Nature is returning to deserted cities around the world. Meanwhile, down on the Pelorus Sound, she never really left, writes Allan Ramsay.
Mice have always been a big challenge in my struggle to live by Buddhist principles. Five of them are now very dead and minding their karmas elsewhere after being found in the kitchen volunteering as collateral damage in my latest battle for enlightenment.
And they are just the tip of the iceberg. As humans have been forced back into their boxes to contemplate their lives, the universe and everything else, the wildlife is making a bid for supremacy way beyond my kitchen.
A coyote was seen near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. In the UK, people have been getting excited about the appearance of sheep on traffic roundabouts and goats in a deserted playground. Mind you, those last two sightings have caused some head scratching round these parts – that would be pretty much business as usual here. If we had a roundabout.
Closer to home, on Great Barrier Island, a kiwi was filmed inspecting a DOC kitchen. A rare white tauhou (waxeye) was photographed in central Wellington. There’s plenty more. It’s all good to see.
Here in the Pelorus Sound, I’m not sure nature is doing anything all that different. She never quite left in the first place. Twice a day the tide goes in and out, part of the pertinent, daily reminder of our complete insignificance.
Across the water, starting at dusk and on into the night, as they do every autumn, virus or not, the stags have started to roar.
They’re giving each other that “come and have a go if you think yer ‘ard enuff” stuff that males like to do – usually ensuring they keep a good distance from each other. Their deerish insults conveyed in huffing, gravelly sounds, pitched at such a low, ground-level frequency that they give off no echo at all.
What was likely a rare New Zealand falcon dropped by the other night, too. It was hunting something visible only to itself on the front lawn, just three metres out from the deck. It slapped itself down on the grass for about two seconds, then clumsily staggered into the air, off through the ponga fronds and into the darkness. I think its prey was heavier than expected.
Then there was the seal that showed up in the shallows at the end of the garden during the big moon tides we’ve just had. Not that usual to find them this far up the sound, I’m told.
The chicks in the shag colony nesting in the bare trees just along the shore are well grown and about ready to fly. Now I’m just waiting for Sir David Attenborough to stick his head up through the harakeke down by the tomatoes.
And, of course, smugly waving its essential services letter granted by the PM, the Easter Bunny delivered chocolate eggs and hot cross buns. I have to confess I pass on this information as hearsay, as I didn’t actually see it. Then again, I would never blame the Bunny for moving fast, given the number of guns in the neighbourhood.
To cap it all off, on Wednesday afternoon there was a near miss when the moon shot past us only 357,042 kms away, the closest it gets in its orbit. Over the next few nights it put on quite the supermoon flounce and encore as it went by – a real “hey, look at me” moment. Talk about a drama queen.
Aside from the Easter Bunny bit, it all adds up to a thumbnail sketch of Gaia in action – the notion that everything on the planet is connected one way or another, that the planet itself might be alive. How we laughed when scientist James Lovelock first proposed the idea in the 1960s. Clearly some dippy hippy shit. It was also the theory that allowed the serious study of climate change. So we’re not laughing now.
Meanwhile, the piwakawaka are fluttering around, as they do, wittering on and inviting themselves into the house. As we work through week three of lockdown, it’s become perfectly acceptable behaviour for us three PoBs (People of the Bubble) to talk to them at length.
Football scores, hokey pokey versus cookies and cream, the nutrient value of horse versus goat manure, the deputy PM’s haircut, dressing left or right on a bike ride, capitalism versus communism, climate change versus Covid-19 – nothing is off the table.
So far, they’re not talking back.
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