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On the last two times I've visited my parents' farm, I've found something that I didn't even believe existed there. First, it was the turtles in the river; which, in my 18 years haunting those riverbanks, I never saw. 

More recently, it was a tree-dweller I'd never even looked for. 

So, yesterday we were driving up the side of a mountain in my dad's 4WD. We headed through state forest and into National Parks' land, ricocheting along a washed-out fire trail, past grass trees and native orchids and towering eucalypts that made me feel vertiginous and insignificant and tied to the spiritus mundi all at once. 

I was staring out the opposite backseat window -- looking through the canopy onto the mountains below -- and thinking about how heights make me nervous and acknowledging that I'm an unequivocal valley/coastline dweller, when I spotted someone staring right back at me. 

A koala -- probably 200 metres away -- was sitting up on a branch of a giant, exposed gum, watching our white truck labouring up the mountainside track. And at first, I genuinely thought it was staring at me, personally. 

I yelled for dad to stop the truck, jumped out and ran to the edge of the track to watch the koala more closely. In all our time living with a back fence of bushland, we'd never seen a koala in our area or any neighbouring farms, so were considerably stoked and impressed as he clambered into a more leafy part of the tree and disappeared from view again. 

And while it might seem like just another weird and unexpected animal sighting, for me it underlined the thing I love most about the natural world: that every secret revealed, and every gift received is all blind luck. To me, seeing wild animals in their environment, or finding feathers or skulls or snakeskins, has always felt like finding something so rare and precious and privileged ... and I'm infinitely grateful that I was taught to feel that way about it. 


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What else do you do when you're lost in paradise?

Sit around looking at verdant expanses: watching for rain, for kingfishers, for visitors coming up the otherwise empty road. Spend time talking with old friends about love and expectations and how to identify birds, listen to playlists from when you were in high school, breathe the scent of the horses your neighbours rode over for drinks. Draw, pick hydrangeas, don't walk anywhere without first looking for snakes. Dive into the river -- just once -- without checking for submerged logs. Stand in the kitchen and think about how perfect are the wildflower weeds, the Warhol print, the ginger plants in the blown-glass vase, the pomegranates and the mangoes, the bottle emblazoned with the name of my dad's hometown.

   And I guess that's kinda it.


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Here’s something I’m not proud of, but can at least be honest about: I love going on plane trips largely because it means I get to do sweet FA for a couple of hours. I told my partner this last time we were about to embark on a long-haul flight, and he looked mildly disgusted, maybe partly amused, but mostly, not at all impressed.

For most of my life, I was, by nature, a hugely lazy person. But I am now, by necessity, a hugely industrious person.

So the great thing about plane rides, for me, is that I get to indulge my latent lazy person with little-to-no-guilt. There is part of me that recognises that I could be using this air-time to work on my completely analogue profession: i.e., drawing. However, if I’m sitting next to someone I don’t know – which is likely – I don’t really feel comfortable with it.

So mostly I just sit, read, eat snacks, listen to Bowie, wriggle around impatiently, and have passive-elbow-battles for the arm rest.

And this afternoon, I am really, really looking forward to going through all that indulgent time-wasting. Because when I step off the plane it will just be going dark at the tiny regional airport that is edged on one side by a stand of low coastal scrub, and beyond that, the sea. And when I wake up customarily early the next morning, I’ll look straight out a full-height glass window, past a gumtree that changes colour in the rain of summer thunderstorms, onto a green valley, probably still thick with mist pending the rising sun, and I’ll know I’m home, home, home. 


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All lightly shimmering in the heat, these lifeforms, like wonders much reduced. Rough likenesses thrown up at hearsay after the things themselves had faded in men's minds.
- Cormac McCarthy


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