Tiny pink flowers in the mountains

At this altitude, in Victoria’s alpine region, it is harder to breathe when I walk up hill. If I didn’t have the scientific knowledge in my brain that there is less oxygen in the air and this is normal for somebody who has spent the last year stuck at sea level, it would be quite worrying. I’d be thinking I was having an allergic reaction to something in the air in a place where there is no help and no phone coverage. But I simply have to slow down a little until I catch my breath and everything will be fine. I’ll actually be fitter in the short term. What is my rush anyway?

I’m walking a trail on a mountain covered with tangled white snow gums. The air is cool and fresh with the feeling of cold stone and the scent of open fields. Everything here, both manmade and natural, has all the signs and markings of surviving a harsh winter even though it’s summer. In six months where I’m standing will be covered in thick snow and only plants that can handle both sun and snow will survive. I look around at what is thriving here and although it is mostly snow gums and grass, there are various species of flowers among them. To be strong up here a flower needs to be tiny but bright; to be seen without being large.

I walk three meters off the trail (I check for snakes out of habit even though I’m confident there is no way they are living up here) to look at a wiry stalk holding up a swarm of tiny pink flowers. The combination of size and bright colour makes it seem each flower is screaming out for attention in a tiny voice. It makes me think how one doesn’t need to be big or loud to be seen.

Tiny pink flowers in the mountains. Oil on canvas. 20cm diameter.

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