I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the changes in Alice due to wetter than normal weather. The Todd River has flowed three times in 2017 already. Of course what is ‘wet’ weather for us would be normal for others–everything being relevant. By now, we have nearly reached half of our average annual rainfall, and we are only a month into the year!
Previously, I speculated on the fact that there might have been a rise in the population of Dingoes. I would rather not have been right. Below is a very compromised photo of the Dingo that stalked me. That I had presence of mind enough to even take the photo is fairly surprising. I am not well known for my acts of bravery. Last week an article in our local newspaper told of an ‘explosion’ of Dingoes in Central Australia this season. My speculations were vindicated. Locals are being warned to keep their pets on leashes, which they are supposed to do anyway, but some don’t. The Rangers are trying to trap the Dingoes and release them out bush. I woke one Saturday morning about 5.30am to the sound of Dingo howls very near our house! It was at least two, and likely three, of them, judging from the pitch of the various howls. It was somewhat melodic but quite unsettling, at the same time. I tried to go outside to hear where they might be, because it was still too dark to easily see. But they stopped as soon as I opened the door and I couldn’t get a fix on them. But close. I’m certain.
It reminds me of the coyotes that have become very comfortable living near humans in the USA. A few times when we have visited in recent years I have heard them howling at night. In southern Ohio we never saw or heard them when I was growing up, but we do now.
Something that never changes is the quiet upon returning home from our travels. How soothing is our environment here–unless the neighbour is using his leaf blower or building a fence with an angle grinder… I also enjoy many of nature’s sounds when at home–although some, not so much. It is a cool rainy morning, and just now the window beside me is open. After weeks of piercing cicada song, I relax (perhaps rejoice is a better word) at the absence. The overnight rain has temporarily stilled them. Their sound is called ‘song’ but is more like white noise, and when it is gone you suddenly realise what quiet is again. There is very light patter of rain on the metal roof, and the somewhat strident call of a Magpie-Lark in the distance. No motors or human noises, save the gentle swish of the ceiling fan above me.
Just after hearing the chorus of howls a week or so ago, I walked and listened to a podcast which has given me new appreciation of the quiet. The interview was with Gordon Hempton, an ‘acoustic ecologist’. (yes, it is a thing!) Woven throughout this quiet interview are many of the recordings he has made over the years. He tries to find places of ‘silence’, which in his world means ‘quiet’—without human sounds, only nature. I think he must not have visited Australia yet, because here you can experience a quiet that speaks. I was listening to the interview and sound recordings through earphones in the early morning, before most of us are making our human noises. At times I wasn’t sure if I was hearing local birds calling and waves crashing (not likely, but still, it has been a wet summer…) or his recordings. It was quite remarkable.
Both sounds and silence speak volumes. Listen.
(The above link is from the website so that you can listen to the interview on your computer, but if you are a podcast listener, ‘The Last Quiet Places‘ can be found by searching through your podcast app for ‘On Being’ with Krista Tippett, and then either the title, or Gordon Hempton)