Words in the forest

Settler letterI snuck down to Pemberton in the southern forests of Western Australia for a few days. It’s been a while since I visited the area. Towering karri trees dominate the landscape. It’s stunning. I breathe. Relax. Walk.

Walking around Big Brook Dam I overheard a woman talking to her husband. “Go and read the information signs,” she said. “They tell the story of the forest from all different perspectives. It’s like pages from different diaries. It’s very clever.”

I couldn’t help but smile as I walked past. There’s no author’s name on the information panels she was talking about but if there was it would be mine. I wrote the text for the Karri Forest Explorer trail when it was put in years ago. It was a great job. Lots of fun. The brief was to show that the views of the forest have changed over time and that the forest means, and has meant, different things to different people. I was given complete freedom in how I would do that and came up with the approach of using a range of voices – an early settler writing letters home to her mother, a forester filing reports, a ranger making notes of observations, a protester sending postcards home – all written in first person, but clearly identified as being different people. Each viewpoint is different, and the style of writing, the perspective held, the words used and the observations made, reflect who they were and the time they were writing. A graphic designer carefully crafted my words into panels using different fonts and styles for the different voices, and illustrated them with photos, drawings and relevant objects.

Revisiting this month, I was pleased to see the work is standing the test of time. The panels still look good and they still work as a way of telling some of the forest’s many stories. I’m especially pleased that people are still enjoying reading them. Satisfying work indeed.

Ranger notes