I started writing these observations while ago when I was quite sick and spending a lot of my time lying on the ground, just watching the life on the forest floor. At first glance the bush out the back of my house is mainly full of rubbish and environmental weeds like gorse. I used to walk through without paying much attention. But from sitting out there for many an hour this year, I have come to realize it is far more surprising, diverse and full of life.
Here is to the details revealed from life in slowtown.
In the bush out the back, observations #1. Life.
I lie my body back on the ground, and press my bare feet up against the minute, bunched furrows in the bark of a native cherrry tree. Overhead, sprigs of its light-green, feathery foliage tumble down towards me. Cutting grass seed heads, tapering to impossible points nod and sway in the breeze near my face. A fantail dips and trills from the branches above.
Scattered on the ground are crunchy fragments of dead bracken fern, patches of matted, fibrous stringybark and the neat curls of discarded peppermint bark, delicately embroidered with the erratic patterns of insect scribbles. Lichens slowly colonize chipped slabs of mudstone. Thousands of snapped twig pieces have been confettied by time and wind over the soil, forming an inter-hatched carpet with the fallen leaves - all different, delicate surprises of fading color and decaying chlorophyll.
Shiny black bummed ants industriously scuttle, traversing the length of sticks, under and over leaf fragments, waving their antennae, patrolling, scavenging, dutifully investigating their territory of detritus. Slender sundews hold out their sticky, viscous traps, modified leaves, hopeful for juicy insect nutrients, some already digesting small bodies ensnared yesterday. A small orange mushroom has freshly headed its way up from the world of roots and mycelium beneath. A jumping spider, with its calculating beady black eyes, bravely takes a leap onto my chest, then springs away again.
A yellow eyed, sharp eyed currawong swoops to the ground and casually saunters along a fallen, ragged gum limb. Chest forward, wings folded back, swinging its tail as it walks, it cocks its head and levers its dexterous bill under a piece of bark, stabbing at and gulping down an excavated grub.
Wind rustles through the canopy of suspended gum leaves above.
I am here.
In the bush. Observations #2. Multidimensionality.
After rain. Piercing afternoon Sun. Warm air lifts from the damp forest floor into my nostrils. My foot is resting on the rough bark of a eucalyptus amygdalina and I've positioned my body to conform to the shade-shape of a native cherry. An ant scuttles its 6 legs hurriedly across the page.
Currawongs clackety clack as they chase each other above me, their wings loudly beating through the air, deftly swerving around the pillars of trees. There is the hum of a golden-winged insect swarm, encircling a tea tree in constant pulsing movement. A common froglet pumps out a consistent back and forth melody from the gully, creaking and croaking like a squeaky gate pushed and pulled, open and closed by an impatient kid. The gently bowing native currants radiate deep green, and little brown wrens hop jerkily through their prickly foliage, whirring and buzzing in serious, consternated conversation.
The seasons are changing. At eye height, clusters of vibrant golden pea flowers are transforming into sweet little downy pea-pods, on the ends of their wiry branches. Throughout the wet, fresh spring, new bracken ferns have been emerging from the ground, day by day unfurling so they now stand boldly upright with their stems arched backwards, showering in full cascades of sunlight.
Sometimes I lie here and just watch the movements of light and shade move in the breeze. The shuffling and swaying of the drooping native cherrytree fronds. The diamonds of sunlight glinting on the waxy eucalypt leaves. I imagine I'm a fish underwater, and this is my kelp forest. I could swim to the tops of the trees, encircle the trunks, drift amongst the branches, nestle in the leaves of the canopy to look out above the surface. Then I would dive deep back down again, to alight gently, and rest on the ground.