Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The old grey

It's the end of summer. A grey morning of low cloud that may or may not lift, that may or may not rain, and probably not much if it does. It's Riddells in-between time, away from the heat of summer but not yet to the cold edge of winter. Walking out into Barrm Birrm, the undergrowth hasn't had the revitalising autumn rains that will plump up the groundcovers, and I can see through to the bones of the earth, and to the odd beer bottle or can that was hidden, now washed to surface.

I retrieve these artefacts as an archaeologist might, reconstructing a history of drinking habits in which beer in big bottles gives way to stubbies, then to mixers, then back to beer, but this time in long necks for the thrill of craft beer. I gather as I go, a habit of care, but what I've come for this pale morning is to see how a carcass is progressing.
I came across the roo three days ago, smelt him first, then found the body. The vital organs eaten out by an opportunistic fox, and belly a writhing surface of pale maggots, but haunches untouched. Stomach lying discarded beside the carcass. A fat tail, so I assumed an old male, and wondered if it was the last of the big fella who has been around the house the last two summers. He comes for the green pick and to drink from the bird bath. Every couple of days, he eats through the night and can still be there at dawn. He travels alone, sometimes camping out daytimes in the creek bed, in the soft sand and the shade of the mana gums.

When he first appeared, we were each wary of the other. Big-framed and slow moving, when I intruded on his safe zone, he would stand and consider  - is it was worth the effort of moving away from this human? When he did move, it was slowly, deliberately, a way of moving I understand as I get older. We figured out he was hard of hearing too, because sometimes people moving around the house and studio would almost run into him. Standing upright on his tail and look straight at you, he is a presence to be reckoned with, and though he would give way to me and move off if I insisted, I've taken to going back around the other way, whatever way that is, out of respect for age and his prior occupancy of the landscape.

We've become more at ease with each other this summer, and he grazes the front lawn while I sit at dusk on the veranda. If this is him, this big body down amongst the trees, I'll miss his company. But when I find again the place the body was, there's nothing much there. No rib cage, and no legs. Just tufts of fur. He's gone completely, in less than a week.

I walk on and home, thinking of a clean death, a fast return to the earth, the world and it's affairs closing over me as if I had never been there. A few days later, a slow grey presence moves quietly down the side of the house and settles in to eat. We have the last of the summer to enjoy.