Paying attention

Since I left the workforce three weeks ago and returned from our sojourn in Daylesford, I have been taking time each day to sit in a park near my home and watch the birds.

I was inspired to start doing this by my girlfriend, Mel, who has been saying for months that she wants to find a sit spot and start a daily practice. Leaving work has allowed me sink into a different way of being where things like rising early to sit in a park seem like a perfectly sensible way to start the day.

Even in these short weeks I am astounded at how much I have learned just by looking and being aware. I love birds, I am in the habit of paying attention to them, I know the names of most of the common birds in my neighbourhood but there is so much I was missing.

One of my early ‘discoveries’ was a particular bird song that I admired. I initially thought this song belonged to the noisy mynah. I was hearing the call all over the place so I figured it must be a very common bird. I caught a glimpse of a grey bird flying out of the place where I’d heard the sound a moment earlier. I was pretty certain but I kept my eyes open for confirmation.

The next day I had an encounter with a butcher bird, I was pleased to see it because I had thought butcher birds were rare in the suburbs outside large regeneration areas. It sat in a small tree just near my sit spot. As I watched it lifted its beak and song rang out, the same song I had erroneously attributed to the noisy mynah.

This encounter shocked me. Not only did I discover that butcher birds possess a beautiful, melodic call but that far from being rare they are all over the place. There are a pair of butcher birds nesting near my sit spot so I have had the pleasure of observing them almost daily.

It worries me that I have failed to notice their entire species all this time. I suspect it is because there are a handful of birds that are known to me such as rosellas, magpies, magpie larks, mynahs, wattyl birds, ravens, or lorikeets. Viewed from below the butcher bird’s grey breast resembles a mynah, from above its black and white back resembles a magpie lark. I can only assume that I have been seeing what I expected to see rather than noticing the specifics of what is there.

What a wonderful lesson in humility.

In October Mel and I are travelling to northern NSW to learn from nature awareness mentor, Jon Young. One of the workshops is about bird language, understanding the pattern of bird interactions and calls as a gateway into understanding what’s going on in the more-than-human world around us. I can’t wait to learn some frameworks to deepen my understanding of what my local birds are saying to each other.

We are running a crowdfunding campaign to help us get up there and share what we learn afterwards, we’d love to have you join us – http://startsomegood.com/urbannatureawareness

 

Sherbrooke Yatra

Sunday was a big day of protests against our government’s woeful response to climate change. They are actually planning to dismantle measures put in place by the previous government. The loss of the carbon price seems inevitable and yet 60,000 people across the country turned out to protest their intention to repeal it.

I showed my support by participating in a Yatra in Sherbrooke forest above Belgrave. We walked about 7km (the Grants picnic ground loop if you know the area) in silence interspersed with readings and deep ecology exercises from Joanna Macy.
Photographer by a tree

It was a lovely way to do deep ecology, dwarfed by the mountain ash forest and held by it as we walked in silent solidarity.  I was so quickly embraced by the little group although I’d only just met most of them.  I guess you don’t show up for something like that unless you have a particular spiritual bent and it’s a pretty deep place to start from.

It’s reassuring to see the diversity of people who are engaged with deep ecology.  I look forward to the day when Yatras become like 5rhythms and you can be sure there’s one happening somewhere every weekend. We’re building what we need to sustain ourselves not just in environmental activism but in life.

Rewild challenge: day 6

The rewild your life challenge got off to a good start but illness kept me indoors through the middle of the week. My ‘half hour in nature’ involved lying in a hammock staring at the tree in our front yard, to be fair the tree in question is magnificent and is home to a pair of red wattlebirds. Continue reading