I’m looking up at an ochre and charcoal cliff face that over time has been shaped and smoothed by the winds rolling up the mountain side. I can’t see down into the valley from here because the other side of the path is lined with foliage about two meters high. There aren’t any large trees and I can see at higher altitude there are only rocks and grass, suggesting I’m at a point where snow sometimes falls, but not often enough to prohibit life.
The rock formation is unique so I decide to stop and admire my surroundings. I take a deep breath and fresh air cools my lungs, bringing with it the grasses of the fields below and the damp earth of the mountain side.
As part of my bushwalking habits, I’ve learned to regularly stop, be still and let my senses adjust to what is around me. When I’m walking my mind and body is occupied with navigating what’s in front of me and staying safe, and in a complex environment I can’t take everything in. Plus I make a lot of noise and vibrations so any wildlife knows where I am and will easily avoid me. When I stop and sit quietly, it feels like the forest forgets I’m there and goes about its usual routines. I can focus my eyes and ears and pick up anything that might be of interest. It’s like when I’ve been inside at night and then step out to look up at the clear, starry sky. The longer I stand, the more my eyes adjust and more beauty becomes visible.
There is a wallaby fifteen meters away in the scrub, already staring right at me. If it was a predator, it would have easily outsmarted me and I’d be dead. It is using the same technique I’m using to go unnoticed – standing completely still. Had it panicked and hopped away I would have seen it immediately. It’s fur has the same tones of browns and umber as the foliage and if it weren’t for the green of the leaves around it and the fact I was looking specifically for wildlife, it would have been very difficult to see.
In my adventures in Australian nature I celebrate what I see, but I have no measure of what I don’t see or how many silent, still wallabies I passed that day.