Monday, January 5, 2015

My Daily Laugh

One of the most wonderful parts of my daily life here in Australia is the nature and wildlife that surround me. Not just the adventures away from my house, but the everyday relationship I have developed in my own back yard. For instance, just now as I was about to sit down at my desk and start to write, I looked up and out as a flash of something caught my eye and was thrilled to see a fairly large Kookaburra glide through and land on the Hills Hoist. Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with a "Hills Hoist", here in Queensland that is what they call a clothesline that spins around on a central pole. In Nova Scotia, in Canada, they call them Whirligigs. This is actually the first time in my life that I have had one in my backyard. 

As a child, my mother had a T-clothesline until we got a new washer and dryer when I was about 8 years old. Prior to that big advance in our domestic technology, she washed our clothes in a ringer washer and hung them to dry. I will never forget my awe when the temperature would dip below freezing before she would get the clothes off the line and they would be frozen stiff as boards, taken down and brought inside to dry on racks by the gas furnace or near the stove in the kitchen. I can still recall the smell of damp as they thawed. However, back to the Kookaburras. They love the Hills Hoist. They seem unperturbed when a breeze causes it to spin slowly, which is good news for me, as I then get to observe them from various angles, not unlike, chickens on a rotisserie. 

For some reason, this morning, they allowed me to get closer than I have ever been to them before. I spoke softly to them the whole time and just kept taking careful, slow steps until I actually got closer than I actually felt comfortable. It was as though they were completely unafraid of me and I was now afraid of them. They are, as you can see, a fairly large bird and their beaks are formidable. I have never heard of it, but should one of them ever decide I was a threat, a peck from one of them would no doubt cause some pain. So, I stopped and just talked to them for a moment or two, snapped a few shots with my phone and turned and headed back inside. They remained for a time until there was seemingly nothing more to hunt on my patio and it became clear that I was not going to feed them. I do feed the parrots as they eat a wild bird seed mixture that I buy in bulk from the local farm supply here, but the Kookaburras and a few of the other birds, like the Butcher birds and Magpies prefer their meals to be more meaty. 

My neighbour feeds them ground mince, but I have read that is not really healthy for them, so I refrain. Sometimes, I think they come and sit on my clothesline thinking they may be able to get a free meal from me. I must be a disappointment to them. They do seem to find beetles and worms and other squiggly, flying insects at my place though, so it isn't all bad here. I just love them. They have such a majestic air about them. They seem royal to me. They are also such a gorgeous colour combination of browns, greys and cream and black with that bit of robin's egg blue...they would have fit in perfectly with that colour palette that was so popular for so long in interior design in the last decade. 

When I first arrived here, it came as a surprise to me that so many people hung their clothes out to dry. In recent decades in some parts of Canada, backyard clotheslines were banned as crazy as that may sound. It had become what some folks deemed an eyesore. Only poor people hung clothes to dry outside. That perception developed around the time indoor clothes dryers became popular and initially only the well to do could afford them. Those same people did not want to have to look at their less than affluent neighbour's laundry flapping in the wind next door, so bans were put in place all over Canada. In fact, it was only in 2008, that Ontario lifted the bans as more and more people wanted to save energy and money by hanging their laundry outside. It has become a domestic ritual I have actually embraced here. Sure, there are times when it is not exactly convenient, but I like the way the clothes smell of fresh air afterwards. I do not even own a dryer. I had planned to buy one when I got my new washer, but thought I would wait and see if I really wanted or needed one, and turns out, I am fine without one. I suppose if I had kids, I would feel differently, but with just two of us, I manage to live without one.

But, once again, I have digressed. Back to the kings of the bush. They alone are reason to own a Hills Hoist. In fact, all the birds seem to perch on it at one time or another and as it is in clear view from all the windows at the back of my house, it is like having an outdoor bird sanctuary all the time. Believe it or not, I have not experienced a single bird pooping on my laundry either. Perhaps they only really enjoy sitting on it when it is empty. At first, I thought it might become a problem, but so far they have only once had an "accident" on a piece of clothing. So, not a big deal. Maybe it is karma. I keep most of them fed, and they repay me by finding another place to crap. For this, I am grateful.

In Canada, it was always exciting to see a Cardinal. No matter how many times I spotted them, it was always a thrill to see their vibrant red against the green leaves of summer or especially against a snow-covered evergreen bough. Here in Australia, I now get the same kick from the Kookaburras. They are part of the Kingfisher family and this particular species was once known as the Laughing Jackass or Giant Kingfisher. They wake me early every morning with their laughing. They can be counted on like a rooster at the crack of dawn, in fact, even a bit earlier than that...usually around 4 am. I have grown to appreciate their wake-up call. They don't annoy me like crows or roosters for that matter. They greet me in the morning and they say good night just after dusk. They are a constant reminder that I am "not in Kansas anymore".

 I know. Let's declare Kookaburras to be the new Owls in home decor. You read it here first people! 

Who's in?

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