31 October, 2021
Day 31 of Writing Nangak Tamboree.
Back at the edge of the Sports Field Lake. I’ve been coming here to Nangak Tamboree to write now for an entire month. I didn’t know, at the start, how or even if it would work out. By about day three I decided I’d made a terrible mistake. But then I settled into a rhythm.
It hasn’t always been easy. This month of writing coincided with an extremely stressful and far too busy time, so some days I’ve resented having to come here and other days my visits have been far too brief. Some days I’d think in advance about where to go (like walking the moat or visiting the Wildlife Sanctuary) and even a topic to think about (like the sculptures), but most of the time I simply wander off and see what happens.
I’ve seen and spoken to people working hard and thinking deeply about this place and how to work with it to make it more open for more people, and safer and healthier for more creatures and more local plantlife. I’ve watched the many ways people and wildlife use it already.
In this month, the acacia and melaleuca bloomed and faded, tadpoles hatched, nests are full of fledglings, and the wallaby grass is throwing up seed heads. Of course, the weeds and introduced grasses are shooting up everywhere too. It’s going to take years to manage this area of Nangak Tamboree into a revegetated, welcoming space. If the work already done around the Gresswell Ponds, Fozzie’s Waterhole, and along the moat is any indication, it’s in good horticultural hands, along with the wisdom and energy of the Narrap Rangers. Other parts of the Nangak Tamboree project may not seem quite so glamorous, like digging holes in the car parks to install reed beds for storm water drainage, but it’s specialist work, and all for the greater good. Cleaner waterways make for happier turtles.
I’ve learned a great deal in this last month: how to identify different ducks (although I still can’t tell one pigeon from another); about flax lilies and fairy wrens and darters; about storm water courses and aquatic plants; and about walking and stillness. I can tell wallaby and kangaroo grass apart (I think), and all this bird-spotting has rekindled a childhood love. My camera failed early on so I’ve had to use my phone, and its inadequacy in the zoom department has spurred me on to think about the kinds of photos I want to take when we’re back out in the world (and order a new camera).
I’ve learned a little about the recent history of the area, which I’ll continue to research. I’ve learned that I have too many projects at once and need to calm the fuck down, which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me – several of whom have been telling me that for years. On the other hand, if you teach at a university, you are meant to have a lot on. And on yet another hand, which is exactly what I need, everything is so fascinating and I have ideas bouncing around in my head all the time.
But I hope I don’t lose the slowness of walking and writing practice. And slow reading, for that matter. This month I’ve also been slowly rereading War and Peace, my favourite book, as part of #TolstoyTogether, a global shared lockdown reading project. I tried it last year and then got so carried away with the story I raced ahead. Typical. This year I am trying very hard to only read the day’s allotted chapters. (We’re up to 1812, and the war is heading towards Bald Hills – this is the real test of my commitment.)
So here we are at the end of the month and the end of lockdown. I can walk here today without a mask. Everyone says we’ll soon be back to normal. (By that, I don’t even mean the idea of ‘COVID-normal’ embraced by politicians.) But we won’t or at least we shouldn’t. Because we know and see the world differently now. Instead of getting back to normal, let’s remember the small pleasures and daily lessons of hyperlocal living.
Today, a cormorant drying its wings on one log, a darter on another. Little lorikeets hopping along a branch. The drum band at their rehearsal in the bush. An ant crawling across the page of my notebook. The water glittering in the setting sun. The breeze rippling the lake. Corella cries. Spring warmth.