NatureVIRUS 2020

29 November VIRUS 2020

29 November, VIRUS 2020

What We Can Learn From Solitude: Contemporary hermits are reaching out to people struggling with isolation. Their message: Go inward, and get outside. The New York Times

In Japan, more people died from suicide last month than from Covid in all of 2020. CNN

We leave after the colour has left the sky, miss the turn to Bonville Creek and the Osprey nest so continue into town. Too early for the Botanic Gardens, we explore the cemetery next door – for the first time.

The oldest grave I can find is 1904, a woman in her forties died in an accident.

Too many accidents in the twenties and thirties, from horses, lack of OH&S? And in the sixties, too many young men, from driving and drinking. The grief from all these has evaporated, the sky too blue.

We miss the earliest from 1895 erected for the Marles children. The Marles were among the first shopkeepers here. How young we all are. How young is John, a baby, died the year before I was conceived, beautifully anonymous.

Ray was a Gumbaynggirr man, just his name on a wooden post, with a dolphin memento, a common totem.
‘Each year, when the mullet were running, one of the tribal elders would go to a point overlooking the ocean. They would call out in Gumbaynggirr lingo for the dolphins to help round up all the fish and bring them in so the tribal people could feast.’ Uncle Tony Hart.[1]

We rest on a bench peacefully alive, blood circulating, eyed by row after row of flat graves – no angels, no sculptures or fancy mausoleum. This area had little gold, more timber and fish.


Male Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo on sentry duty

We join a tour of Coffs Creek, Buluunggal (the Gumbaynggirr name, meaning mullet). The small creeks that once ran into are now mostly in effect storm-water drains, though here thick leaf litter acts as gross sediment traps.We see Pardalotes fly in beneath our feet, the hole out of our sight lines catch a couple of Azure Kingfishers shooting colour, then the gargling Cockatoos feeding close, with a sentry on duty keeping an eye on us.

The young Ospreys have fledged, the nest is empty.Beneath are belongings left in clear view, wallet missing, someone notifies the police.

Children are enjoying the textures of the walk, the sounds, sights, the touches. They hold the key to the future of rich natural environments.

Sandpaper Fig, the fruit grows on the trunk

‘At the same time as environmental challenges increase, children and young people are becoming more detached from nature – what’s often termed ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’. This is perhaps the gravest threat to the long-term health of conservation and the natural world.’[2]

A noisy Willy Wagtail

At the end, Karla, our wonderful guide with love of nature, talked of biophany, the fact that natural ecosystems have their own sounds, that complement each other, like an orchestra performing a symphony. She suggested we walk back in silence just listening. We walked back talking with her the whole way.

Bernie Krause and Stuart Gage talk of soundscape ecology and name the three primary acoustic sources as:

  1. geophony, the nonbiological natural sounds (like the breakers we hear;
  2. biophony, the collective sound produced by living organisms in a particular biome;
  3. anthropophony, the set of sounds humans generate.

Krause writes, ‘The soundscape not only reveals the presence of vocal organisms that inhabit wild biomes, but defines the acoustic detail of floral and geographical features—think of the effects of wind in the trees or grasses, or water flowing in streams and by the lake or seashore. Soundscapes also expose the imbalance sometimes caused by changes in the landscape due to human endeavor or natural causes such as invasive organisms, weather, or movement of the land.’ [3]


Home, an athletic wind arrives to toss the canopy and fetch the swallows who zip round the house effortlessly. I’ve seen then feed their young and never seen them fight, could imagine them as innocence, an effortless state of being.

The Crested Pigeon is back on the nest tied tight to the slender trunk of a Banksia ericifolia (north of its range) a second brood. Anyway, not a branch stirs, a well-chosen site hard to see. Late afternoon, the Cockies are coming, their cries a warning, they loop and swerve, taking anything but a kingfisher’s straight line, anything but the swallows’ elegant arcs saving energy

Last night was the hottest November night on record for Sydney. Bushfires have broken out. I ring my mother; she sees the news from Australia and worries. She can clearly hear the tree frog barking on our balcony, as loud as the frogs in Tenerife, she says. She is so lonely, locked-down in her flat in the care village.

Erwin Schrödinger pointed out that life sustains order despite entropy’s tendency to disrupt order, the second law of thermodynamics, but there’s a price to be paid for order and that is the increase of the entropy of living being’s environment, for example, bodies generate heat.

The wind is up, Wyn wakes disturbed, the wind disturbs her, and the heat at night.


[1] NSW Marine Parks Education Kit Module 4, Sea Country, Solitary Islands Marine Park, Marine Parks Authority.

[2]  Matt Adam Williams, ‘Securing Natures Future’, The Ecologist, 4 April, 2013.

[3] Bernie Krause, Language of the Anthropocene: Biophony, 2017

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