There has been hardly a rainy moment since arriving here and the sky, at least so far, has for the most part been persistently clear. Every morning I wake at sunrise to a chorus of bird song as the cold of dawn percolates through the glass and walls and forces me to hunch into a ball beneath my doona.
Canberra sits beneath the intersection of a number of major flight paths, and the sky is perpetually streaked with the white vapour trails of jets pressing the rim of the compass. If I’m lucky, in the mornings I can look out my bedroom window in the early dawn to see the fresh trail of a jet as it streaks west, the vapour trail glowing pink and orange as it catches rays from a Sun that is yet to breach the horizon.
The sky is similarly busy on a level closer to the ground as with each dawn and dusk, the background drone of urban traffic is barely audible beneath the chorus of birdsong emanating from everywhere, and nowhere: Magpies warble; Kurrajongs and Wattle Birds chuckle nervously; Rosellas, Lorikeets and Parrots twitter noisily as they streak amongst the canopy; Cockatoos (Sulphur Crested and Black) kark; Galahs squeak; and a wealth of other birds I couldn’t begin to describe, all communicating at volume and over distance. At dusk, a giant owl glides in silently from the approaching dark and perches on one of the trees in our backyard, sits watching the goings on for a while, and then in the blink of an eye is gone, the only sign of its departure, the gentle rocking of the empty perch.
I live less than half an hour’s walk from the city centre, yet the area is teeming with bird life. Each morning as I walk to work, flocks of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos plough the ground for grubs and demolish fruit from the trees lining the street, and they barely react to me as I pass no more than six feet away. At this proximity, one gains a true appreciation for how massive these birds are. The Magpies I grew up with were wary and skittish, and would often swoop when their young were near; but here, they stand their ground and look at me indignantly as I pass, as though they’re expecting me to utter a secret password to be able to cross their feeding ground.
The people I knew in Melbourne had plenty of negative things to say about Canberra, and almost had me sold on it not being a pleasant place to live, but I have to say that my experiences of growing up in the country gives me a different expectation of a city. I could not have the level of contact with wildlife I’m now enjoying when I was living in North Melbourne—a similar walking distance from Melbourne’s CBD, and I have to say the place is growing on me just a little.
Canberra is a little on the dead side culturally—it’s alternative cinemas certainly don’t hold a candle to the depth of choice offered in Melbourne—but it makes up for that in the proximity of the bush, which penetrates deep into the suburban sprawl. The lack of hustle and bustle doesn’t worry me in the slightest at this point—I got my fill during my fourteen years in Melbourne.
Until I made this move, I wasn’t sure if I could handle living in a city any more, and was actively contemplating moving back to Warrnambool for a quieter life, where I could be closer to the natural world. Here, there is at least a semblance of some balance, and at least to some degree, I can hear the calls from the wild.