“Seek lonely places and be still, listening, hearing the songs and cries of the winged ones, the sounds of the four-leggeds, and the cries of the insect people; feeling the breath and touch of the earth, of leaves, of bark; for all have messages for you… “
Sees-Beyond-The-Lightning, of the Sioux.
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This year I am going to find out what a night out camping in a lonely place can do for the young ones.
When I was a kid of eight or nine I lived in a wee town called Bunnythorpe in NZ. I had a friend named Billy Smith who lived on a farm up the road at the end of Maple Street.
I used to go there a lot and we would ride around on a huge Clydesdale draught horse which pulled a sled around from which we would feed hay or choumolier out to the cows. The horse was really gentle and docile, and we had a lot of fun with her.
Then one spring a pair of starlings started building their nest in her mane. Every afternoon we would brush out her mane and every morning the birds would start again. Old Mr Smith was getting quite pissed off about it because he hated starlings. He said if it was fantails he wouldn’t have minded.
He tried putting fly spray, lemon and titree oils and similar things in the horse’s mane to put them off, but nothing worked.
He called the vet and asked if there was anything he could use as a bird repellent. The vet suggested rubbing some brewer’s yeast in the mane.
He tried it and it seemed to work, because the birds did not come back.
He called the vet and told him the idea was successful but he didn’t understand why yeast worked when everything else didn’t.
The vet told him…
Yeast is yeast, and nest is nest, and never the mane shall tweet.
Here I am in Halls Creek, just as last year, minding a friends house and Lani the dog again. The poor thing has a broken leg and is limping around in a cast. She is a sweet and affectionate girl and follows me wherever I go. So I try to sit still a lot and scratch behind her ears.
My own dog, Zeus, I left behind in Bililuna. The neighbours were sorry when they heard I would be away for a month and was taking Zeus with me. He is a good guard dog and his barking alerts them when someone is prowling around. And there has been quite a bit of prowling lately. Several break-ins over the last few weeks. I have to admit I was worried about leaving the donga again, remembering always what happened while I was away last year. Even with the cage, three padlocks and three deadbolts I am still a little paranoid someone will break in. So I suggested that maybe they would like to keep Zeus with them. I was happy they enthusiastically agreed. Joe emailed me the other day to tell me Zeus has adapted to being with them without any fuss or bother, and that he had awoken Joe at 2AM the other morning to tell him someone was outside. So Joe is happy too. I am just hoping that Zeus’ range of observation extends across the road to my place.
It might have been problematic had I brought him up to Halls Creek with me anyway, so I guess things have worked out well.
For Christmas this year I have invested in new camera gear for myself. I replaced the Olympus Tough that was stolen last year, with the latest model and I have already found it is a big improvement on the one I had, while still being submersible, rugged, and sand proof. It is capable of taking some pretty amazingly sharp macro photographs.
For the long range nature photography I ordered myself a new Sony Cybershot DSC-RX10 Mark IV 20MP Digital Camera. This will be my fourth Sony camera. They have never disappointed me and I am told by a knowledgeable expert friend that I will not be disappointed this time. I am hoping it will arrive in the coming week.
In the meantime I am just chillin’. Sleeping in, having a quiet time.
I found a little visitor in the dog’s water bowl yesterday. I rescued him, took a few photos and let hi go in the pot plant area. Lani the dog was quite cool with it. So I hope it is safe. It is a Little Red Tree Frog. Litoria rubella. Which I now realise was the same species that I found accompanying the Green Tree Frog in the shower at the SPQ some time back.
So who was that green tree frog I guided out of the house the other night? Have I just ruined Eric’s only chance at finding his one true love? Was it a she, and was she wandering the kitchen uncertainly in search of Eric while I wrestled with my conscience before sending her out into the night? Why didn’t Eric call or come out to greet her if he was there? He must have known she was nearby, surely? I am not well versed in frog etiquette, but I would have guessed there must be some way they can sense each other’s presence?
The only other explanation I can think of is that Eric knows a secret way to get back into the donga that I am not aware of. I sincerely doubt that however because the whole place was cleared out for new flooring and doors etc after the great burglary. If there were a gap or hole I’d have spotted it before I filled the house up again with all my junk.
If that wasn’t Eric the other night who was it? How did the stranger get in? Did I have two resident frogs all the time? Why was Eric so quiet the last couple of days? Was he sulking?
Any way you look at it, it is a conundrum.
Oh the mysteries of nature.
On reflection, if they can come and go as it seems they can, who am I to worry? They are welcome to share the house. I enjoy their company. Zeus ignores them, and they seem content to be here. Or one of them does.
It is not easy being green. Or being landlord to someone green.
Later: Bloody Hell. He’s louder than ever. Every call seems like a recrimination.
In one of those “hmm” moments that occur now and then in one’s life, it occurred to me that I was not entirely sure how to pronounce the word assuaged. Dredging through my now fading memory I could not recall ever having heard the word said by anyone else.
It is one of many, many words that are not used in daily conversation and which one is often ever only likely to read. I know perfectly well what it means, but on consideration, I realised I could not say it correctly with definitive certainty. Az-swarge or az-swayge? It turns out to be the latter: əˈsweɪdʒ/ . That settles that. It took me nigh on sixty six years to determine the answer to a question I had never asked myself until now.
Why, I hear you ask, was I wondering this in the first place?
I live alone with a dog and, until a couple of nights ago, a frog. I talk to myself and to them. Some days they are the only beings I talk to apart from under ten year old children for whom English is a second or third language.
Far from being a sign of insanity, talking to oneself is a habit of the wise. We tend to speak to the most intelligent person in the room. I use my vocabulary to its fullest extent as much as I can. All too often these days I find myself groping for words that once came to me easily. I worry about getting Alzheimers, so I constantly test my own memory in as many ways as I can.
Which is why I was asking Zeus the dog if he would like me to assuage his hunger by providing him with his daily dog bowl of delicious comestibles comprised of a handful of doggy biscuits, a few scoops of canned dog food and a portion of the macaroni cheese that I had just made. He indicated enthusiastically that he thought this was a great idea. Especially the macaroni cheese part.
While preparing his dinner I cheerfully pointed out to him that this bounteous meal was brought to him through the advantages of evolution, which led to me having opposable thumbs, which enabled me to open cans and use spoons, pots and pans. And which also created in me the generous nature that made me willing to share what I had in return for the dubious pleasure of his company. I asked him to enlighten me as to how exactly did he fulfill his side of the bargain? As far as I could tell his sole contribution to the arrangement was to bring back a knotted rope ball every time I threw it away. It seemed a little one-sided when put that way. I suggested he lift his game and learn some useful function.
It was about that time I began saying “az-swarge or az-swayge?” to myself, and decided finally to look it up. I found I had been thinking and pronouncing it wrongly all my life.
I remember well the very first word that I mispronounced that was corrected by a teacher: Penelope. I said pee ne lope (to rhyme with antelope). I was embarrassed at the time to be corrected by an adult and to be laughed at by the others in my class. Years later I realised I should not have been. I should have been proud to have known the word at all. What other eight year old was reading Homer’s Odyssey? When I encounter people who mispronounce words I do not laugh, because I figure they had found the word in a book, and were using it without ever having heard it spoken, just as I did when I told the class at school about Odysseus and Penelope in my book review.
But then I wondered what kind of life did I lead these days if no one around me ever used words like assuage?
Note. As I proofread the above words before hitting the publish button, I found myself still pronouncing assuage wrong in my head.