Saturday, January 12, 2008

Getting Cooler with Polar Bears

For a brief moment I thought of renaming this blog Misery Guts because it's been a bit like that lately hasn't it? But then I figured if the Dostoevsky quote didn't alert the punters to the general tone then there was little else I could do to warn them. Perhaps I could change the quote to the first line of Notes from Underground: 'I am a sick man. I am an angry man. There is something wrong with my liver'. Has there ever been a better start to a book? Dostoevsky would almost certainly have been a blogger if only the technology had been available to him. Then he could have had his writing career cut short by debilitating insecurity arising from the contempt of journalists. Something of which illiterate, bullying journalists everywhere could be really feckin proud.

Anyway, much of this general malaise I've been expressing has, of course, been my own fault. There is something wrong with my liver, so to speak, because I haven't been achieving things to my own satisfaction. It's a strange vortex to find yourself in: unmotivated because you're not motivated to do anything. It's quicksand, which I've only ever seen on television in adventure series I watched as a child, but I think this vortex might also be a lot like that island in The Life of Pi that, at night time, starts to consume everything that remains on its surface.

The only way to avoid complete destruction is to try and climb a tree, one branch at a time.

I started yesterday, beginning with doing small bits of work for the Research Assistant positions I have. I would tell you more about it but one of the jobs involves ethics applications and I think there's been enough disingenuous discussion around that topic propagated by mischievous, nay, malicious, national daily newspapers targeting vulnerable subjects this past year.

(Sorry, I'll take the needle off the record).

I've rattled on a bit too much already before getting to the main purpose of this post, which is to climb another small branch. This one is a pleasure, but, yes, a neglected pleasure. Last year I was tagged by Mark to do an Animeme. I was very excited to be tagged--Mark judged my interests well--so I felt a bit 'uncool' not to have followed through.

An interesting animal I had.

I've never had any kind of exotic animal, which was my first interpretation of this question.

As a kid my siblings and I had a dog named Buffy--years before The Vampire Slayer came into our lives. I still feel a bit sorry for Buffy, he was a Blue Cattle/Kelpie cross, so it was just cruel to keep him on a suburban block. We ended up giving him away to someone who owned a property, so I think he would have had a happy life in the end.

Before Buffy, we had a Siamese cat. She turned up one day on our doorstep at Trinity Beach. She was beautiful. We asked around but no-one claimed her so we kept her. We looked up a book for Thai names and decided to call her Dara, which meant star. She used to bring me gifts and would wake me up with that Siamese yowl at the window. I would let her in and proceed to scream and wake up the rest of the household in response to the mouse or flying fox she delivered so proudly. My father objected to Dara disturbing me, so he said we had to give her away. To this day, I still don't understand that decision. If I was ever in the position to have another animal, I would get a Siamese cat.

An interesting animal I ate.

I'm not at all certain about revealing this one. Let me explain. My father had a job working for the Far North Queensland Electricity Board. He was a maintenance supervisor and part of his job was to ensure the supply to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities on the Cape York Peninsula. He was often gifted meat by the local residents, and because they were the traditional owners of the land they were able to fish for meat that non-indigenous people were not. It's on account of this set of circumstances that when I was between 8 and 12 I ate turtle and dugong meats. I can't really remember them in any great detail. I have an impression of white meat in both cases.

An interesting animal in the museum.

Hmmm. In the Queensland Museum they have a parade of animals ranging from largest to smallest. Above the whole menagerie a whale is suspended. It's interesting because at a glance you can compare the beasts of the world. I was surprised by how large wombats are; I've never seen one in real life, so I had imagined them far smaller about the size of an adult cat. Maybe it was because it was so round, but it seemed to resemble an ottoman.

Does Sea World count as a museum? The polar bears there are very interesting.

An interesting thing I did with or to an animal.

An interesting thing an animal once did to me was on the occasion, again at Sea World, when a pelican flew overhead and shat on my sister and I. That was about 5 years ago. We had another trip there a few days ago, this time with my niece and my other sister as well. Hannah didn't like the thought of being pooped on by a pelican. I said it was very fishy and not much like poo as we knew it at all.

Once I sat down to have my lunch at work and spent the whole time being entertained by a scrub turkey having a dust bath in a hole it had dug in a garden bed. Fascinating. (This one probably belongs more in the next question).

Perhaps the most interesting encounter, however, was with a cassowary at Lake Eacham or was it Lake Barrine? One of those lakes on the Atherton Tableland somewhere that we seemed to visit on every school trip. We had just moved to Cairns from Gladstone, and coincidentally, my grandmother from the UK was visiting, so she moved with us too. Apparently at a certain time of day the cassowaries would wander out of the rain forest of their own accord, into a clearing. We decided collectively as a family that we'd like to get a photo of my grandmother with a
cassowary. Obviously we didn't know much of their powerful legs and the capacity of that bony protrusion on their heads, otherwise I'm sure we wouldn't have made her stand there while the cassowary practically stood beside her while we tried to get the perfect shot. She was quite nervous and we were blithely reassuring.

An interesting animal in its natural habitat.

When Mark tagged me, he hoped I might say something about the lizards we encounter here in Queensland. It's true. You can be walking along the side of a busy road and, suddenly, before you is a dragon lizard sunning itself, but managing to look a bit threatening while doing so.

This one's on Fulcher Road at Red Hill, just approaching the Broncos League's Club. I often encounter them too while walking past the Normanby Hotel. I've just remembered that me and some friends tried to have a picnic by the Lakes at UQ once and we had to move because a whole army of them came out of the bushes.

Speaking of the UQ Lakes, the most recent spring was a delight as birds of all kinds began shepherding their young across pathways and taking umbrage at any pedestrian who came too close. (I did once see someone deliberately taunting an adult bird, all the while talking on his mobile phone, and he's very lucky that mobile and indeed his person didn't end up in the lake. Moron).

Again, ducks aren't very exotic, I suppose, but I found they do interesting things. One day I saw some ducks seeking privacy away from the main lake, ushering their offspring into a large puddle, a perfect training pool. Another day as I was walking through a building at work, a family of ducks was walking through too. They were a bit far away from the lake, perhaps lured by the puddles forming all over campus due to the then recent rains? Everyone stood aside for the ducks and one kind soul made sure they didn't get stuck at the glass door, gently prompting them in the right direction outside.


There, that ended a whole lot better than it began, didn't it? I did think about going back and cutting the early vitriol out. The animeme made me feel a whole lot better. Thanks, Mark.


Mark Lawrence said...

That's lovely, Kirsty, and you're welcome!

I was looking forward to your Queensland birds stories – the scrub turkeys and ducks are gems, but the casawaries are pure gold.

I heard they would attack on sight if they felt threatened, and could disembowel a human with one kick! Don't you just love the stories we scare each other with about our 'dangerous' continent!

I thought I'd share this cassowary I found on flickr some time ago. I'm enjoying it on my ipod at the moment.

The lizards are pure bonus! There is now a whole vein of online/blog lizard ephemera, I reckon.

Thanks, Kirsty, I'm glad you're feeling better about blogging.

Kirsty said...

Oh, is one allowed to whistle at a cassowary? That picture's just gorgeous.

I've heard the disemboweling story too. Egads.