It was a sunny afternoon but not too hot. Hot enough to wear shorts, singlet and no shoes, which is my favourite clothing. I’d been sitting working on a Writers Club piece, enjoying the quiet and cool of the house. A load of washing with my name on it was waiting to be pegged out, but I wasn’t in too much of a hurry to do the job. Inspiration had taken me over and I was lost in worlds of my own creation.
But reality demands clean underwear and socks, so I decided to take a break and do the chore. The backyard of my apartment block slopes up away from the back door. There is a path running along the back and right outside our door, a brick retaining wall about four feet tall. This is ideal for gardening and Toni has established a great vegetable and herb garden. We’ve got zucchinis, tomatoes, capsicums, chillies and various herbs. A set of stairs a one end leads to the back yard.
Typically Australian, this yard is a large open expanse of lawn surrounded by gardens on the fence line. Being in the middle of the worst drought has left the lawn looking more like a sand patch with tufts of weeds than anything else. But the trees around the edge are still thriving. There are various flowering bushes as well, like oleander and camillia. There is an avocado tree, an olive tree and a twisted pair of mango trees. (Mango trees are often grown in pairs, one male and one female, so pollination can occur and fruit will grow). There is Wisteria, Wattle, Bottle Brush and various other decorative shrubs too. Right up the back, near the clothes line, stands a big Norfolk Island Pine and a couple of bigger shade trees. All in all, it is a lovely big yard.
I pull the clothes out of the washer into the basket, grab my hat and sunglasses (I don’t wear baseball or trucker caps as they just don’t suit me, no matter how cool they are). My current favourite is a black trilby, but I’ve got a few different ones like a pork pie hat and something the shopkeeper called a mini fedora. It is necessary to wear a hat here as the sun can be particularly harsh and I burn so quickly if I’m not careful. As I’m heading for the clothes hoist, a cheeky Willy Wagtail, a friendly native bird, gives me a mouthful (or should that be beak-ful) and swoops at me. These birds are so named for their over-stated, wedge shaped tail, which they fan and flick. They’re very territorial, very cheeky and not intimidated in the least by humans. Their closest relatives are probably robins, although they’re a little bigger than the average robin.
I give him a mouthful back, have a bit of laugh and head to the line. My cat comes and joins me, rolling in the sand and demanding to be scratched. It is times like these I am reminded of how lucky I am to be living in the circumstances I am living. So many of us take the simple things for granted and bemoan the wonderful lives we live. It is good to be occasionally reminded that we are the fortunate few, born in times and nations of great wealth and opportunity. I dwell on these thoughts while I finish hanging the clothes.
As I walk back toward the building, the Wagtail has another crack at me. The cat, well fed as she is, is completely ignored by the bird. He lands close enough to me to let me hear the full brunt of his song then takes off, erratically darting back and forth, chasing bugs too small for me to see. It is then I hear the song of another local, an Eastern Honeyeater. These are small, long beaked birds, mainly black and white but with flecks of yellow-gold through their chests. There are three sitting in the bottle brush, feeding on their distinctive flowers. I stand in the middle of the yard, watching these beautiful birds as they feed themselves and sing to each other. Movement from a few trees up leads me to spotting a couple of Wattle Birds. These guys are larger, about the size of a pigeon but sleeker. Wattle birds are argumentative, curious birds who are also honey eaters. They dive into the Bottle Brush but the little Easterns don’t seem at all fazed by the presence of the larger birds.
One Wattle bird, obviously the guard, eyeballs me before taking a run at my head. I duck a little and he lands in the mango tree, dips his beak into one the flowers and continues to eyeball me. I have another laugh to myself. As I do, a number of Eastern Rosellas squawk and whistle as they fly over the yard. I stand there, in the middle of it all, and again, I am amazed by the dazzling show Mother Nature presents me. Hollywood aint got nothing on that grand old dame.