I rise in the dark to make Ari and I a cup of tea, wake him gently, and throw on long-sleeved clothes with long sarongs round our heads – protection against mozzies. We take our tea outside to a spot on the side of the hill with the best view. Ari lays out an old kelim on the mown grass and we sit side by side cross legged to watch the sunrise, knees touching. We are in perfect time.
Just as the first glimmer lightens the sky by an infinitesimal fraction, the first Kookaburra lets out his raucous cackle. It’s such a ridiculous sound that it makes everyone one want to laugh with him. Try looking up YouTube “Kookaburra laugh...just Laugh” and “Kookuburra Call.” He punctuates the background stillness, where only the incessant cicadas drone and crickets chirrup. To our right, along our Southern boundary is our neighbour’s 80 acres of native forest. Our place is one third forest too. So we are surrounded by the territory of birds. And this is the time of day when they announce their claims and celebrate life better than any human I know. I’m talking too much. This is a time for no words.
Ari’s knee rests warmly against mine in the cool air. We sip the hot tea. Here comes the Kookaburra's call again, now joined by several others competing. Who can be most varied? How loud they are! The East is starting to flame a little, edges of glowing coals limning dark purple streaks of cirrus clouds. Nothing remains the same for even a parsec – and yet, in hightened senses, the shifts are so slow, subtle, simmering, fermenting the firmament.
Now the Pied Butcherbird joins in. Each bird has its own sequence of notes with which he improvises – “The Butcher Bird.wmv” and “Wow Amazing Butcher Bird Singing.” In the second YouTube video, the tree is a Poinciana, similar to two we have in our garden which are in full scarlet bloom just now. These birds make my heart sing every morning, thrilling me with the joy of being alive. The nearest one I call “Daddy” because, year after year, he’s so good at raising chicks with his mate. I know his particular song better than any other. The sky grows more colourful, every hue and shade of the spectrum filling the world while the land still sleeps in silhouette.
The Wompoo pigeon coos a deep, throaty womm-poo-poo-poo... rhythmically over and over. Gradually other species of birds chime in, some melodious, some plaintive, some chirruping. They whistle and squeak and chitter. A Whip bird strikes the air with a double lash, splitting the soundscape like lightning. The Magpies and Currawongs warble ecstasy. In the far distance, a cock crows. Ari and I find ourselves soon experiencing a kind of bliss listening to all this as the sky slowly flames across the eastern horizon and then lights up Wollumbin Mountain. In the background, the noisy drone of cicadas and crickets never ceases. It too seems full of joy. The peak of concert cacophony comes with the four minutes as the sun bleeds over the crest of a hill and then rises to a full blinding white disc. Suddenly it is day and the birds cease their songs and only the insects continue.
Our mountain at dawn – Wollumbin (aka Mt Warning) – the remnant plug of an ancient volcano which sits in the very centre of our Tweed Valley.
It's 5.46 am (4.46 if we were not on daylight saving) at the moment the sun rises - Tyalgum, 28.3667° South, 153.2167° East
Happy Solstice to all. May we all experience such moments of ecstasy, such joyous thrill in being alive.