Thursday, June 11, 2009

Night life

The heavy thump of a possum jumping onto the corrugated-iron roof & then the sound of it running across it has become a regular night event again. We had the tree branches cut back a couple of years ago to stop them from brushing on the roof, but they've grown enough in the intervening period of time to make the leap possible. The thump is the new thing; before, the possums would just step from branch to roof. & because we have trees close to the house on only two sides, the possum's method of getting off the roof remains the same—they climb along the power line & either climb down the pole it's attached to or along the line that leads to the house next door.

They're beautiful creatures. The ones that visit our property have soft grey fur. Often their young will follow them nose to tail or, if they're very young, cling to their mother's back. That they're marsupials, closely related to kangaroos & wallabies, is most evident when you see them sitting on their haunches & they replicate the profile of a little kangaroo.

(They would not be described as beautiful in New Zealand, however. They were introduced there from Australia in the hopes of creating a fur industry. Instead, ran wild, proliferated. & because they are vectors for tuberculosis, have the potential to wipe out the dairy industry that dominates New Zealand's economy.)

The other visitor last night is not so common; or, at least, not usually so up close & personal. At this time of year, the macadamias that have grown in places unable to be reached fall to the ground & I gather them up when I find them & leave them on the table in the outside area beneath the house. After a couple of days, their soft covering splits & can be removed to leave the nut.

I'd gone outside about midnight for my last cigarette before going to bed, saw a couple of macadamias had split open, removed the skin & went & dropped the pieces into the garbage bin. Caught sight of a shape at the periphery of my vision, turned towards it, & there was an owl sitting at the end of one of the spokes of our rotary clothesline, only a couple of metres away, yellow eyes watching me from above its hooked beak. It was a southern boobook, a bird that's also found in New Zealand where it's known as a mopoke or morepork after its call. & it's usually the call that catches your attention, that lets you know they're there.

This one had been silent, had been hidden from view by the trellis that separates the area where I sit from the back yard. If it hadn't been for putting the macadamia detritus in the bin, I would never have known it was there. I stayed there watching it watching me, had another cigarette, then broke off the eyeballs at two paces confrontation & went off to shower & then to bed.

With some trepidation, I must admit. I'd read a book recently that described the owl as an avatar of death, so it's with some relief that I find myself sitting here writing this with the sun streaming in my study window.


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