• Ruminations From My Veranda #41: One with my dogs and nature but . . . .


      1 Not allowed! Not allowed!
      At One With My Dogs and at one with nature - but really, we are all nothing more than a mote in Father Time's eye!

      This is number 41 in my on-going but ad hoc column - Rumination's from My Verandah!

      Having escaped recently to Bali, and then having had to return to an abnormally cold Melbourne, it is suddenly a treat and a delight to embrace the warmer weather.

      So it's a beautiful Sunday afternoon, no wine on the verandah, I'm still drinking Bingtang - and that's fine. I was never a real beer lover, sure I downed my fair share as a younger man, after all in the "music scene" it was simply expected.

      Yet now as I seem to be galloping toward completing another decade in my life, while I find imbibing a fine red or a crisp white to be one of life's pleasures, since going to Bali a few years ago, I have rediscovered the real joys of a good flavoured beer, and Bingtang has to be among my favourites, along with Corona, Heineken and a few of the more boutique beers.

      Sometimes when its so warm, only a cold beer will do!

      Yes, the warm weather is here at last and the three of us are embracing it!

      As many of you already know, I have two German Shorthaired Pointers (GSP's), the first is Bodi who is a four year old male and Lenni who is a seven year old female. This breed of dog is not new to me and I often mention them in "dispatches" while discussing my latest issues. In fact having had at least one GSP by my side continuously since 1974, I really understand their need for exercise and so it is, that we walk twice a day on most days.

      It most certainly isn't a chore, mind you having said that, there are times in the middle of Winter, when the wind is howling and the rain is sleeting into my face, that it can seem like a chore. But here we are in the hills of Belgrave, about 45 Kilometers out of Melbourne and at last Spring has sprung. The gentle breeze that blows in my face is warm, blossoms are bursting out everywhere, at long last the sky is blue, and I am walking Bodi and Lenni along an unmade back road, and it is a joy!

      There are in fact many aspects to walking and of course the chances are that without Bodi and Lenni this walk would probably not take place. They are curious dogs, their noses are almost their
      raison d'ętre, their reason for living. They are hunting dogs, although technically they were bred for seeking out and retrieving the game. So while all dogs make use of their sense of smell, GSP's are focussed upon what they can detect through their nose.

      In fact my observations over the years are that their primary sense organs in order of importance and indeed use, are nose, ears and then eyes. In fact I'd go as far as to say that their eyes are good, but not terrific. We often see Wallabies on our walk, and without exception if the Wallabies are downwind and stand still my two will be totally oblivious, they can even look through them, so to speak. But if my two are down wind, well that is a completely different manner and the excitement begins.

      So it is that at times I feel as though I become one with my two GSP's. If I relax their leads they rarely walk in a straight line, but rather their noses go to ground and a zig zag pattern emerges that would have been the envy of many merchant ships during World war II, as they tried to avoid german U-Boats. I often wonder just what it is they are smelling and what messages it gives them. Their noses never stop, more often than not to the ground, but then they will also lift their heads and slowly move their head in various directions until they pin-point the direction a particular smell is coming from.

      I smell nothing, of course, and it really is a mystery to me - but a mystery I love.

      Suddenly one will pull to the side, and if their pause is brief, the other will wait patiently, and of we go again. But should the one who stopped, pause for longer than three or four seconds, the other will immediate move quickly to it's side. Then I watch a new ballet of heads and noses as a full inspection of this mysterious, totally invisible, but obvious strong scent works its magic upon them. Then as suddenly as the "dance" began it's over, and they move off, often at a pace that catches me unaware, with them both sometimes giving a glance back at me as if to say, "come on, what's the hold up?"

      After our walk has proceeded for some time, my feet begin to form a cadence as we fall into a rhythm - not withstanding those unexpected halts to check the scent. Then I begin to really appreciate what is around me and my senses begin to sharpen. The scents of various blossoms and wild flowers, the eucalypts and even a tinge of smoke as someone burns off somewhere in the distance.

      As the road winds alongside the state forest it is easy to imagine that in many ways things have changed very little as I leave the signs of humanity behind. It may only be transitory but it is wonderful. As the traffic noise fades the sounds of the forest play a melody made up of the rustling trees, the songs of the various birds, crimson rosellas, and rainbow lorikeets, some magpies add a warble and the only "discord" comes from a flock of cockatoos flying overhead! It all mixes well with the crunch of my feet on the stones of the unmade road and the panting of Bodi and Lenni. It may be my imagination but somehow it all blends in beautifully.

      The colours are becoming more vibrant as spring has awakened the forest and the many shades of wattle are only outnumbered by the shades of green - it is mind blowing when I pause and try to estimate the number of shades of green - it is like trying to count the stars. Small pastel flowers grow along the side of the path, native flowers or native weeds - when they are so beautiful then really they are the same. Even the white flowers of the onion weed, a terrible weed in itself, are all of a sudden not out of place.

      Suddenly without warning a wallaby bursts out of the bush and bounds across the road. We stop for a micro-second before Bodi & Lenni decide that as it is 'running", it must be chased and they strain at the leads, while I dig my feet into a small gully. Then I regain control, a quick tug on their leads and a sharp "no!", is all that it takes and although they have pointed their noses in the direction of where the wallaby went, they know we are not going to follow. Sometimes I believe they must think I am a right idiot, after all - they are hunting dogs by nature, but not hunting dogs by my choice.

      We keep walking and I just can't help thinking that it wouldn't take much to imagine that this part of this somewhat disharmonious planet was in fact without people. People really do mess up nature! It must have been truly something else around here prior to European settlement. The Indigenous Australians didn't even live in this area - they were mainly on the flatter, more fertile and watered areas. It would be hard to believe they never wandered up here from time to time but really, until Europeans came this part of what we call Australia would have seen very few humans.

      I think of Cher, of all people, but not really - what I do think of is her song, "If I Could Turn Back Time". How wonderful it would be, but I'm grounded enough to understand that that is not going to happen in any way shape or form, short of a total global catastrophe. Now I'm not one of those people who subscribe to wiping out human beings to "start again", because if humanity through its own follies does wipe itself out, nature is not so foolish to simply allow it to return in this form - remember the dinosaurs?

      No this is our chance, and while we seem to be on an ever spiraling path to causing a global ecological disaster, I chose to remain ever hopeful!

      I suddenly realise that we have been walking for nearly an hour and the inevitable is happening the road, which turned into a track, is bending back onto itself, and the faint noises of people, their brushcutters, chainsaws and cars are beginning to return into my consciousness.

      We cross past a creek which gurgles in delight of the recent rain, and we stop so Bodi and Lenni can take a drink, and of course, the obligatory noses to the ground and the seeking of the scents of the bush begins. Their simple life, despite my sometimes not so good intentions of making it more complex, is a reminder that my fate is in my own hands - I think. Then again, that is a bit of an illusion for the forces that rally against us can be very powerful, and worse often very subtle. I think of the "butterfly effect"!

      I tried the lifestyle requiring removal from society, and to be honest maybe the time was wrong, but I got bored. That was 30 year ago! Really? OK, that sets me back on my heels. Let's see, it's has been 25 years since I moved into Belgrave, this month in fact and there were a couple of years down on the "flat-lands", so it was 27 years ago I left the Kalang Valley, nestled in the mid-north coast of NSW, to come back to Melbourne. Yes Kalang might have been the right place, but it was the wrong time!

      Then as the noise of civilisation overtakes the sounds of the bush, it strikes me how foolish I am. Twenty seven years back in Melbourne? I'm moving onto seventy years on this planet! These times are nothing! My life, and indeed the time we Europeans have been tenants in this country are oh so brief. In fact we are nothing more than a mote in Father Times Eye!

      On the other hand, even as specs of dust, we have managed to become more than an irritant in terms of our connection with nature! I can't change that, but I can become more aware and take responsibility for my actions, Yet I fear the actions of those who have denied the issues involving the terrible damage we have done and are doing to the environment, to nature who tries to sustain us, may bring us all closer to a situation that is irreparable.

      I wish we could learn from those life-forms who live a simpler life, like my GSP's. They walk gently through life, they are keenly aware of all that is around them, and they love unconditionally. Maybe, as John Lennon said, maybe I'm a dreamer . . . . but as another now departed close friend also used to say, beware of those without a dream, for they will steal your dreams.

      They are not dreamers, but schemers!



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