Of bird calls and shopping trolleys

Outside the bell birds are calling through the forest of Rumbalara to the lorikeets, who in turn are whistling to the crows. There is an occasional restrained croak from a sulphur crested cockatoo, set against a chorus of bird voices as familiar to me as they are unnamed in my vocabulary. I speak not their many languages, but the words are clear nonetheless.
“Dawn. Night’s dangers survived. Breakfast.”

Yesterday afternoon a tawny frogmouth mother sat on a nearby branch with her young, perhaps awakening through gesture and exchanged thought the latent knowledge wired in by instinct of the skills of hunting, flight, mating behaviour and survival. Minds uncluttered by the manufactured distraction we call civilization and thus singularly focused on achieving cooperative survival.

While the frogmouths taught the next generation I wandered the aisles of the local supermarket, accompanying Naomi in our own weekly hunt for food. It is rare that I have the time, and am granted the permission to share in the experience of these foraging trips, but to do so is to me an opportunity to immerse myself in an experience that I know is as burdensome to her as it is regular. I am no stranger to supermarkets of course, but the “weekly shop” is far more intense consumer activity than I am used to, made even more so at this time of year by the uptick in foot traffic down the aisles and in between the stores brought about by the looming approach of Christmas. The relative novelty of my visit to the supermarket and my role as “Chief Trolley Pusher” affords me the opportunity to observe the environment of the supermarket in a way that I do not on those occasions when I duck in and out on solo I-need-a-loaf-and-two-avocados missions.

As I leant on the handle of the trolley, parked in close to the shelves so as not to be in anyone’s way I people watched. Young mothers trailing loinfruits and trying to navigate their way passed the brightly coloured temptations deliberately set at toddler height. The widowers, hesitant and a little overwhelmed by the unfamiliar task of providing for themselves. The retired couples, invariably of a similar behavioural set – she who shopped, and he who pushed the trolley and wore an expression that said “I was an important executive once, and now I am reduced to pushing a shopping trolley, following my wife around, and meekly accepting her condescending explanation whenever I venture that perhaps those baked beans might be a better buy than our usual.”

Meanwhile I looked around me and saw a grand proof of the inevitable downfall of mankind. An entire aisle devoted to cleaning products, half of which do nothing more than a bottle of white vinegar would do, and the other half being of an advanced chemical formula guaranteed to eliminate all life from the planet. A multitude of packaged poison poured into the oceans, over the soils and into the air we breathe and the bloodstreams of us all via our drains and lungs. Another entire aisle dedicated to feeding dogs and cats. It is indeed a miracle that our four legged companions have any stomach room left to fit in a single native bird given the endless variety of organic, fairtrade, gourmet, balanced diet treats all promising shiny coats and fresh doggy breath. Another aisle filled with stuff the purpose of which I cannot truly fathom a useful purpose for. I cannot help but wonder just how much energy and raw resource goes into building stuff, versus that which goes into building and growing that which we really need. I contemplated that we would have a far smaller footprint on the world, and have much more to go around if we only built that which we need to survive rather than all this glossly packaged kitty nibbles and nuclear powered fat-free kitchen bench scrub.

In the forest the birds are digesting their morning meals, preening feathers and planning their flight plans. Its time for me to do the same.