I lose all sense of time in the garden, and then I lose myself. It’s a common enough experience among gardeners. After the first flurry of harvesting, tying back overgrown tomatoes and moving hoses about, observing life’s cycle from seed to flower to fruit then back to seed, and all the while conscious of my own aging body as it bends and complains within this bounteous space, another state emerges. My pragmatic self surrenders to a semi- conscious meditation on the essence of being. Through silent awareness and invisibility, the sounds and signals of earth- primordial, spiritual, supreme- reinforce the idea of Anattā, that Buddhist concept of non-being.
It begins with a chive flower waving in the gentle breeze, now taller than the blanketing pumpkin leaves, insisting on more light. The delicate white coriander flowers belie the true pungency of their leaves, roots and seeds. Things are not what they seem. Then a strange bird call punctures the silence. High pitched like a creaking table, the sound is urgent but not bleak. I look up and see a flash of yellow underneath a broad wing span of black. It’s the yellow -tailed black cockatoo, an infrequent visitor to these lightly wooded lands. Now one, now two more, followed by a train of rasping sound, they are on their way to a distant pine tree. Word is out that the nuts are ready to strip. The guard cocky stands alert, signalling from the highest branch, a two-dimensional black stencil, a wayang puppet, an inked picture outlined in the early morning sky.
The bluest of blue of the radicchio flower is a call to the bees. I can never find the word for this blue: constructs such as Cobalt or Persian or Cornflower might have to do. And the little gem of a beetle, friend or foe, travels across a furry field that is an eggplant leaf. The mauve and white bean flowers peep from the darkness of their leafy canopy, an arrangement, a posy, a boutoniere. The beans can wait.
I’m supposed to be packing for a short road trip, making some biscuits and treats for the journey and generally getting organised. But there are a few distracting characters at my back door and kitchen window dropping in for a chat. How did these Birdie Num Nums become my new best friends? They stand on the outside ledge of the kitchen window and watch me wash up, then follow me around the house. Mr T walks to the garden: they fly by his shoulder and sing good morning in his ear. They sit in the nearest Melia tree, like sparkling red and green Christmas baubles, singing or chatting to each other or to us. Sometimes they ask for a handout of sunflower seeds: mostly they are just looking, thankyou.
washing basket and num nums
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King Parrot at my kitchen window.
Strictly speaking, the title of Num Nums is reserved for the visiting gregarious King Parrots. We have many other visitors to our veranda. The loud, raucous hoodlums of the bush, the Sulphur- Crested Cockatoos are welcome if they behave themselves. I noticed a couple of Cockies grooming each other the other day and as I got closer, I became convinced that one was applying special Cocky gel to the other one’s yellow crest.
This well-behaved lone Cocky, looking like some lovely white garden prop, was an early morning visitor.
There are other less frequent visitors: Crimson Rosellas, Corellas, Galahs, Kookaburras, wild Wood ducks, Wattle birds with their scratchy, ex- smokers chatter, the mysterious lone Sacred Heron ( always too shy for a photo) and the smaller hovering honey eating birds, the Eastern Spinebill and the New Holland Honey eater, always in a flutter.
These characters come to remind me about the country life I love, as I toy with the idea of a move to the city. Thank you Birdie Num Nums and Friends.
I include the link below to a wonderful fragment of an old Peter Sellers film, The Party, which may help to explain the title of this post to those who haven’t had the joy of seeing this film before.
Healesville Sanctuary is a not-for-profit conservation organisation in the countryside of Victoria, Australia. It is dedicated to fighting Australian wildlife extinction. The programme includes breeding endangered species then returning them to the Australian bush, and rehabilitating injured wildlife. Visitors from Australia and overseas enjoy a day at this extraordinary zoo.
Recently we took Alberto, from Pavia Italy, to the Healesville Sanctuary after watching the film Healing. We mainly went to see the Birds of Prey show, hoping to have a close encounter with a Wedge Tailed Eagle, ruler of the sky. Along the way we enjoyed visiting these vividly coloured Lorikeets and Rosellas.