A Sense of Place

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Cassowary walking down our road

I said before I live at the end of the road and it’s where I write but I didn’t give you much of a sense of place. It’s something that came to mind this morning as I lay in bed listening to the howl of dingoes hunting in the pre-dawn. Their sound makes me shiver as I think of what it must have been like before people lived in the safety of modern houses. After all Dingoes are a sub species of the grey wolf. I am glad I live in this modern age and that my hens are secure in their house.

It’s a funny thing of which to be afraid, considering I grew up in Africa where I never feared the animals. We would camp under canvas at Mana Pools. Sitting every night at the tent flap, we’d watch lions and elephants and the occasional leopard and scores of different antelope and giraffes and wart hogs and others. We camped next to a game trail and night after night, the game filed by, kicking up small spurts of dust as they ghosted through thorn scrub to drink at the pools of the Zambesi River.

I loved the smell of the African bush and the sounds of hippos, imagining them laughing at smutty jokes as they bounced up from the river bed. But I was very young then and like so many other young people, hadn’t developed fear of this kind, only of the social kind.

Now I get out of bed and step across French doors looking out over a valley flooded with the light of the setting full moon. An inch of rain fell the day before, turning the wheat coloured hills green overnight and cleaning the air to a crisp. The rain forested slopes and valleys roll away to the river that runs through the middle of our place, rushing towards a waterfall plunging thirty meters into a gorge. I can hear it thunder now.

As I stare into the growing dawn the peaked silhouette of Mount Bartle Frere comes into view, dark along the eastern horizon. It’s the highest mountain in Queensland. It elevation 1,622 metres. I give thanks that MP Bob Katter’s plan to place a giant illuminated cross at its peak was never taken seriously.

The dingoes howl again and I hope the tree kangaroos and cassowaries are safe but I guess everything has to eat. The animals in this part of the world are shy creatures and have large territories. There are so many raptors, along with the dingoes and at least a few quoll that for them to survive, there must be plenty of small game hidden in the forests.

The birds begin their dawn chorus, the chowchilla burble as currawongs let lose their mournful call, whip birds crack as cat birds rasp. In the valley, orange-legged megapod screech and on the lawn, Bush Turkeys vie for leftover chicken grain, their ominous ‘omps’ resounding in their chests. They are lucky Australians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. I turn away to dress and begin another day.

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