We Australians love gum leaves. Expat Aussies can be reduced to tears by a whiff of their aroma. Campers in the bush put them into billy tea……for the flavor, but even more for nostalgia.
Our property in the Blue Mountains was named The Gums by a previous owner, so it’s no wonder I’m a bit obsessed with the leaves.
To suddenly see one lit by sunlight is a joy…..even if something has eaten a bit out of the middle for its lunch.
The colours in them can be magical too. They remind me of stained glass.
They can also by transformed by mist and dew. The new leaves contrast so beautifully against the older grey.
Oh the beauty of a single raindrop.
Gum trees are so resilient; they have to be in our harsh climate.
Leaf curl spiders use them to build their simple homes……or in the photo below, as a foundation for something more impressive.
I use dried ones at Christmas time as gift tags.
These ones are a bit more festive. Of course, arty types could create something really special.
My creative friend Jen Eddington from Tasmania dyes fabric using all manner of natural material, She produced this wonderful gum leaf design.
When I was a child I could extract a whistle from a gum leaf, but I’ve lost the knack. Some people can actually play a tune.
In 1926 The Governor of New South Wales, Sir Dudley de Chair was touring in the north of the state. The Wingham Chronicle gave the following account of the welcome he received;
Here at the roadside an army of 30 aborigines waited for the Governor’s car, waving flags. As Sir Dudley approached a native jazz band burst into the National Anthem played on gum leaves.
After this it gave a recital, producing a disturbing yet not unpleasant musical effect by blowing on gum leaves. Indeed, if this band could be placed in a theatre it would cause a sensation. It completely outbuzzes the saxophone, and reduces the oboe to the rank of a tin whistle. The black musicians played tenderly and very solemnly, visibly affecting many spectators.
An Aboriginal gum leaf band actually recorded a concert for the radio during the war. You can see how the leaf is held against the bottom lip. I might have another go.
.Today, one of the best known gum leaf players is Jeff Willmott.
Here is Jeff’s fantastic video on how to choose the best leaf and how to play. You don’t even have to remove it from the tree; a rare example of a living musical instrument. Time to give it a go myself.
I picked out what I considered a good specimen according to Jeff’s advice . But do you think I could make it work? No…not a damn peep, no matter how hard I blew. My associate Editor Des is still trying, but honestly….. he’s wasting his time!
Oh well, I can still enjoy the beauty of the leaves. I picked up the ones below while sweeping the paths in my garden. Notice the little galls on some?
Did you know that our eucalypts partly inspired the Aussie anthem Great Southern Land? For the story by Iceman front man Iva Davies, CLICK HERE.
ASSISTING IN PUBLIC HEALTH
The wonderful May Gibbs lived though a much earlier pandemic. Her public health illustration re Spanish flu is a sad note to end on, but all too appropriate as we continue to fight Covid-19.
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