The low down


Walking through the gasworks of an evening I’m often exasperated at how many rabbits I see and that Jambo doesn’t. Nose to the ground, he’s so involved in scenting them out that he doesn’t look up to see them scampering past not ten feet away. It put me in mind of the Metamorphoses, Ovid’s 2,000-year-old collection of poems about greedy, brutish humans and the wrathful, vengeful gods who punish their transgressions by turning them into trees or fish or spiders or whatever is deemed suitable.

Last year I read¬†Ted Hughes’s translation (or, really, rewriting) of the poems, Tales from Ovid, which is absolutely brilliant. Acteon, returning from a hunt, stumbles across Diana bathing naked in a pool. She’s so furious that she turns him into a stag; when he leaves the pool his hunting companions see him and hunt him to the death. You get the idea. There was another (but I can’t remember the name) about a person who is turned into a dog and the description of this stupid mortal transmogrifying from two legs to four, being condemned to forever viewing the world from low down, is a perfect account of Jambo and my contrasting world views. I tried getting low down this week to see his world.

The lorikeets have been stripping a mandarin tree near the creek, tearing open the unripe fruit then discarding them as though disappointed to find them too tart and bitter, then moving on to the next one.

Richardson Park has been home to a large flock of ibis (Australian white and straw necked) this week, stalking around the fig trees and probing the thick mulch.

But find of the week was this long-necked turtle down by the beck. I think he must have journeyed ¬†from way up towards Kotara, where it’s more turtle-friendly. He was struggling here, occasionally plopping back into the water (when he thought I’d gone) and trying to swim, without much success, against the current.

There’s always something pleasurable about seeing an unexpected creature or thing down the creek. There are places in Newcastle where you can see dozens of turtles but one, here, is special, like the occasional dotterels or bitterns that I see further downstream.

I hope he doesn’t end up as cormorant fodder. But, then, that’s nature. Like Ovid’s gods, nature doesn’t muck about.

This morning, a strange new type of ball came bobbing down the beck. It’s bright orange and looks like a golf ball, with a hard plastic skin. Not very bouncy and is about the size of tennis ball. It had the word “UNI” scrawled in Texta on the outside. I’m probably typical of most men in that I’ll watch almost anything on TV that involves other men chasing a ball around, but I’ve never seen a ball like this before. What is it for?