Life Noticings

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

I've been wanting to write a few little things lately, but just didn't feel confident about it. Today I've decided to just give it a go. People who know me, or who have read a lot of my book reviews, will know that I really love nature writing, particularly with a little bit of memoir mixed in. So I wanted to do a little of that myself. Ultimately I just want to put little every-day noticings in, because they make me feel happy and calm. I hope they might help you, too.

X and I had to move again this year. That's three years in a row now. A few weeks before we found out that we might have to move again, I noticed that a few flowers were coming up in our lawn - small yellow daisies, our typical dandelions that seem to just come up everywhere, and then the neon yellow flowers that I had always called sour grass. I remember walked home from school with my friends and occasionally picking one of these flowers and sucking on the stem - the sour taste was always bright and would make me smile and grimace at the same time. Looking it up, I found out that sour grass is just one of many names for this weed - amongst the others were soursop, African wood-sorrel, the Bermuda buttercup, and then the latin name: Oxalis pes-caprae. (Learning this kind of thing really makes me happy.) It has the name oxalis because it contains oxalic acid, which is what gives it the sour flavour that you get when you suck or chew on the stem. It's quite lovely to eat, as long as you don't eat huge quantities.

Looking out at our backyard, with its bottlebrush trees, bougainvillea, and huge grass tree, and seeing the lawn all filled out with bright yellow flowers, just made me smile. It also made me sad. I knew that X would have to mow the lawn soon, and all those flowers would be gone. Despite my exhaustion at the time, I decided to drag myself outside and just sit on the grass for a while. Lying on my back on the grass, using my jumper as a picnic blanket, the bees happily visited all the flowers around me. A lot of the flowers were just above my eye-height when lying down, and I felt so calm and happy watching their little bottoms wiggling as they dug in to find the pollen. The sun was so hot and yet it was still supposed to be winter in Australia, so there was something of a cutting breeze, as if the weather gods had decided to make a small attempt at being the right season.

A few days later, X mowed the lawn as required (we rent, and the inspections that we have here mean that we have to 'look after the garden and lawn', which generally means we need to mow it and not let weeds grow, despite the fact that weeds, or what we consider weeds, are so important for biodiversity and a great source of food for many insects, and thus birds. Ah well.), and all the flowers were gone. I had to admit that the mown lawn looked good, too, in a different way. Neat and fresh-smelling. And yet I was sad to not see the bees among all those bright flowers.

I needn't have worried, honestly, as I'd forgotten how tenacious these plants were. Within a few days, half of the flowers were back. Within a week, there was double the amount that I'd seen before. We basically had a field of flowers out the back. I really should have trusted that nature just... is. That sounds so cheesy! But it's also just so reassuring to me that nature finds a way.

I didn't really know at the time, but we soon found out that the owner of the property we were in at the time was going to be building another property on the back. There was a lot that happened with that, but ultimately we decided to move, rather than live directly next to a building site. We were lucky enough to be able to do so - for a while it looked like maybe it wouldn't be possible. But I seriously mourned our field of flowers and trees, before I realised that they weren't gone yet; we weren't gone yet. I spent more time outside before we moved, when I could. I particularly spent time watching the birds flit around - mostly New Holland Honeyeaters, Wattle birds, Singing Honeyeaters. Occasionally we would get some Rainbow Lorikeets, or some ravens, or I'd get to see some Magpies or Mudlarks pecking around in the lawn. We of course had our resident Willie Wagtail, who would see off any intruders that he deemed unworthy.

Shortly after we had moved (a long, drawn-out process), we returned to the property to look for a package that had gone astray. The demolition had already started - the entire side-gate had been ripped out, the garage was gone, the driveway ripped up. And out the back? Just sand. All the trees, all the flowers, all the grass - gone. It felt intense and alarming and I was deeply sad. I recognise that this sort of thing happens a lot, but I couldn't help feeling the absence of all the birds and the insects. I'm glad I was given a chance to say goodbye, but I still wish, just quietly, that I wouldn't have needed to.

part of our backyard, a few months after we had moved in.

1 comment:

  1. Reading, I felt so sad that this happened to you. Then I realised it happened to me too, but it affects me differently. Thank you for this glimpse into wonder and grief.


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