Delicious descriptions: Brooke Davis on salmon gums
In my recent review of Brooke Davis’ novel Lost & found I mentioned her descriptions but didn’t really give any examples. I can’t leave this book without giving you two that involve a rather interesting tree. It also gives me an opportunity to share my photographs of one! They are beautiful (though my photographs don’t really do them justice).
The interesting thing about Gum Trees – because of course I am talking about gums – is their nomenclature. Many gums have multiple names, and sometimes the same name is used for several different species. An example is the Ghost Gum. This name is commonly used for several species of gums that mostly grow in arid Australia and have ghostly white bark. There are other examples though, one of which is the less commonly known Salmon Gum. I have only seen the Eucalyptus Tintinnans in the Northern Territory, but Davis writes about, I assume, the Western Australian native one, the Eucalyptus salmonophloia. I don’t have a photograph of it but you can see a gorgeous one on this blog (I hope they don’t mind my linking to it).
So, here is the first description:
They drive past rows of gum trees, leaning out over the road and into the sky, like dancers posing. Those trees there, the bus driver says. See how pink they are? Millie nods. They make her think of the inside of her mouth. Salmon gums. Always looks like the sun’s setting on them.
Do you reckon that’s a sly joke about “gums” there?
The second one comes in a description of the people of inland Western Australia, from Karl’s perspective:
Back home, on the southwest coast, the people have dazed eyes, blond edges, waterlogged strides. The people here are different: scratchy, like they’ve been sketched roughly on paper, like they are born of the very red dirt they scuff their feet in, made out of the salmon gums that line the streets. They yell outside the bakery, the supermarket, the pubs and in the main thoroughfare, chopping at words as though throwing their sentences in a blender. Karl doesn’t feel like he fits in here. Then again, Karl doesn’t feel like he fits in back there, either.
The sky is between day and night, that deep blue it gets when it’s shedding one for the other.
Not being from the West, I don’t fully understand the basis of the distinction she’s making here between the coastal and inland people – what’s this about yelling outside bakeries, supermarkets and pubs? – but I did enjoy reading this description. It’s vivid. I know that a few Western Australians read this blog. I’d love to hear what they think of this, and what it says to them.