5 August 2015
A friend stayed with us on Friday night. She arrived in the dark, driving cautiously along narrow gravel roads, aware of cows standing in the fields like rocks. After the tour of the house, where we point out its thermal efficiency, its water efficiency, its high ceilings and pretty tiles, we sat in front of the fire watching the deep orange embers form. We talked about difficult work colleagues. People are people she concluded, summing up an entire understanding of the inescapability of human frailty. People are people, I agreed, but some people are peopler than others.

In the morning she came out to the kitchen, startled by the light, the vistas, the beauty that she had woken up to. She loved the bare hill and the forested hills, she loved the siting of the house, facing the forest, poised on the corner of the valley. She loved the winter sun pouring in, heating the cement floor, bringing all those theories of thermal efficiency to life.

After she left I went to feed the chooks. I was a bit late and the bossy one was cranky, strutting, head high. As I was tipping the kitchen scraps onto the ground I saw, out of the corner of my eye, that she had risen up, wings spread wide, ready to attack me. I turned and, balletically, kicked out towards her. As I swung I felt a stillness around me. The butcher bird, above us in the dying tree, threw each pure, perfect, formed note of its song out into the clear, crisp morning air. The toe of my boot met the chook’s exposed chest. She retired to the corner of the pen, cluckily indignant, offended. People might be people, but chooks are chooks.