Awe & wonder, 10 May


1 Jagun

Beginning with arms waving the cobwebs
in a quick round of a green empire
that belongs to whatever enters.

Our first forest incursion since catching Covid
tips a roo into the creekline, honeyeaters hide
and seek in the trees, sunlight pointing the way.

If you are touching then you are
being touched by the past
as well as the present.

A tree wraps its arms around a stump,
sentimentality is a crime, puppies and kittens
neglect the ongoing coordination of bloodshed.

The pink eye is watching, the Evening Brown
is dark form from winter’s dry which has kept
its eye-spots in a sodden year breaking records.

This low life is shared with the Ringlets in
big black sunglasses and a neat green ruff
flickering though the grasses en masse.

The creek accumulates soft sibilance
around the obstacles toppled in rows
and widens to begin scrubbing red clay.

We ache for stasis, put entropy out of mind
and the unwritten constitution water courses
use to explore all over right down to the sea.

The Paperbarks reach up like dancers, a high school
performance in subdued lighting, Oyster Creek is filling
their shoes (and I have never seen an oyster here).

Wyn has stopped behind an arching Cordyline
by orange mushrooms launching from the moss pelt
somehow looking as if they have been planted.

A fresh lichen with large pale green lobes
has appeared beside small branching foliose
and smaller pinpricks of life. Species, thousands,

are all slow growing symbionts whose fungi
lost independence long ago and now welcome
millions of algae tucked between their hyphae.

The sternum is naked and its large keel
that anchored the flight muscles has lost
all the flesh that once sculpted the bird.

Shreds of yellow earth, red earth, red ochre,
raw Sienna, burnt Sienna, lapis lazuli,
Verona green, charcoal and San Giovanni

cheeks trace brutal leftovers, remains
of a life in a worn ancient fresco depicting
probably the beautiful bird in our garden.


Wyn spots it first, a White-bellied Sea-eagle circling
towards us, being carried through the medium of blue,
a wild extension in vast dimensions and yet relaxed

a reconnaissance flowing right overhead, almost
a jaunt, like Sunday afternoons when my parents
took the car for a run into the South Downs.

From this perspective a small bird, but we’ve seen them
up close, wings outstretched like a hero’s. The name is elite
echoing Imperial Rome, the writhing palimpsest of language

casts its restless intelligence about seeking connections.
Eventually I think to grab the binoculars and camera
then wonder if I should put away this vision for later.

Minutes later a skein of Straw-necked Ibis flying south
loosen formation between the fronds of a Bangalow,
this quadrant is always poised for awe & wonder.


The inevitable is inaudible, gossamer rain skins
the forest grey, refuses the lullaby water can sing,
a Spinebill plays a piccolo round the creaking garden.



Abundance is now recognised as an important concept, along with biodiversity. We have a serious lack of abundance in our native fauna and flora. In any case the name common should be banned as uncharitable. The Evening Brown is also known as the Common Evening Brown, and the ringlet is the Common Brown Ringlet.

The edible Cape Gooseberry is South American. The yellow berries are sweet and unusually the calyx (seen here fallen on our dolmen) enlarges to cover the growing fruit. Unfortunately, it has become a weed. Weeds are, almost by definition, abundant and they disrupt every natural neighbourhood across the planet.

And today I happened to be listening to Robin Wall Kimmerer: ‘We ignore ecological laws as if the fiction of human exceptionalism meant that thermodynamics did not apply to us. Whether we choose to heed them or not, natural laws will prevail. Arrogance has brought us to the brink. The laws of nature will bring us to our knees. And then perhaps we will see the mosses.’[i]

Shiota, Keltner and Mossman note key differences between awe and other types of positive emotion, like happiness.

‘First, awe should be elicited by information rich stimuli rather than the anticipation of material or social reward. When asked to describe a time they felt ‘‘happiness’’ or ‘‘joy’’, the most commonly studied positive emotions, participants typically describe material rewards, personal successes, or pleasurable social interactions as the elicitors . . .

Second, the thoughts and feelings accompanying prototypical awe experiences should be stimulus-focused and self-diminishing, emphasising the perception of greatness outside the self, rather than self-focused and self-enhancing.’ [ii]

They find that awe directs attention from the self and the ego and outwards towards the environment.


Saunders Office Email <>

Tue, 10 May, 17:06

to me

Good afternoon,

Thank you for your correspondence regarding Koala conservation.

The Minister’s Office is currently considering the matter and will provide a response in due course.

Thank you for taking the time in raising this matter with the Office of the Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Western NSW.



[i] Robin Wall Kimmerer, ‘Ancient Green Moss Climate and Deep Time’, April, 2022.

[ii] Michelle N. Shiota, Dacher Keltner, Amanda Mossman, ‘The nature of awe: Elicitors, appraisals, and effects on self-concept’, Cognition and Emotion, 21 (5), 2007, p946. And Dacher Keltner & Jonathan Haidt, ‘Approaching awe, a moral, spiritual, and aesthetic emotion’ Cognition and Emotion, 17(2), 2003, p297-314.

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