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Mirror

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                    you will greet yourself arriving                     at your own door …                                                        Derek Walcott Blackbirds chase on the roof above my head (I know the sound of their feet). Three males, beautiful in their glossy black, their daffodil-yellow beaks, are fighting for territory already. They face off, but don’t yet sing. One picks something up and drops it, picks it up and drops it – a snail? A stick? A small stone? Birds everywhere, their calls clear in the cool air that pools overnight now above the river, topped by a warm layer that bounces back all the sounds generated beneath it – vehicles on the road across the valley, conversations, dogs barking, geese sounding an alarm somewhere. The same cool air presses the river flat till it holds a reflection of every leaf of every tree along its edge; kayakers drift on its lambent surface, doubled, inverted. In the space of a couple of weeks, both T and I find eagle feathers, and

Incantation

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What do oceans talk about, or trees? What do predators and prey shout to each other in the night? What name does the doe give the fawn as it lies in the grass catching its breath?                                                                       Rachel Boughton, ‘The Stone Woman Gives Birth’ Picking apples – they’re small and hard this year after a dry summer, the unthinned fruit bunched together, tart-sweet, but the seeds of the mid-season varieties are dark now and the birds and animals have begun to eat. Parrots and silvereyes and yellow wattlebirds and possums in the branches, pademelons and swans on the ground. We leave some for all of them. There are still blackberries on the bushes but not for much longer. I cook both sweet and savoury dishes with the apple-blackberry combination. High clear cool days as the sun angles lower, the air golden, marvellous to taste and full of the whistling of starling flocks. Another of the young swans has died – only one left now, of the four

Towards

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                            Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.                            Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us. Just on dusk the three-day moon, a thin orange slice, soft neon, balances on its tip and goes down behind the range to the southwest. Last light passes into the glow of an aurora, pale green at the horizon, dusky red above. Subtle pulses run through it.  Days of heat with streamers of cloud from the northwest that bring no rain; long grasses bleach and turn brittle. Near where I water the little lemon tree, jasmine puts out innumerable small green hands from the places where I pruned it earlier. Sound of bumblebees in the flowering comfrey. White butterflies – preparing to lay their eggs on the winter vegetables! – crowd the purple flowers of horehound that’s seeded itself in the pavement by the door. Nights continue mercifully cool. I spend weeks swallowed up, following events as they unfol

Company

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         I risk to write nonsense these days.          Just write down what you find.          I’ll never know what I’ve found.                                              John Berger, Here Is Where We Meet 237 New moon at the beginning of the month – a sliver of brightness between clouds in the western sky as summer dusk comes in. As part of the rhythm of things I bring water, flowers, candles to acknowledge the ancestors – those as remote as the stars from which we are all descended, and closer in, those of the ground itself and the creatures on whom we depend, and ranged around the walls, those of my human lineage, whose images soften and lean forward in the moving light. An immense curl of cloud, the remains of a cyclone, drifts down across the island from the Coral Sea. Air turns to steam, mist comes right inside and at night, little frogs congregate on the sweating pavement of the verandah to catch insects attracted to the houselights. When warm damp meets a cold stream from th

Offerings

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                        all through the fabric of this place                         those who have lived and died here                         from the beginning I dream that I dig up two unbroken pieces of glazed pottery that are part of a household altar to the ancestors. They’re separately fired in the same five-sided shape and decorated with slightly fuzzy prints of people and landscapes like the fragments of 19th century crockery – broken dinner plates, teapots, cups – that turn up around the farm in the stump holes and pits dug for long-drop toilets that were used as rubbish dumps at that time. I keep finding more pieces of the altar and as I do, its overall design becomes apparent – the five-sided pieces are part of the base for a central column with niches for photographs, candles and other offerings.  Summer comes. After all the rain, a thick pelt of flowering grasses and herbs and clover ripples green, greengold on the hillsides, before some of it falls, silvergreen, in swat

Notes

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                 Each day, each night                  the place sings everything in The swans bring out four young ones. Like many birds, they don’t start incubating until their whole clutch of eggs has been laid, so all the cygnets hatch over the course of a few hours. By next morning, they’re clambering down the sides of the nest into the water and are soon out swimming, with one parent leading and the other bringing up the rear, talking quietly to the chicks and each other in their fluting-honking woodwind voices. The convoy circumnavigates the dam and later the paddock where the adults graze. From time to time as the young ones tire, they climb aboard a parent and disappear under its feathers. The following day the whole family is out again early. J, whose house is by the dam, reports seeing one of the cygnets riding on top of the cob’s back, facing forward between the sweep of his wings like a princeling in a carriage.  The day after that, they’re gone. No sign or sound of distur

Complete

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                           this life whole under my hands T found a raven’s nest upended on the track under tall trees – a marvellous springy cradle of interlocking eucalypt and coprosma twigs. Newly or perhaps partly completed and certainly unused, with just a couple of grey underfeathers caught in the clean fine grass of its lining, it must have blown from a fork in the canopy during one of the storms we’ve had. I think of the life that begins in a nest such as this, up in the whipping sway. The ravens are furiously watchful just now, flying sorties high and fast to get above – and so gain tactical advantage over – the eagles whose hunting territory this is, and who pass over the ravens’ nest sites. Drawn-out aoouuourrr aarruuooor  alarm calls sound throughout the days. The eagles respond by beating away out of range with something close to haste, occasionally turning talons-upward to warn off pairs of dive-bombing birds. I’ve never seen an eagle hunt a raven or go near a nest but th