Town Square event.

You’ll also get a sense of the millions of other people around the world who  also ‘got up’. Beth and I thank GetUp! for their support, and also Helen Y., Gordon, Kaye, Helen C., Daniel, Michael and…all the others. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Poets at Rhodo Festival, Blackheath


I’ll be performing at the Poets’ Breakfast this Saturday with my poetic comrades, at the Rhododendron Festival, Blackheath. What time, I hear you ask?  9 a.m. Where, you wish to know? at the Ivanhoe Hotel, on the corner of the Great Western Highway and Govett's Leap road. I have been known to get up at the Folk Club there, a once a month event which encourages poets. We’ll all give you of our best. I’ve written a new poem ("RSVP Makita Man") for the occasion. 

Latest haiku:
smoke billowing
from the north - 
still in my pyjamas

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Spring Yatra

regrowth after October fires - Sun Valley

What do you need to help you simplify the field of your attention? to slow down the pace of your thoughts? to calm the choppy seas of emotion? A walk specifically shaped to silence, in a beautiful peaceful spot. Trees? maybe frogs – maybe a creek  - maybe even sulphur-crested cockatoos occasionally? To walk as though your feet are caressing the earth with each step – Thich Nhat Hanh suggests you think of walking meditation like this.

Why are they called bluegums?

And what are they shouting on top of the ridge? Playing which sports there?
In the sheoaks a bird is singing like Dame Joan.

Suddenly everything becomes a bit delightful and you’re not really sure why because it’s exactly the same as when you passed it before,  said Beth afterwards.

A life fully lived is one in which we fully inhabit the present. We were training ourselves to do this, with each step along the fire trail and especially, stepping barefoot into damp sand with our sensitive whitefella feet!

‘Emily 13’
on the bluegum bark
that will soon peel off

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Climate Change Conversations - September 21

Early August - Wollangambe area 10 months after the fires

 Climate Change Conversations Springwood
Sunday, September 21, 11:00 AM
Town Square, Springwood, NSW
Macquarie Rd, Springwood, 2777, Australia

 On September 21, 125 world leaders, including President Obama and  President Xi Jinping from China, will be attending a special UN meeting in New York to discuss the threat of climate change. Our PM will not be there.

 I intend to offer an opportunity for a conversation with anybody who wants to talk about the issue of climate change, in the Town Square. My role is to listen and also to ask good questions. It is not to put my point of view or agitate. The square is right in the middle of a town where I have lived for 25 years. We ( Beth and I) want to create a convivial 'back patio' kind of atmosphere, but there will also be a stall with information flyers. 'Simple' is the operative word for this action. For those who don't want to have a chat, we'll make an installation (a note tree) where written thoughts and feelings can be displayed. If you want to help out, see this web page :

and you can contact us through that. Or come down and sit down with me under the umbrella, in the spring sunshine, and we’ll chew the fat, shoot the breeze, kick a few thoughts around….
on King's Tableland - 2 weeks ago

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The mist, the rain


The mist, the rain

When a walking day in spring is forecast to bring “light showers”, leap from your bed! On Saturday it was only a small contingent of Conservationists who dragged themselves from beneath the warm doona, for my walk to Lion Head. We all agreed, on this walk, that it’s been a very cold winter. We thought it might be the extremes of temperature (which are not reflected in an average), or else the solidly low temperatures of June and July. 

The visual world has many moods when the air is damp. Okay, it was cold, being spring. But we’re used to that now, and can bear it for the promise of summer. And spring is typically a time for many flowers – like my favorite.
Boronia floribunda

I was the leader, so I didn’t write any haiku this time. Finding the way, being aware of time, being the leader is more than enough to concentrate on. But when I walked the track last August I did write this. 

wattle blowing 
on the edge of a cliff -
my hat flicks back

Will I ever get sick of sunshine wattle?
It is so cheerful, so tough, so bright in the cold last days of winter, when everything seems hard - rising into the cold, the laborious layering on of clothes, the constant need for food, colds and flu, the torrent of idiocy from those currently in power. But I haven’t yet written a haiku about sunshine wattle that stands on its own.

We had a lot of time to just look, and linger – the colours of the heath vegetation out there on King’s Tableland was vivid. We’ve finally had a good dumping of rain in the last few weeks.

There are never many birds out in wet weather, though  a few honeyeaters in the banksia, and we heard a grey shrike-thrush. Lingering on the rock outcrop, somebody noticed a steady trickle of birds coming from the north. Honeyeaters!
Harold said,
I knew it was migrating because it had a suitcase under a wing.

And the spring flowers! There is a wealth of knowledge in the Conservation Society. On this walk our resident botanist said that there are no true flowering seasons in Australia, things tend to flower opportunistically. Longer warmer days, rain, opportunity knocks, here’s what is out!

Dampiera stricta

Comesperma ericinum

On last year’s yatra to Lion Rock, it was not only windy but the cicadas were emerging. As there had been three seasons of plentiful rain before 2013, they were in great numbers. After about eight drafts, I wrote this:

dazed cicadas
crash-land into bushes –
the spring wind

Do you recognise these three rock outcrops? In the 1880’s they were called the Tri Saxa ( from the Latin saxum meaning stone or rock).

 Tourists flock to the mountains to see ‘the Three Sisters’, bring their much-needed tourist dollar, fill the cafes and hotels and the main street of Leura. They might go away with the impression that there is an ‘Aboriginal’  legend about three beautiful girls from one tribe, and wrong love, and an intertribal battle, and the girls being turned to stone to protect them. But that is wrong. By the twenties, the rocks had been personified as sisters. The legend came about when a newspaper ran a competition, and an imaginative girl made it up and won the prize.  Mel Ward repeated the story ad infinitum in the thirties. It’s a pity that things get skewed like this. There is a Gundungurra story about the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades (a constellation of stars), but I’ll leave others to tell it.

Thanks to Harold Thompson and Barbara for the superb photographs. 

a grass and its fruit hanging near a cave entrance

don't know

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Passes of Leura + yatras


  I went for a walk in early July with the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, down a washed-away track behind the resort. This track is called Gladstone Pass, and was made by coalminers in the nineteenth century. In a steep wet gully they hacked at the rock to make steps on the track to the mine. What a hard commute! Eddie and I speculated about whether they were Welsh miners, in other words Eddie’s countrymen. He said that there had been a flood of emigration at that time – this included some of my ancestors, who went to South America. At the old ‘show’ mine below the incline railway at Katoomba (the Scenic Railway) there is a bronze statue of a miner and one wonders whether it is based on a Welshman – he’s very short. Those miners worked for John Britty North and went on strike in 1887 over their pay. He would not allow them to unionise.

We had morning tea in a cave on Lindeman Pass.

a slice of sunlight
icing the cold cliff
raisins of bird call

On Lindeman’s track there is a fabulous tree root / rock embrace. Mave and I tried to write a haiku about it – but here is her photo. What can you say??

This pass was made for the purposes of tourists ‘taking the air’. There was certainly a lot of air that day –  moving, unwarmed. But who cares? We came to a fabulous clear view of the Kedumba valley, Gurangatch’s escape hatch. This ancestral being (or buringilling)  from the Gundungurra songline ( a giant eel) tried to duck his pursuer, Mirragan the tiger quoll, by going left from the Burragorang valley into the Kedumba, and formed a waterhole on Reedy creek.

Kedumba valley

We passed the turnoff to the coalmine. Some other time....
On to Roberts Pass - up we went.

A hill doesn’t lie
it doesn’t say,
“My, how fit your are!”

We met some walkers from Bathurst. What a good reason to stop and have a little chat! Somebody knew somebody I knew.

with a roar
the wind on the ridge
announces itself

The top is a good place to be, when it means lunch, and a view which many  people have enjoyed. My thanks to Bart for leading this walk, and to Mave for the photos. 

from Sublime Point


Some peaceful silent walking in company with others is so restorative -  going nowhere in particular.... walking meditation in the Blue Mountains

Saturday August 30, easy yatra - half a day (Springwood area)
Sunday August 31, medium yatra - a whole day, about 5 hours walking (Leura area)
Cost: $20 + dana

You need to register by Monday August 25th. _/\_


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dunphy Pass + yatras

the view west

 the clouds furious
in their haste
to see the sea

 I went on a walk with the Blue Mountains Conservation Society to commemorate Myles Dunphy, who found the pass we used, in 1914. It takes  you from the west side of Narrowneck, up onto the top of Narrowneck plateau, to Glenraphael swamp. It was a very windy day – and cold. Who was Myles Dunphy? He was a mad keen bushwalker, and the father of the conservation movement in Sydney. Because of him, and the joy he found in walking in the areas around Sydney, we have national parks with a level of protection from development and commercial activities. He used to like to walk with his dog. But his dog would get sore feet, so Myles made him ( or her) a pair of leather booties. You can see these 4 booties in the National Museum of Australia, and also the pram that he and his wife pushed their baby (Milo) along in, while walking. 

Haiku written on the Dunphy Pass walk.....

a bird singing
above entangling vines –
tra la-la la la!


battering wind
does not hinder the greetings
of ants on the rock

clambering down Glenraphael Head
  Thanks to Harold Thomson for the photos.



Saturday August 30, easy yatra - half a day (Springwood area)
Sunday August 31, medium yatra - a whole day, about 5 hours walking ( Leura area)

Cost:$20 + dana

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Buddha touched the Earth.." - John Seed

 FRIDAY 25TH July 24, 2014
JOHN SEED: “Buddha touched the Earth – Engaged Buddhism and Deep Ecology.”
John Seed needs little introduction. For many years he has been a world famous rain forest campaigner and deep ecology activist. In more recent years he has strongly identified himself as an Engaged Buddhist. This unusual combination makes him an ideal person to be leading our next Dharma Gaia event, which is titled "Buddha Touched the Earth - Engaged Buddhism and Deep Ecology". I'm sure this will be a thought provoking, inspiring and most interesting evening.
 As in our past Meetups, we shall meet at 6pm for a pot luck, bring your own supper to share, with the main talk beginning at 7pm. Our last Meetup with Dr Leigh Davison proved to be a wonderful success using this model.
 Hoping to see as many of you as possible on Friday 25th at the Buddhist Library. This will be our last keynote speaker for the year, so get along to connect with other heart/ minds like yours, and to be inspired by John's persistent, dedicated and thorough campaigning. 
Convenor, Peter Thompson – M. 0408 507 906 


90 92 CHURCH STREET, CAMPERDOWN, up the stairs


Monday, June 30, 2014

"Frugal is the New Sexy!" - Dr. Leigh Davison

Dr. Leigh Davison at Dharma Gaia Forum*, May 27

It’s one thing to recognise that our carbon-fuelled lifestyle is, akin to an alcoholic’s, headed for global warming disaster. And another to know how to move away from our addiction to all that marvellous energy that we can simply dig out of the ground. We know it’s unsustainable and our responses tend to shade from : revelling in fossil fuel mania (V8 supercar racing), denial, despair, depression, through to engagement with the issue, from faint acts of low-carbon living (turning off your appliances at the wall)  all the way through to a carbon-neutral life style. Leigh Davison read the Club of Rome’s report “ The Limits to Growth” in 1972  and was utterly persuaded by its argument. He was a maths Ph.D. student at UNSW at the time and the mathematics of the study were incontrovertible. He realised that he wanted to act on its findings, and live a life that was simple and sustainable. Thirty-five years after he began this experiment in living, he presented his reflections to a group of buddhists at the Dharma Gaia Forum.

I first met Leigh in 1978, when we were both zen students in Hawaii. He met his future wife, Ellen at the zen centre there, and in September 1979, back in Australia, they bought shares in a 102 hectare community in the northern rivers region, on Terania creek near Lismore. One of the delights of the evening was the Power Point pictures that he used to illustrate his talk. We saw a youthful and gorgeous couple, on their land, beaming into the camera. It was a time when intentional communities were being set up all around the area, as an expression of the ‘back to the land’, alternative lifestyle movement. The pioneers of Dharmananda, as their community is called, had specific buddhist values. It is one of the very few that has survived and thrived, and has been examined and studied often. The values it began with were:

       respect for the land
       respect for each other
       food self-sufficiency
       no dope and no dole 

Leigh emphasised that they have  a strong work ethic on Dharmananda. But part of their schtick is creative leisure - to have fun while meeting basic needs. So for example, every Friday is a community work-day and Saturday morning is garden morning. This builds community cohesion. I’ve been a member of working bees here in the more conventional outer suburban fringe and it’s been fun and satisfying to work, and then eat, together.

Leigh and Ellen had very little money. “We had a freedom from choice.” Their first task was to build a home. With his engineering background, Leigh designed a small post and beam house which could be built by two people. Costing $7,000, their house initially was 46m. square, but as time went on they realised that there is a trade-off between environmental sustainability and social sustainability.  You need space to have a party! The average Australian house is 250 m. square, Leigh and Ellen’s house is now 75m. square, walled in, with a 55 m. sq. verandah. Their water supply comes from a spring in the steep hill behind them, which is like a sponge and has never dried up, even in dry times.  This water also runs their power supply, which is a 12 V micro-hydro system.

On the Power Point slide, Leigh displayed a facetious sign:


They learnt much about sanitation and waste management on Dharmananda. They wanted to not only manage the human health and environmental health part of the waste cycle, but also recover and use the resource. “We are a faeco-phobic society,” said Leigh. The NSW Department of Health was antagonistic to the idea of a composting toilet, but when a report in 1991 showed that the Minimus continuous flow toilet was no threat to health and did not smell, they changed their attitude and came up with guidelines for owner-built composting toilets. What goes into the top of Leigh and Ellen’s toilet comes out down the bottom as compost, usable on the gardens. Their grey water grows fabulous bananas - it runs straight out into the banana patch below the house.

Leigh talked about the history of the land, which had been used for  dairying and bananas but was run-down when the group bought it. To keep the growth down in the early days, they bought a couple of cows. This has developed into a key part of their protein intake. Leigh and Ray get up early every morning to hand-milk the cows (jerseys). The community makes two or three cheeses every week. The cows (and the bull) are part of the nutrient pathways, for example eating the remains of a lab-lab bean and pumpkin harvest. The gardens at Dharmananda are located down by the creek where the soil is richer. There are eight sections of 500 m. sq each. Everyone can harvest any mature crop, but each person looks after only one crop. Carol Perry, one of the pioneers, is a whiz at growing carrots.

Dharmananda has grown like topsy, with new younger families building their houses on other ridges. It now has a tractor with nine implements. Leigh said that 1 litre of diesel could accomplish the work of one strong man over three weeks!! This means that it is  a fantastic resource that we should be using frugally - instead of with gay abandon. “The Limits to Growth”  predicted that  food production would peak in the 2000’s. But in fact it peaked in the late 90’s. We will reach peak phosphorus ( conventional agriculture is heavily dependent on phosphate) around 2030. Leigh emphasised that frugality does not mean austerity, but it has a time horizon of hundreds of years.

There are three criteria by which to judge the success of a transition community:

       re-localisation ( not global)
       de-carbonisation (renewables)
       resilience (social cohesion)
 Leigh was asking the question, how does Dharmananda score as a sustainable community? He ran through his analysis and I was interested to see that he gives it an 8 out of 10 for resilience. That is something to be very proud of. I think people tend to focus on the tangible aspects of intentional communities such as food production and housing, perhaps because they are easier to see. When one sees the power of the local movement against CSG at the Bentley blockade nearby, this is how social cohesion manifests. A number of highly effective movers and shakers have been nurtured at Dharmananda. The Multiple Occupancy movement itself has bred some very positive qualities like independence, the ability to act in accord with the values expressed above - the renaissance man or woman has many skills and is committed to their locality.

There were many questions after his talk, some quite technical. I asked Leigh, “What have you learned about conflict by living there? ” His answer was succinct.

“You learn that your point of view is only one among many.”

Bill McKibben of 350.org says it is important to build a movement that is creative and hopeful. Yes - “ You’ve got to dream it first,” said Leigh.

If you’d like to see a video of Leigh’s talk, we are in the process of putting it on the web. At present, you can find it on:

The best way to view it is to download it first, and then  view it. 

* The DG Forum was created this year as a means to look at the buddhist response to the climate crises we are headed for.
Diana Levy  25/6/14


On the 22nd of July, a Tuesday  evening, I will be the talker! Bluegum Sangha has invited me again to be a guest speaker, at 14 Ridge St., North Sydney, 7pm sharp ( they close the door to the street at 7:15 pm). There will be a 45 " period of meditation, a break for tea, and then I will give a talk entitled, "Right Action in a time of Contraction". 

Here is their webpage, describing their schedule of Tuesday evenings. If you go to the 'Home' page, you will  find a map and directions under 'location'. It is about a 15" walk from North Sydney train station.