Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The killers amongst us ... have feathers




Most days my walking route takes me through a small neighbourhood of Mc Mansions in a little settlement named after a school … something Mews. A primary school used to stand in the site where the houses are now. I like this part of the walk because there seems something so safe and controlled about the area; like it’s from that film with Jim Carrey – The Truman Show. I couldn’t live there – way too boring – but, for a walkway, it’s like being in a dull yet comforting department store of houses.

The other reason I like that route is because of the black and white cat I catch up with. He’s what some people call a tuxedo cat – black and white but the white is just a patch on his chest and his paws – like a white shirt poking out of a dinner suit. He wears a yellow collar and has loads of personality. I think he must be one of the luckiest cats in the western world. After all, he lives in the centre of this safe neighbourhood where no dogs have ever been sighted and, across the road from his house, is a park that’s been completely designed using native plants … meaning plenty of native birds come to visit.

Walking past there today my feline pal was nowhere to be seen. I was a little disappointed. Still, I was soon at my favourite meditation gum tree and all thoughts of puss were banished. The sun was beaming for a moment just before it set for the day and its intensity through the leaves of the tree made me feel like I was in one of those 70s sci-fi films – Omega Man or Soylent Green.

I switched off my MP3 player (David Sedaris on Radio National’s Book Show www.abc.net.au/rn/bookshow/stories/2008/2336694.htm) and got to thinking about the characters in a story I am writing. I need to figure out how to move them along and I felt a little stuck today. As I looked at the tree, though, I realised for the first time that there is a nest in it.

It’s a strange nest, it looks more like a giant grenade than an ant’s nest but I’m pretty sure it’s a bird’s nest. I walked round and round the tree trying to get a better view. A little magpie lark was the sole occupant of the tree at the time and he/she seemed to become aware of my loitering. It flew to the nest and hovered near it, then started picking and pecking around it. It was too high up for me to see what was really going on. At first I thought, ‘How sweet, it’s probably feeding its little ones in there’ but then my thoughts turned dark. I’ve always had a thing about birds, about things that flutter really. When Mr U and I were at London Zoo in the butterfly enclosure I completely freaked out when rare creatures started landing on my fire engine dyed red hair of the time. Little kids gathered around, amazed and envious. Only Mr U realised the immense will it was taking for me to not swipe those little fuckers – the butterflies not the kids – and take out something probably worth thousands of pounds, shipped directly from the Congo.

Anyhow, I have tried to fight my wing-flapping paranoia and make friends with birdies in recent years. They are all God’s creatures and very special in their way. Well that’s over with now once and for all. Last week I saw a raven killing a pigeon in the driveway of a house round the corner. It had two accomplices with it, Indian Mynahs I think. I pulled up in Mr U’s ute and honked to break up the violence. The raven flew off but not far, it’s two vampiric little mates sitting on powerlines nearby, just watching. The pigeon was ruffled up and dazed. It looked in a bad way. It made it over a neighbour’s fence but, even as I was standing there, I could see the attackers swooping down behind the posts to continue their evil deed.

So when I saw this magpie lark in the nest I went from delight to unease. Was it friend or foe to whatever dwelled inside? Was it attending to its young or eating someone else’s precious eggs?

Perspective’s a funny thing isn’t it? I’ll never know what was really happening all those many metres in the sky but, as I’ve nurtured a dislike of our ornithological friends, I choose to assume the worse.

Go Mr Tuxedo!

1 comment:

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