Saturday, September 24, 2005


Anna Tambour, guest blogging

Most of Australia is summed up this way, or it's been condemned for other faults--the rainforest being a treacherous hell of lawyer vines ready to rip your skin off, or tempting fruits that will kill you, etc, and that's just the plants. It doesn't matter where you go, though. This is the most fascinating continent in the world--and I'm including the Americas and Africa in my judgement--but you've got to get out of the car. Breathe in. Today the air here is filled with honey, butter, and grape (all from wattles), and the formic trails of the flying ant swarms of yesterday afternoon. And look up close.

Look close enough to bend down to see the lichen flower, pick up parrot chew-sticks, feel why the mountain devil got its name. On the coasts especially, where rainforest and desert live neck and neck, where drought and flood can be a day apart, the diversity is breathtaking, if you haven't fallen asleep from the boredom of driving through it.

Barbed wire is a passive aggressor collector. Found hanging in the high heat of noon: an inch-long insectivorous bat, its mouth moving with miniscule maggots; a boobook owl, spreadwinged, dehydrated, but retaining, for the short time during its rescue (only to die a half hour later), the strength of a hydraulic press.

When wrapped around trees, as wire has often been, wire meets its match. There are many trees in once-farmed spots that wear embedment scars, and from whose flesh pokes a bony black finger of wire, almost completely rust. Plants are far more permanent.

the lyrebird
adds twang to her song ~
the fence builder

Amongst the tangle along a creekbank, lianas hang from unseen branches, often with a twisted section of vine that looks like a spring. The vine outlived the tree it wrapped itself around, and lives on with all the indefinity inherent to a place that fire visits frequently enough that the bark of living trees is artist-quality charcoal.

new year flurry
burnt eucalypt leaves
and welcome-swallows

After rain: bursting from the hard kaolin path, mushrooms that break the clay. When only their rounded heads show, they look like human babies emerging from the world below. In wet humus, a star fungi--the texture and colour of a rubber glove.

mist rises
flying ants shimmer
on the trough water

Looking down after the winds of spring, many nests fall. A nest the size of an orange, its internal space no larger than a table-tennis ball. Made of dried grass, it is lined and interwoven with the top feathers and down of rosella parrots, and woven amongst all this, orange moss and the white empty shells of spider egg sacks. It smells, strongly, of life.

flowering plantain
a butterfly opens her
big eyes for flight

On a forest path no-one visits, along a high ridge--a ridge with a vista that stretches out to the coast; look down: a fossil clam.

The Editor: Stop! This is edgy as treacle. Anna: Where's Jeff's Evil Monkey? The Editor: He's an illegal alien, so don't switch the subject. What's the meaning of this? Nature's bad enough, but haiku! You'll be quoting Thoreau next. Anna: But you know I hate Thoreau. He waxed e, with spats on. The Editor: It's a good thing I stopped you from doing your own blog. Anna: I thought you didn't like the names, is all. I loved Wet Rubber Oyster, and what's wrong with Ptomain Ptoisoning: Surving Sugqestion? The Editor: Leave! Anna: Before I tell everyone how today, I watched a white-winged chough standing on a man-high termite nest, pluck white ants as they emerged from cracks at the top, to swarm? The Editor: You snuck that in. Anna: And where to go to listen to two wombats growling at each other? The Editor: Well . . . Anna: And about how if you note a wombat's precise scat, you can see it grow a coat of rabbit-fur fungi? The Editor: Evaporate! Anna: And before I tell them about how a wombat's leg bone would have made a great kongo for Modesty Blai