Witnessed on Lake Guy Walking Track
The trees shed their bark all over the path like dander. Last night, a storm shook some yellow flowers from wattle trees onto the grass. Someone is floating on the lake in a banana boat. I am a ninja on a bench, drawing eucalyptus scent into my lungs. Kookaburra laugh overhead; perhaps the same one that sniggered outside my window this morning until I threw aside my covers and made an effort not to hibernate.
Fallen trees have wonderful cross-sections. Like exploded stars, sending out jagged tendrils. Like blackened amoeba, frozen in time; caught in the act of expansion.
A father and his two sons walk by. "I thought we said no dawdling!" says the father to his wife, lagging behind. She is in a pink track suit, examining the white snowdrops on the hill. In her right hand, she holds a clump of moss. She breaks into an exaggerated jog - all arm action and minimal velocity. "Just looking," she mumbles, giving me a comically pained look as she propels herself ponderously past. Into his arms.
The water in the stream, leading to the lake, is a deep green. Green like the mottled backs of frogs. Green like the leaves on the gum trees. Nature's colour-co-ordination; paint-matching service. Get the carpet to match the drapes.
Another family passes by. Two little girls. The mother, pretty in a floral skirt, says hi. The pre-teen daughter, in a halter-neck top, carries a boat - a strip of bark for its hull, a twig for a mast and a leaf for sails - in her palm. Nice leaf boat, I say. The mother smiles. The girl streams past in the way girls do, when strangers compliment them.
The sun, hanging like a murky pearl all afternoon, has sunk, marooning us up on these high plains. Somewhere above me, the kookaburra starts up its sardonic laugh. It is time to go back indoors.
Lunch With Bird
I walk down to the picnic ground, near where the Pretty Valley Creek meets the Rocky Valley Creek. The remains of fires, left behind by other picnickers from unidentified times, look like charred femur bones from afar; limbs bent at odd angles. Ghost gums rise on the opposite bank.
I sit cross-legged on a wooden picnic table, moss growing in its cracks, and open my plastic lunchbox. Pasta with roasted vegetable sauce. The currawongs follow me with interest. One flies down from the bare branches of a wattle tree and perches next to me. I cram big spirals in my mouth. The currawong is dressed in black, sleek and shiny feathers, a touch of tuxedo white on its tail. I am in my black parka, black sweat pants and black running shoes. Two burglars out in bright daylight.
The bird watches me eat. I ignore it. Currawongs shouldn't be eating wheat and gluten products anyway, I've been told. The bird flutters to the ground and chomps meaningfully into a pile of dead leaves. He stares at me accusingly with a few crackly brown leaves in its beak. Then he spits them out. Drama queen.
I finish my food and lick my spoon. We have both taken the black, this not-crow and I. There should be some kind of brotherhood, as per the Game of Thrones. He hops away and stands a few feet away, shooting me baleful looks from its yellow-rimmed eyes. In the background, the rivers boom over their rocks. The soundtrack to our little outback stand-off.
The currawong has given up. I have long since emphatically pressed the lid onto my empty food container. He has flown away, leaving me pecking words into my phone, as the rivers roar on.
Timo wears a work uniform striped in orange and blue. Ask what connection he has with Bogong Village and he says "None," at first, and then goes on to tell you about how he helped to put in all the roads and other infrastructure in the village over the years. He says he has a soft spot for the village and makes no effort to hide it.
He is a civil engineer. His favourite spot in the village is the dam. Junction Dam, with its hollow insides that you can walk through, its monolithic concrete exterior belying honeycomb mystery within.
As Timo talks, I study his profile. His cold-reddened cheeks and the wiry curls of his salt-and-pepper beard. We are on the deck of the Bogong Jacks tavern, now locked up and for lease.
Timo says he once stayed for twelve months in a cabin in the village. Every night, he opened his bedroom windows and listened to the sound of water. The ever-present sound of water that follows you about in this village, growing from soft to loud and back. From the past to the present, and back.