Written 21September, 2020
She had a choice of the spare room where K sleeps,which i scurried around vacuuming, or the cabin, reverberating with the lapping of high tide- but I didn’t vacuum it. She didn’t care about the dust- whoever did I think she would? She chose the cabin.She brought cakes, and over tea, the terror of a visitor condemning me for my poor housework, even a believed friend, left me. I was ashamed that knowing her well, I’d let my old fears overwhelm me. Goodness, crippled by the fear, i almost made her wait on the ferry while I scrubbed the bathtub! Thank goodness I didn’t allow myself to do that.
Her first bush walk, a track that slopes up gently between the last two houses, is flat and almost like a stroll for a while, with a tobacco tree forest on one side, and a forest of Grass Trees on the other. I grew up calling them Black Boys, I suppose because they could look like a figure holding a spear. But over the years, the name seemed racist. Their official name is Xanthorhoea, but when you live with them, they’re just Grass Trees.
Suddenly, the path comes to two gum trees close together like crossed fingers, and that’s the landmark to turn to the right and climb to the cliff, a steep slope where your only choice is to almost double up and throw your weight forward, up sheer rocks. But at the top, spring has brought out an orchard of pink wild flowers – eriostemon. I walk under their bowers.
I’m not panting! We sit in silence for almost an hour. Then I sneak away quietly and make sure i can find the way down. I want to have it all in hand. Why? I want her to be unafraid, to love this place. I’ve had too many friends who cannot see its beauty, and that’s so disappointing, not to be able to share it with them.
There’s a racket in a gum tree. Two magpies are frightening away a goanna, only a baby but as dangerous to magpie eggs as its parents.
They may be mates. Dy say you can tell the male because he has a moustache on either side of his beak. I’ll look closely next time.
Picture this: it’s night, we’re on the end of the jetty, watching the black waves rise and catch the moonlight before subsiding, and we’re listening to the odd night bird making jagged lines in the peace. In front of us looms nearby a headland of untamed National Park- you know that headland, it’s been in most of the pictures. Withyour eye travelling left, after the nearby headland, there’s a small space of open water, then an island, then, further back, another headline, further forward, and to the right, another headland. We’ve been on the jetty for maybe an hour, wide-awake, our eyes out on sticks, our ears out on sticks, hardly speaking, held in a trance by the stillness and the lapping and the velvety tent-like blackness around us – and there comes a most unexpected sound from the nearer headland across the creek. We turn to each other, and say together, our voices strangely loud after such silence:
That was a goat.
We fall silent, listen, watch, wait again.
We say together:
That was a cow.
Later when we tell this to laughing neighbours, we all come up with two theories:
That it was a lyrebird, who, as you know, can imitate even a chain saw.
That many generations ago, a goat and a cow escaped from the farm that used to proper further upstream, a farm that was once a major supplier of Sydney’s oranges.
But tonight, we leave the jetty near midnight, me to the house and R to the cabin, so astounded by a goat and a cow in the wilderness, that we can barely speak.