OPINION

A welcome relief during this year's election campaign

I was just feeling incredibly tense about this election. Two (and more) groups of people slagging off at each other, describing each other as liars and thieves, was too dispiriting for words as the Easter weekend approached. I live in a safe seat and even I am being beset by campaigners as I go about my daily life.

Totally their right to campaign, to hand out leaflets and posters, to want to have meaningful chats with me about life, the universe and everything. It's also totally understandable I will be inundated with phone calls around dinner time.

Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison announced - thankfully - a change to this year's campaign. Illustration: Simon Letch

Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison announced - thankfully - a change to this year's campaign. Illustration: Simon Letch

But for some reason, I have a thing about Easter. Not because I'm religious but just because the dial gets turned down a bit on that day. No-one is honking or beeping their way to their next meeting, or their child's next soccer game.

But two small news items cheered me up enormously. One, both the Coalition and the Labor Party have announced they won't make major announcements on Good Friday or Easter Sunday. And they won't run political advertisements either.

But in one of my very last actions before taking a short break, I listened to the ABC's AM and I heard wonderful news veteran Felicity Ogilvie talking about tall trees.

And I took a deep breath.

Ogilvie revealed some brilliant environmental news at a time when our rivers and our reefs are dying. After the catastrophic bushfires in Tasmania last summer, you could imagine the glorious tall trees in the southern part of our island state would just be a heap of cinders. And there were many that were burnt to the ground.

But as she hiked through the temperate rainforest south of Hobart, with the guidance of tree evangelist Brett Mifsud, she found Centurion, 100 metres high, still standing with some 'superficial burns' to its trunk.

And that very short story reminded me of what Easter should be about; and why that matters.

Centurion is the tallest hardwood tree in the world - in southern Tasmania. Photo: The Age

Centurion is the tallest hardwood tree in the world - in southern Tasmania. Photo: The Age

When our kids were very young, we'd take them into the bush at Easter. It would be bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way to the turn off, turning a two hours trip into three, sometimes four; with backseat squabbling increasing in volume the longer we were in the car. But as soon as we found the river, the noise stopped and the tension just drained away. At night, we'd look out for wombats. By day, we'd sit on the riverbank and look for yabbies, to catch and then release. The skies were huge and dark, sometimes overwhelming; there were so many more stars than we could ever see at home in our big bright city. Sunday morning, the little heathens would roar through the bush searching for Easter eggs.

And on the way back, there was never any squabbling. Our minds were filled with stars and trees and rivers. New research from Lisbeth Bethelmy and José Corraliza explains a relationship between us and nature, that feeling of 'reverential fear' of being vulnerable to nature's presence, and that gives us "a feeling of rejoicing, wellbeing, vitality, personal freedom and connection with nature".

Sadly, their research doesn't yet have a clear thread between being inspired by nature and wanting to look after it but I'm hoping that exposure to the wild will eventually have that affect.

I discovered the National Register of Big Trees, which Derek McIntosh began in 2008. You can follow the health of Centurion and all the 820 trees on the register - and you might even find one in your neighbourhood. Breathe a little.

I won't get to big trees this Easter and I doubt I'll even see a river. In the meantime, my best way of avoiding any political party will be to avoid the local shops and the local social media. Hit all my mute buttons and tags and whatnots and maybe, for a while, sit on the side of a lake looking into the distance before all hell - and electioneering - resumes on Tuesday.

  • Jenna Price is an academic at the University of Technology Sydney.
This story A timely reminder why Easter matters first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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