Saturday, December 03, 2005
Claw marks on the piano: a Sunday meditation
After a long time in an inner-city environment, I moved some years ago into my current house. It's on one of those long narrow blocks, on a quiet street in an ancient suburb, and the biodiversity -- native, domestic and human -- is staggering.
There's a big backyard that's been over-planted with native trees now grown out of control, and every day those trees are full of rainbow lorikeets, making a racket that I can still hear with all the doors and windows closed. These birds buzz me while I hang the washing out, or solemnly swing round and round on branches for their own amusement like some kind of demented desk toy.
Sometimes a flock of them will settle in the bloke next door's apricot tree and transform it into a rainbow-lorikeet tree, a magical, nay, Shakespearean, sight. ('Hang there like fruit, my soul, till the tree die' -- Postumus to Imogen, at the heartbreaking moment. Tennyson at 83 called for his Shakespeare, opened it to this speech, put his head down on it, and died. Happy, or so one assumes.)
My own trees and vines are full of nests: blackbird, honey-eater, pigeon. Honey-eaters nest deep in the thorny things, the bougainvillea and the climbing rose. There are geckoes living in the window frames and a huntsman spider that hangs out in the letterbox.
The apricot neighbour also has chooks -- 'Naughty girls!' I hear him say to them fondly from time to time, and wonder what in the narrow spectrum of chook behaviour might qualify as naughtiness -- who occasionally make that yearning chook noise somewhere between a burble and a croon. The neighbours on the other side have one of those very talky-talky cats, Siamese I think; she has her own netted enclosure in their back yard, whence emanate earsplitting yowls. In my own back yard there's a resident sleepy lizard that makes no noise but unnervingly materialises out of nowhere like an apparition; I keep expecting it to open its mouth and tell me I'll be king hereafter.
Then there are the really alarming creatures. Every year I have to evict the redbacks out of the plastic moulding on the underside of the garden chairs whenever I'm expecting guests. Last year, which was very dry, I lifted up a plastic drain thingy in the garden a few feet from the back door and out from under it and into the grass flashed, quick as thought, a handful of baby brown snakes. And today, on the inner side of one of the front veranda posts, I spotted something I assume is small wasps' nest, a delicately-moulded mud sculpture that looks like something out of Dune.
And then, of course, there are the musical cats, allowed the run of the furniture as compensation for being kept inside.
Working from home has many, many advantages, and one of them is the opportunity it affords to think about living with species other than one's own. Either you resist -- freaking out at the claw marks on the piano, the fruit-guzzling lorikeets, and the deadly little snakelets as they flash past your bare fingers -- or you sit back, let it all happen, and watch the universe unfolding as it should. I like the second option.
But I'll never make it into Better Homes and Gardens.