OPINION | Blind to beauty around us

There’s a Moreton Bay fig tree I pass often during my week.

Its spreading canopy envelops some municipal buildings, while its roots shore up a bush garden, one buttress sweeping out to waist height like a retaining wall, riddled with ledges and pockets that make perfect seats for little bottoms.

These trees punctuate the photos of my childhood, and my own children’s childhood; lines of kids riding bareback on the gargantuan horizontal branches, little ones snuggled into hidey-holes in the swirling maze of aerial roots, or extended families picnicking in their generous shade.

Some of them are hundreds of years old, their toes dipping into the soil and gripping down rock faces long before Europeans stepped foot among them.

Some of them cannot be surrounded by the embrace of several people, so wide and convoluted are their trunks.

They are a wonder of nature.

And while I have long admired them, drawn them, photographed them, enjoyed them, it took a foreigner’s eyes to remind me - as I walked past, oblivious - of their quite gobsmacking impact.

“What is this?” breathed my well-travelled friend, when I was showing her around the Sydney Botanic Gardens, which contains some beautiful specimens. “What kind of tree is it? I’ve never seen anything like it.”

She insisted on photographing me in front of it, to prove its truly enormous girth, and I posed, dwarfed by the ancient monster behind me.

Now I once more notice Moreton Bay figs everywhere I go, fresh-eyed.

But I wonder, how many other wildly amazing things have I been taking for granted?

Magpies warbling and chortling at dusk, massed clouds breasting the sky like battleships, the ripple of colour on a block of sandstone. It doesn't matter where you are - there is something to marvel at.

It's easy to forget, to be distracted by your phone, to see the ugliness that is sometimes front and centre.

Sometimes it's hard to see, but keep your eyes peeled. You'll find it.