Where have all the bright beetles gone? Tuesday's ABC Radio National edition of The World Today contained the latest melancholy report on the accelerating disappearance of the Christmas beetles. Once upon a time as all of us over 35 can testify, at this Christmassy time of the year they were everywhere in their goldy-gleaming-glittering millions. Now, to the bewilderment of entomologists, they are increasingly scarce. Christmas beetles star in Charles Harpur's mighty poem A Midsummer Noon In The Australian Forest (1851), a work I read aloud, reverently, at every Christmas, to anyone within earshot. I duly read it to my appreciative wife on Christmas Day, last Sunday, a hot, still, but alas Christmas beetle bereft midsummer day in the urban forest of our leafy suburb in the federal capital city. The admirable Harpur (1813-1868) was the poetic pioneer of the belief that the Australian bush, in spite of its alien contrast with the green and pleasant woodland of '"home", was wondrous in its own right and deserved to have rapt poetry written about it. He was, bless him, a kind of literary biologist-patriot. It must grieve him to hear that the Christmas beetle is in eclipse. In his Midsummer Noon masterpiece he describes how at the midsummer noon he is immersed in "Quiet reigns" (he gives Quiet a capital Q to show she is a goddess). And yet. "Only there's a droning where/Yon bright beetle gleams the air/Gleams it in its droning flight/With a slanting track of light,/Its shards flame out like gems on fire." Yes, those of us who knew the Christmas-beetle rich Australia remember them as looking, in flight in summer sunshine, just like "gems on fire". Harpur got it exactly, impressively right. Also at Christmas my suburb (forgive me for being so suburban this week - loyal regular readers know I am normally the most global of columnists) is decorated by some fabulous trees on a street that bears Harpur's name. There is almost nothing poetical about my characterless, bourgeois suburb save for the fact that so many of its streets are named after writers. This is true of my own working-class street in a frost pocket of lower Garran and is true of Harpur Street in aspirational upper Garran. There at Christmas time even the upmarket grandeur of the street's established homes is eclipsed by the floral grandeur of the street's several magnificent Silky Oaks (Grevillea robusta). As I write, these truly Christmassy natural, native Christmas trees (better than any government-installed Christmas Tree could ever be) are festooned with big, toothbrush-shaped (but imagine a giant's toothbrush) flower spikes of golden-orange-yellow. The tallest of the Silky Oaks when in flower is glowingly visible from far away, like an illuminated church steeple. READ MORE: How wonderful and proper that Harpur, a botanical patriot, should be commemorated by a street graced by such splendidly lovely native Australian trees! Meanwhile the National Arboretum is blessed with a whole forest of Silky Oaks (it is forest 51) that is revving up to deliver quite a pageant any moment now. In this trying, sanity-testing year of 2022 (now dwindling down to its last hours) my feeble grip on sanity and optimism has owed so much to my almost daily walks in the arboretum and to the quality cartoons in my daily New Yorker feed. The two medicines - walks in trees and enjoyment of New Yorker cartoons - have just come together with the New Yorker end-of-year post of its most popular cartoons of the year. In one of them, by Maggie Larson, some leaf-shedding trees in autumn are watching two well-rugged-up people out strolling and are rejoicing at how they, the trees, love to see the way in which in autumn humans start wearing plaid clothes in lovely autumnal colours. This is a lovely inversion of the delight given by the colours of autumn (this time delight given by us, to the trees). But of course it is a truism that trees talk about us all the time, amongst themselves. On breezy days in the arboretum their gossip about us is especially loud. But wherever Charles Harpur was at his beautifully-reported midsummer noon, the all-Australian trees were being enigmatically tight-lipped at a moment of "mighty stillness" of "quiet everywhere". It was a quiet so profound that it enabled the shy drone of the (then plentiful but now endangered) Christmas beetles' flights to be sweet music to his biologically patriotic ear. We've made it a whole lot easier for you to have your say. Our new comment platform requires only one log-in to access articles and to join the discussion on The Canberra Times website. Find out how to register so you can enjoy civil, friendly and engaging discussions. See our moderation policy here.