I’m standing in a gravel parking bay beside a country road in Victoria. I stopped here because I wanted to look at a monument, but I spent more time buying mixed lollies from the neighbouring general store. As I enjoy the childish, sweet delight of a caramel bud, I lean on the boot of the car and look across the road. It’s been a pleasure driving around this area with long, straight roads lined with tall eucalypts running between farms and the national park. Even beside this two-lane road and its steady trickle of cars and occasionally trucks, there is the fresh, leafy scent of nature and the sounds of rustling leaves and bird calls.
There are turkeys over there in a paddock behind tall, hatched wire fencing. I don’t often see live turkeys, so they’re a novelty to me, bobbing around as they peck at the ground. I notice above them there are white birds preening themselves in a grey, dying gum tree. I guess it’s a flock of cockatoos, but there’s something different about their shape and movements that keeps me watching them.
One of them falls from the tree and glides to the ground; the rest follow without delay. Now that they’re closer and down on my level, I can see these birds have large beaks and splashes of red on their chests and faces – corellas. They start ripping at the grass, tearing dirt out with the roots, trying to get to worms or seeds. They look cheeky as cockatoos, but blue wrinkles surrounding their eyes make them seem thoughtful and ancient, as if they have the wisdom of their ancestors gained over millennia.