3 February 2015
The morning sky is that lighter blue that says, enticingly, daringly, ‘autumn’. At the farm on the weekend the days had lost their burning heat and the nights were cold enough to push us indoors for dinner. We woke up on Sunday morning to a light mist over the hills, creeping down behind each tree to silhouette it briefly before devouring it.
Even Sydney has sky and weather. Sydney where a mother raised on Sesame Street sings to her daughter as they ride their matching scooters down the street. Where women give the man with a baby strapped to his chest admiring looks when he walks into the coffee shop. Where the two middle-aged men at the table next to me earnestly discuss whether single-breasted or double-breasted suits are currently in fashion. I switch off from their conversation to concentrate on my coffee-shop reading matter, a paper on BMAD (Bell miner associated dieback). BMAD is the source of some discussion at the farm, and puts a sour note into the beautiful call of the bellbirds (otherwise known as bell miners). Bellbirds have come a long way since they were Henry Kendall’s ‘silver-voiced birds, the darlings of daytime!’. They are now being blamed for facilitating infestations of psyllids (tiny sap-sucking insects) that feed on certain eucalypts and cause dieback, where the leaves are stripped from the canopy and the tree often dies. A further connection has been made with lantana around the base of the tree, as a nesting site for the bellbirds. The simplistic response has been that getting rid of the lantana will remove the bellbirds and therefore save the trees. But, as with anything in nature, it seems the solution is not that simple, because the cause is not that simple. The paper’s summary concludes that ‘there is a complexity of connections and interactions, many of which have yet to be deciphered.’
I leave the coffee shop and wander into Ming On Trading across the road. We’ve only ever bought chicken cages (round domes that we use to protect our vegetables from the wallabies) from Ming On, but today I go upstairs to a world of ribbon and trims, boxes overflowing with strings of sewn strawberries and fake fur. Two women speak rapid Chinese to each other, interspersing their conversation with the occasional English words – ‘sample invoice’, ‘ring downstairs’. It’s like a song I can’t quite get, their voices rising and falling and flowing, then stopped by harsh English syllables. Back outside a woman wearing a black hijab stops on the footpath to embrace her little girl who jumps and points into the sky, calling out excitedly, ‘An aeroplane!’. We exchange a smile at the joy of discovery. What a complexity of connections and interactions yet to be deciphered!