A New Rainbow Skin
The book cover* feels like suede, and, as I run my fingertips over it, I’m wondering if the colours are real. They electrify me. I’ve been photographing the bark of trees, especially eucalyptus, (or gum), in my native Australia, for several decades now, and I haven’t seen the likes of this skin-palette.
Rainbow eucalyptus, or, Eucalyptus deglupta sheds its bark several times a year, to reveal an underskin, (phloem), of vivid frog green. The surface layers, which shed in stages, sing rich tones of orange, scarlet, vermillion, crimson, maroon, and purple. A little like seeing the layers in a dissection, where I’ve several times, unwrapped the gift of the donor’s form layer by layer. As usual for me, the echo is there; body : land. All One.
I’d been told that these trees are native to northern tropical Australia. That one could, with a little careful searching, find them in the subtropical Brisbane surrounds, my, (then) home of around two decades. I searched. I walked. I asked. But, I never saw one. I heard they grew in Hawaii. A seemingly random piece of information, at the time. And I resolved, if I should ever go there, I’d find one.
It felt like a homing beacon for some reason; a Call.
It turns out, that, whilst indeed, rainbow eucalyptus are found in tropical Australia, they are native to the Philippines, New Guinea, Indonesia, and are, in fact, the only indigenous eucalyptus tree in the northern hemisphere. Think high rainfall, intense humidity, heat. They grow up to 250 feet tall, six feet in diameter. They thrive in Hawaii, where they were introduced in 1929. And where, totally unforeseen three years ago when I held that book in my hands, I’ve been living for a little over two months now.
So. Again, I asked, I walked. And this time, I found.
Skin shedding in strips and whorls, revealing colours that reminded me of an Australian opal. Part of the bones of my continent.
My own skin — indeed my whole Being in my new life here, is shedding in the same way, albeit metaphorically. Layers of a lifetime peeling and spiralling away. Revealing the same rainbow. The same light and colour. The same beauty. Mirrored to me. A timely meeting.
A Call answered.
Rainbow eucalyptus, and opal-skin. In a new home.
Narelle Carter-Quinlan at Fig & Agave
*Euphoria, by Lily King. 2014 hardcover edition.
Note, Rainbow Eucalyptus is sometimes known as Mindanao gum, or simply, as rainbow gum.