Cragh

The Crow was reading poems aloud

From an ancient vellum manuscript

I strained to hear but could not parse,

Because of his strange accent, the words

– Which all sounded like “cragh!” –

I figured he was Irish.

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Circumnavigation

Writing my short piece of blank verse about my expedition into Mayor Island reminded me of another small odyssey undertaken in the same month. I was camped in South-east Bay for a couple of months. I had originally gone there with Glenn for a fortnight but I was having such a good time I stayed on after he went home. I was getting on right well with some of the other campers in my own age group, though I don’t recall their names now. We dived and fished together, shared meals, and drank at the big game fishing club where we also traded crayfish for supplies. The demand was high and the payments in kind were generous.

It was mainly through that illegal activity I was able to stay on camping so long, though at one point when the weather was bad and I couldn’t fish or dive, I was down to half a bag of onions and a loaf of mouldy bread. It was then I learned that if I trimmed off the mouldy crust and the black fruiting bodies of the mould, I could fry the bread in butter and it tasted like Madeira cake, because the hyphae of the fungus had grown through the bread and turned a lot of the starch to sugar. Fried bread and onions. Great sustenance.

I was even recruited as deckhand on a charter boat for a couple of days. I worked for food. The skipper loaned me a dinghy for a day. I took it out to the eastern side of the island where I caught the largest snapper I had ever seen. I took it back to the big game club and they weighed it for me. It was, as I recall somewhat over thirty pounds in weight. There was much excitement and the manager went off to consult the books (no internet back then).

It turned out I had caught a pinfish. A new weight record. Unfortunately as I was not a member of any fishing club it did not count. No pin. No record. But for a time I unofficially held a record. I heard later next year that a larger fish had been caught. The internet tells me that the latest record holder is Kiwi angler Neil Gorringe who caught a 32.5lb (14.75kg) snapper on 8kg line in 2016.

The biggest adventure was a snorkeling morning that turned into a bit of an odyssey. Five of us set out from western bay and at some point, far from where we had entered the water, we wondered how far we had come. I decided it was far enough to have go at continuing all the way around the island. The others were not so keen. In the end, being young and foolish, I decided to go it alone. The others turned back.

I was fit, I had flippers. I knew I could make it, though I had no real idea how far I had to swim (turns out to be just over 11 km).

It was an adventure. I experienced a lot of firsts on that trip and logged a lot of new sightings in the logbook I kept in those days. Particularly on the ocean side of the island, where the cliffs went deep below the surface, there were species I hadn’t yet encountered. Morays, congers, sharks, grouper. Most notably an electric ray. One of about 14 electric ray species in the world, Torpedo fairchildi, is found only in New Zealand. Exciting.

I was in the water seven hours or so, without a wetsuit, and even though the water was warm I was pretty drained by the time I got back to camp. The others said they had been about to send out a search party. As I said, I was young and stupid then. Now I’m old and stupid because I’d probably try it again. The sea is still my spiritual home.

Now that I think about it, I did not really complete a circumnavigation after all. I set out from Western bay and emerged in south east bay. I didn’t swim round the promontory between the two bays. I may have to go back, and do it again.

Tuhua

The trail leads up a bush-clad mountainside
Singing with birds, redolent with earthy attar
Rustling with hidden afternoon activity.
I catch an occasional glimpse
Of furtive feathered ground dwellers
And fleeing lizards.

The path is rough; rock and root-strewn
I need my stick to steady my steps
The summit touches the sky, above the highest trees
Which are shrouded in evening mist that washes
In slow floating waves as on a time lapse shore
Branches reaching out like dark coral rock.

Above the washing white tide
Here at sunset, I made my camp
With one desire;
To sleep, and awake at dawn
To the bellbirds’ famed chorus.

The morning came bright
The birdsong, sublime under a clear sky, echoed.
The island below me a taonga of poenamo
Set in lapiz: Around my camp
Came curious weka
Enquiring after crumbs from breakfast.

On my descent I followed no path.
I had set my course on line of sight
Towards the green and black lakes
And beyond, to the obsidian cliffs
My second objective.
Though taking the obsidian is forbidden
I had set my heart on finding a piece
Suitable to nap a knife.

The going was slow. The bush impeding.
I came upon a place of silence
No birdsong, no rustling in the undergrowth
Eerie. The nape of my neck tingled
I fell into a hole
Unhurt I climbed out
And saw the overgrown hole was regular, square
And there were more; many more, man made
It was a place where people had once dwelt.
Lived and died.
I moved on as swiftly as I could

One lake was black, one algal green
I cooled myself but did not drink
I had a feeling Lethe might live within
At the foot of the cliffs I found
Tumbled shards of shining atramentous
The volcanic glass I coveted.
I took some; perhaps there and then
Began the curse that follows me yet.

I cannot return the tuhua; I no longer have it
I left it somewhere, some time, I don’t recall.
It is lost. It does not matter.

 
© 2019 ARF

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Alarm

At 5 this morning in the early lightening dawn, the raucous call of kookaburras sidetracked me from sleep.  I awoke with a headache and very sore back and hips.

I have heard kookaburras several times here, in Halls Creek but I’ve only seen one once before.  Despite my aches and pains I grabbed the camera and came out for a look.  There were several calling, but only one was in view.  The light was poor and I had to wait for it to brighten a little before there was sufficient for the camera at last to focus.  I do not trust my own eyesight to focus manually with any accuracy any more.  Technology usually does a much better job.  The first shots were blurry as the camera vainly tried to distinguish the bird and the tree from the dim background of the sky.

Fortunately the bird seemed to be in no hurry to move on and sat surveying the scene around it long enough for the camera to finally grasp it, and outline it in yellow in my viewfinder.   Isn’t technology wonderful these days?

I then discovered I could transfer the photos from the camera to my MacBook via wifi.  More technological wonder.  What a time to be alive.

I made coffee, took my pills and retired for another hour or so sleep.  I awoke at 11:30 still aching and figured I had better phone in sick.

Despite the circumstances, capturing this noisy little bugger cheered me up.

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Here is the kookaburra call, if you haven’t heard it before:

Janus and Ourobouros

The old, the new, and the same old same old.  It is that time of year again.  Time to look back, time to look forward, and time to reflect that in the long run nothing really changes except our age and, with a bit of luck, our outlook.

My facebook header and profile pictures currently reflect that attitude.

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This time last year I had already been burgled once, and was about to be burgled again.  The year since has not been one of great achievement for me, party due to circumstances and partly due to my response to the circumstances.  The coming year will see renewed effort in my current chosen profession and I hope to see some progress that I may, perhaps, be able to point to eventually with pride.  I have also pretty much come to the conclusion this will be my last working year.  Age and disability gradually encroach on my good intentions and ability.  I increasingly feel a need to return to the country I know and love best. And I want to be idle.  My own man to pursue whatever whim I may have. And can afford.

In the meantime I have a new camera to master.  The new Sony RX10 Mark IV  has arrived and it is a technical marvel.  There is an excellent review of it here.  It makes me realise that I should never have strayed from the brand, even for the Nikon.  Over the last year my Nikon photos got worse and worse but until I replaced my glasses late this year with a new pair I could not see how bad they had become.  The Nikon’s focus is badly out of calibration, something I put down to rough travel through the Kimberley.  I now have a nice padded Pelican case to keep my cameras secure and safe.

I am learning to drive the Sony step by step.  But I am mostly still in auto point-and-shoot mode. Even so, it does better than one might expect.    I bought it on recommendation of a Canadian bird watcher, photographer and blogger friend.  He warned me there would be a learning curve.  It is a sophisticated toy with a lot of features to master.  One thing it cannot do however, is infra red photography using the nightshot mode feature and IR filters which I enjoyed playing with using my old Sony 717 and 828.  I may resurrect my ancient 828 and dedicate it to that purpose if I can get the batteries to hold a charge.

I am also keen to investigate HDR more, using the real technique of bracketed exposures rather than the ersatz method of software manipulation.

So here I am in Halls Creek, house and dog sitting with a month of idle time that I must try to use creatively.  With five cameras at my disposal, counting the drone,  I hope to produce a few images worth looking at.  Here are a few practice shots;

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Wide angle shot with the Sony. The circle shows the location of the next.

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Shot at full 600ml Telephoto (cropped).

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Another full tele shot. 

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Lainie, the girl I am babysitting.  She has a broken leg.  

 

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The local Bowerbird in a Poinciana tree. 

And finally, a belated greetings card to everyone. Not my photo, but the same bird as above, at his home (via FaceBook).

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Bowerbird Christmas Greetings. Photo Credit: Debbie Dicks.  

Cat #34721

Cat #34721
Wedgetail Eagle and Powerline.
Digital media on Facebook by Michael McDonald.

The artist claims to be influenced by Rothko, but I am thinking there is a more subtle influence by, and not a little antipathetic reaction to, the more mathematically precise Mondrian. I am particularly impressed with McDonald’s refusal to be constrained by the edges of the page. The non parallelity of the power line is breathtaking in its artistic arrogance, while the obfuscatory placing of the eagle is nothing less than evidence of the artist’s superlative genius.

The metaphysical imagery is further enhanced when it is appreciated that due to parallax, the Eagle (A metaphor for the artist – or for mankind?) is actually soaring high above the power line and also is unconstrained.

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Photo Credit: Michael McDonald

 

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