Things I like about Sydney No. 17: the owl at night and the skull in the rock.
I haven't been sleeping very well lately. Not only do I find it difficult to get to sleep upon retiring but I also wake early to the sounds of kookaburras cackling and magpies hooting. There might be little or no traffic noise audible here in our shack but that dawn chorus sure is loud.
The other night I read a biography of Rock Hudson figuring that it might help send me to sleep. Instead I stayed up until two in the morning finishing the bloody thing. Poor Rock. Having magnificently managed to manipulate the press for all of his illustrious career, persuading both them and the general public that he was in real life the 'full-blooded' heterosexual male he portrayed in countless movies, it all went tits up right at the end. With threats of blackmail and betrayal looming thicker and faster than ever before in his life he was forced to publicly announce that he was dying of AIDS whilst holed up in a hotel room in Paris. As the first celebrity to admit to the disease he was not lauded and praised. Oh no. He was vilified like no-one before him or since, his entire career forgotten on the spot. His very image, one that countless women and men had swooned over for decades, was wiped out and entirely replaced by one skeletal photo of him looking seriously ill. Newspapers printed any old vile story, seriously claiming for instance that he deliberately tried to kill Linda Evans by kissing her in one of his final acting scenes for Dynasty...
Anyway, the biography, needless to say, all ends horribly with Rock being dragged through hideous court cases even AFTER his death, ex-lovers suing him for millions. I laid the book down, felt unutterably depressed remembering the people I knew in the mid-eighties who died of AIDS and tried to go to sleep. Next thing I knew I was screaming and watching an arm being thrust through the light fitting in the ceiling above our bed. Daniel leaps out of bed crying "What is it, what is it?" as I point dumbstruck at the ceiling. He rushes to turn the light on to reveal....the light fitting above our bed.
Poor Rock. Still giving people nightmares in 2010.
I lay back in bed trying to get to sleep again, rather disturbed by this very vivid hallucination, and that's when I heard it - this:
An owl! An owl! Somewhere out there in the darkness amidst the rustling trees and the outspread tree-ferns was an owl. Hooting, just like we expect owls to do.
I have done extensive audio research, cross-checked with lists of fauna and flora native to Lane Cove and its environs, and I can safely say that I was hearing the wonderfully named Powerful Owl, the largest of Australian nocturnal birds. Unfortunately, I doubt very much that I will ever see the thing let alone manage to take a photograph of it so I have had to make do for this blog with a picture of an owl that resides round the corner from our shack (on the way to Wollstonecraft station), permanently, on someone's gate post.
The Powerful Owl mates for life (which can mean up to thirty years - not quite your Golden Wedding Anniversary) and pairs defend their all-purpose territory year-round. Now that I have heard the owl's nocturnal song I find I can pick it out most nights: a magical, haunting, melancholy, other-worldly sound, its mellifluousness belying the fact that this monster owl can eat a whole possum...Owls have so much resonance in folklore and legend it seems only right that I should lie awake of a night simply to catch its call and wonder.
But this is wreaking havoc upon my sleeping patterns as well as heightening my, apparently, already Gothic sensibilities. Today, I was meandering down a well-trodden route with Sniff, clambering down from Vista Street towards Berry Creek along a path whose entrance is hidden between the far right-hand bush and the squiggly ivy-clad branch on the photograph below.
As you can see, it was a beautiful day, with a brilliant azure sky and a sun not too penetratingly hot. I was silently lamenting the fact that the Council had been along and chopped down some undergrowth on each side of the path which had in the past provided perfect sanctuary to some tiny little grey birds - so swift and small that I have never been able to identify them - when my eye fell upon a rock close to the creek's edge...I stepped back in horror...
It may be Rock's doing; it might be the owl's. But what was previously a completely innocuous innocent piece of stone is now a SKULL-etched nightmare upon which the afternoon sun pounces to sketch in blood-dripped fangs. There this image will be, lying in wait for Sniff and I every time we wander past, just beyond the little grey birds' graveyard.........
Seriously, I really should get some more sleep. I haven't even started on the Easter chocolate yet....