February 7, 2014
Coming in to the farm yesterday afternoon, the dusty paddocks, sparse trees and dried out creeks, the river still trickling but only just, were almost more than I could bear. I had hoped, beyond reason, and with no assistance from the weather bureau, that we would have had some significant rain. That we would drive in to a lush landscape. Lush is a description that confounds reality. Even the slime on the creekbed is dry, blackened and cracking. The bare hill reveals red bones of soil below dried-out roots of grass.
Driving in the second time, after yoga in town, it’s mercifully dark. But the afternoon’s images stay with me. I lie in bed doing the crossword, trying to distract myself with word games. It’s working, when I hear a noise outside. A noisy lapping, just outside the window. Is it rain, falling softly? Moving quietly to the dark bathroom, I look out. A small head with sharp triangular ears pops up from behind the water chestnut trough, and appears to look straight at me. I think calm thoughts towards it. The head disappears and the lapping starts again. This is where the water has been going – not in evaporation. We’re watering the local wallabies. The noise becomes slurping, loud and unbroken. It continues for longer than I can stand there, and I go back to bed, my spirits revived by the glimpse of those quivering ears, the sound of one wallaby lapping.
In the morning it’s still dry, but the view has become less desolate for me. A family of bluewrens hops through the remnants of the garden, calling, jumping, flitting, preening. They find the birdbath has been filled so they splash and fluff. The cows, high up the hill, take fright at something and gallop down to us. They stop outside the fence to butt and tangle their heads together, then run on. Their bellies wobble as they run, their feet kick up and their tails lag behind.
But in the late afternoon I hear, again, the crash of a tree in the forest. It’s the third time in as many weeks that I’ve heard that mighty splinter and fall. The trees are stressed; nature is shedding what it can.