The Passion of Autumn – Passion fruit flowers with fruits
After the recent rains, we have a high yield of passion fruit, both flowers and fruit arriving rapidly this season, and just before we go into winter. When the fruit of passion arrives, there is always a party in my backyard for many living things. The vines have completely taken over a pepper tree and all insects and animals are helping themselves to the nectar of the intoxicating beautiful flowers and green fruits. Hopefully there will be some left to ripen for the bats, possums and my family to enjoy in winter.
Under the leaves of the double (petal) fuchsia hibiscus is where the butterflies sleep. The withered hibiscus leaves dying and hanging, provide the perfect camouflage for the butterflies. If light does not reflect on their folding wings or their shimmering patterns, you just don’t know – that is where the butterflies sleep after dark.
How did I know this? I was helping my mother late one evening to prune these beautiful hibiscus bushes and I saw the butterflies. There were lots of them under the leaves – hanging upside down like the flying foxes. As soon as light arrived the next morning, I went to check and the butterflies had gone.
Kaz, our pet lorikeet is a father, and he has been for about a month. I only just found out a week ago. I guess I am a grandmother again, having already had several ducklings being born to ducks my sons and I have raised in Bellbowrie, Queensland.
Weeks before the baby was born, Kaz the lorikeet came for chats in the Umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla) while I was hanging the washing. He normally visited us on the verandah where he grew up, at the front of the house. I thought at the clothesline was an odd place for him to be. A three metre drop just under where he sat was a typical place for snakes, and even the snake catcher reminded me a few times. “Dry leaves under shady dry quiet place with both sunny and dark nooks – a snake haven” he said with a grin. I suppose one day, I would cut everything down, but I didn’t have the heart to damage the place. Both the pythons and brown snakes were removed by snake catchers from this spot and taken to the park. Currently, a baby green tree snake lives there – he is only 50cm long and suns itself on the back verandah often.
Near the umbrella tree where rainbow lorikeets gathered, Kaz would fly low onto the mango tree branches and tell me long-winded tales while I hung the washing or tended to my garden. I wished I understood him. The changes in the pitch and his excitement showed there was some important things happening in his life, but all I could do was respond in whistles, PNG pidgin and make my own sounds so he knew I was listening. He always responded cheerfully. Often he would hop onto the clothesline for a few minutes before he flew away.
One day, two weeks ago I heard a baby bird cry and a soothing motherly response just above the clothes line. I heard these cries start a month ago. It was louder and closer. It sounded like a baby parrot in the umbrella tree, but I could not see it. The giant leaves hid the birds. I also did not know what type of parrot it was, but I suspected a rainbow lorikeet because these birds loved the spiky flower of the umbrella tree which turns into fruit.
A week went by and I noticed my feathered son Kaz coming out of the same tree. He usually slept in the palm and the gum trees in front of the house. At the house, he came alone and stayed longer than five minutes which was his usual visiting time. He also chased baby parrot Boz out of its cage and ate the crumbs. Katz often stayed in the cage for a while longer. He was unaccompanied. His female partner was nowhere to be seen. Since he had left home, Kaz always flew with her. I wondered if she ditched him which wouldn’t have surprised me because Kaz could get rowdy and demanding at times. Last week, he flew down to me when I arrived home and flew straight back into the umbrella tree and made so much noise. He called loudly and whistled. I followed him and could hear the baby bird as well.
Under the clothesline I listened. I saw Kaz on the branch, his partner and a baby bird. I was so surprised, but my thoughts went back to how little he was and how he just fitted in my hand when he first came to us. Kaz could not stop talking and shouting. I stared at him realising I had become a grandmother. That was what all the clothesline storytelling was about a week ago. At that moment, my excitement and sense of pride felt like I could easily fly up to the umbrella tree. I could not tell anyone about Kaz’s news as I was alone. I felt strangely moved and wanted to hug Kaz and tell him I was proud. But he is the wild thing he is supposed to be, and I just hope he can see how happy I am for him.
Over the week, I watched Kaz’s family and how attentive the parents were; keeping their little one safely in the large leaves of the umbrella tree. They protected the baby from crows, kookaburra and other large birds. Kaz visited the house daily to bring ‘take-aways’ of honey, bread, fruit and seeds back to the nest.
Today, almost a month after I heard that baby bird, a rare moment presented itself when the whole family flew to another umbrella tree 20 metres away. It happened while I was walking in the back. I quickly ran back into the house to fetch my camera. The lighting was terrible and the shots were fleeting, but I am happy to share some rare images of my feathered family. Life can give you joy in the most interesting ways.
When the Cattleya orchid bloom, the petals remind me of watercolour on paper. Translucent layers, flow the streams into each other. Lights, waiting to burst in unseemly angles. The orchid’s veins like fine ice crystals are so delicate that it bruises to touch; such a complete contrast to its thick leathery dull green leaves.
Inside, many secrets are kept. But who is to know…
When you are up close to a Cattleya, there are so many things to look at and the mind can play tricks on you. I get lost in the ‘skirts’, the twists of the lines, and ruffled ends of its petals that tilt like a Latin dancer’s skirt. Sometimes the ruffles can look like bird feathers.
It is not hard to see a Latin dancer stretch her legs and throws the ruffled hem back, leaving the wind and the music to take her. Round and round in her twists and turns until the last note, a high-pitched violin is played to bring her home.
That note is also the mosquito humming in my ear as it bites me. I know I am staring at the orchid under the tree outside my house. Show is over.
The Goddess’s First Social Day
Almost six weeks ago we found a duckling, just a few days old, left in our swimming pool by her parents. She has now grown up and is moving out of our house with some of her new friends. I was getting a little emotional with this story so I had to remove myself and put the story away for two days. The storm in Brisbane last night put my internet off, so I could not post on this blog.
This is the third time we raised a wild duckling, so we know that life changes when you take helpless animals into your home. They become part of the family before you know it. It may be because we have become so attentive to such animals that my sons and I have learnt this duckling’s habits; her favourite place to sit, her favourite weed and her specific cries for different things, similar to a human baby. I found myself finishing work and rushing outside to pick her favourite weeds in the surroundings of my workplace. I have seen people walk or drive by and give me funny looks. It was worth it when I got home and she rushed to me and ripped the weeds out of my hands.
Anyway, it has been over a month since we rescued Goddess Penelope (pictured above). She also turned out to be a female, even though we named her a little early without knowing her sex (see previous post).
Penelope grew up quickly and took to our chickens right away. The other wild ducks gave her scornful looks, pecked and chased her. This behaviour happened with the previous ducklings we had saved, before the flock eventually accepted the house-raised ducks.
The last three days have brought major changes for Penelope. It was her moving out phase. The duckling took to the water and the bushland in front of our property easily. An older male duck hung around nearby. I told my sons the male duck could be a stalker watching her, and my sons argued that it could be her father. Who is to know? I guess I was being an over-protective parent, but I am worried. Penelope has had a tough life so far.
Once we introduced her to the other birds, the other wild ducks chased and pecked her and in turn, she chased and pecked our chickens. The regular chickens did not entertain her cheekiness, but soft feathery Silky Batemans (silkies) could not get away from her. The silkies as the Australians call them, are slow, soft and cuddly birds.
Initially Penelope tried to talk to them, walk and sit with them. Then she pecked them, often holding up clumps of feathers in her beak. She got a lot of lectures from me, but we all had to be patient.
Her behaviour scared the silkies and for hours she would run behind them while they fled across the backyard over the weekend. I tried to stop her, but she would run in between the silkies and this confused the chickens even more. The silkies thought I was chasing them too. At the end of her first day out – Penelope was ready to sleep in the chicken pen, with the silkies, but they would not let her in.
After the third day and a stormy night last night, the silkies gave in to Penelope’s charms. The silkies are all males too. The black silky (pictured above) has become her guardian. He shares his food with her.
Today, I tried to lure Penelope with her favourite weeds, but she did not eat any, because the silkies did not like the weeds. She gave me ‘the eye’ like she was saying – “what are you trying to do?” Maybe I embarrassed her, just like I do to my sons sometimes – the awkward teenager thing …
She has to grow up, and I know she is tough and she will survive in the wild. Penelope waits at the cage each evening to be put away for the night with the silkies. In a way, she has officially moved out. She does not make any crying sounds. Penelope has found her temporary home, where she will stay in the meantime until she can fly. My son Nathan commented that, Penelope wants so much to be with the silkies, that he half expects the teenage duck to start crowing in the morning with the three roosters.
The silkies live in a pen which is closed in so they don’t get attacked by foxes and snakes. In the evenings, they huddle in this corner and wait to be placed inside the cage and locked up. Here are some pictures from Penelope’s first day when she tried to get to spend the night with the chickens.
There are many aspects of the Miss Pacific Islands Pageant (PNG) that are worth writing. I wanted to share tonight two aspects that are very valuable; one is the culturally inspired dress and two, the education support it gives to PNG women.
Here are some pictures from the crowing night of the Miss Pacific Islands PNG pageant. There is a pageant category called traditionally inspired dress. In these pictures, the six contestants wear their dresses inspired by their own tribal cultures. PNG has 22 provinces, over 800 languages with three official communication languages – English, Pidgin and Motu.
The Miss Pacific Islands Pageant Papua New Guinea’s motto is: Passion, Strength and Beauty.
The Miss PNG committee, while developing and moulding the young contestants to prepare for the final and then bring the winner to the regional Miss Pacific Pageant, this powerhouse team of women raise money to educate young Papua New Guinean women.
The process is that if any of the young women completing their tertiary education cannot finish their schooling because of financial reasons, this fund can help. Since its conception in 2010, the PNG committee has paid for 140 young PNG women to complete their tertiary education.
November is a very busy month for our family and usually it is full of celebrations.
My niece Joycelin Kauc, (picture with my mother) celebrates her 17th today (Nov 10th) in Lae, Papua New Guinea. Happy Birthday!
We celebrated Chris’s 17th birthday last Thursday, 6th of November. We will celebrate Nathan’s 20th birthday on November 16. People ask me how I have managed to have my sons in the same month and on the 6th and 16th. I used to joke that it made it easier for their father to remember their birthdays. I also had many other answers of course, but my favourite response is, they were both Valentine’s Day babies. Let’s leave it at that.
In this picture from last Friday, we did not plan to, but we all wore grey the morning of Chris’s birthday. Families do, do strange things sometimes. I enjoy most things in life and am very grateful for them, but I must say, being a mother is my ultimate achievement – especially when I see my sons grow into good people.
Chris’s girlfriend Leela Rashid (below right) joined us in a breakfast celebration before school. At birthday mornings, I rise early to cook a pancake tower and dress it with as many sweets as I can. This time, two of us were on diet so we had to settle for strawberries, blueberries and light cream.
Chris will graduate from high school next week and I have a few small projects to finish up, so I will take a short break (a week) from this blog and respond to any comments when I return next week. Thank you very much for reading Tribalmysticstories.
I have been slowly putting a collection of things I find in our garden together. These garden finds are only objects of my curiosity more than anything else. There are quite a few regular objects like an axe in the above picture and the knife below. Every object has a story, just like people and places. We have lived in Bellbowrie house for over four years and the collection is slowly building up.
Some of you may know I am a museum curator, so I tend to collect things and then I attempt to tell their story. However, even without my museum work, I am always curious to know the story about each of the things my sons and I find on the property. I have some stories to tell.
Recently however, I have been thinking that since I cannot research and find all the stories about each of my garden findings, I may write some short fiction instead. It sounds strange, but I have thought up some fiction you may want to read.
This month, I am busy writing for the NaNoWriMo, so hopefully, in December I will be freer to write some stories about my garden finds.
Let’s see what you make of these objects I have posted. Please feel free to tell your story about these objects or make suggestions – unless of course, you know what the real story. If you do recognise of know some of the objects, such as the gun, then, you have to tell us.
Life has not been dull since Penelope was born. Penelope is a goddess, because she deserves to be treated like one and she is named after a real goddess. Penelope eats grasshoppers like she has been starving for days. Because she is little, she often does not move quick enough to catch all the grasshoppers she finds. She does catch a few; I like to help with the small fish tank scoop. This duckling was almost three weeks old in this picture.
We think this Penelope may be the grand baby of our pet duck Princess. She was admiring her new bed made of a broken ceramic pot with leaves form the South African cherry bush in our backyard in the above picture. It has been two weeks since I started her story and now, she is too tall for the pot and has been given a new bed of coconut husk fibres in another pot. Although she likes the coconut fibres, Penelope prefers to be covered when sleeping with a very soft pink cotton scarf (see in picture below).
I thought Penelope (meaning ‘duck’) after Penelope of the Greek mythology, the daughter of Prince Icarius of Sparta and the nymph Periboea seemed an appropriate name for this duckling because she is one tough duck. The story of the Greek Penelope was that she waited for 20 years for Odysseus to return from war. When she was born her father, who had wanted a son, found out her mother had her and threw her into the river where ducks eventually rescued and raised her. The truth is, the duckling could be a male and we don’t know yet. If ‘she’ turns out to be a male duckling, that would be funny. We might have to name her after Penelope’s love, Odysseus, to play along with the theme.
Our little goddess Penelope lost her five siblings and parents late one night when she was left alone in the pool. I alerted my son Nathan when I heard her crying. It was cold and dark and she was nothing but uncooperative. She eluded us for close to half an hour, swimming and diving in the icy, pitch black water. At that time we guessed she was only a week old.
She would only pop out of the water for seconds and barely give enough time to spot her before vanishing again, bubbles and ripples of water indicating where she was popping up next. Penelope was obviously terrified, but very clever in escaping. After Nathan and I eventually decided to split our rescue efforts I scooped her out of the water by blocking her escape on the pool steps with cardboard. Really – we just got lucky.
In its first week in our care, Penelope was brave and quiet. She did not cry loudly like previous ducklings, including Princess that we had cared for. Her mother showed up a few times and it became very emotional but she took to the routine of feeds, baths and walks and then music on the radio and bedtime. She loved cuddles and enjoyed crawling into fresh washing and soft clothing to have a sleep.
While bathing one Saturday morning, Penelope became quiet. Not hearing splashes, I went out to check her and found her floating with her white belly up – like a balloon. Distraught with guilt and panic, I pulled her tiny body out of the water and yelled at my sons while I panicked. How was I meant to give first aid to a tiny duckling? I did not know how to give first aid to a human, I had seen it done. I called Nathan – hoping he learnt something about saving animals at university. Nathan was intending on becoming a doctor – so my hopes for Penelope was pinned on him.
“Mum…really?” was all Nathan said, distress and frustration wrinkling his features.
I began to cry and laid Penelope’s body on the warm concrete in the open sun and pressing on her as Nathan suggested while I cried. I opened her little beak and could not fit my pinky down her throat which was so tiny. Nathan tried to dry her and kept telling me she was still breathing. All I could see was a round swollen white furry ball with four black sticks sticking to it, that was poor Penelope’s little body.
Drowning was not something you expect of a duck, but she is still a baby. Baby ducklings also lose their body heat very easily. I have seen a few duckling down in the past.
Her beak parted and moved and then opened, and her heart still pumped. It was a good half hour before she moved and an hour before she opened her eyes. Her milky second eyelids had stretched over her eyes for a long while. Three hours later from her warm towel, she made a sound that was not a duckling sound, but rather a recording played by a cheap, submerged speaker. By the end of the day, her feathers dried out and she finally stood on her feet. It was a very happy moment for our family. She did not eat or drink until nightfall and she drank some water. The next day, she woke up, after hours of sleep and was fighting fit.
She became ill with fever soon after and stayed in bed for the rest of the day. That same afternoon, she gained some strength and wanted to walk so I took her outside, into the backyard. To my surprise, she tried to catch the grasshoppers, so I helped. We caught and (she) ate seven grasshoppers. Some she could not swallow; they were even larger than her beak, but she ate them all.
Penelope also loves lettuce and dandelion seeds with the duck mesh. Since she nearly drowned, she refuses to dive into the water and only splashes water on her back when she bathes. After each wash, she looks at you for a towel dry before grooming herself.
A week ago, she managed to twist her leg. I found her dragging herself along when I put her outside to play. Again, she was nursed, bathed, fed and cuddled until her sprained foot and leg looked better about 5 days later. In the first three days, we packed her foot and leg with wrapped ice-cubes. She is all good now!
Penelope likes you to scratch her head – and if you don’t she pecks your hand delicately to remind you. She loves the radio music on while she is sleeping during the day and would not sleep in wet or soggy pooped beds. At night, she wants to be totally covered and tucked in and demands total silence.
The Myth about Penelope
The wife of the hero Odysseus* in Greek mythology, Penelope, was celebrated for her faithfulness, patience, and feminine virtue. For the 20 years that her husband was away during and after the Trojan War, Penelope remained true to him and helped prevent his kingdom from falling into other hands.
Penelope’s parents were Prince Icarius of Sparta and the nymph Periboea. Periboea hid her infant daughter as soon as she was born, knowing that Icarius had wanted a son. As soon as Icarius discovered the baby girl, he threw her into the sea to drown. However, a family of ducks rescued her. Seeing this as an omen, Icarius named the child Penelope (after the Greek word for “duck”) and raised her as his favorite child.
When Penelope reached womanhood, Odysseus asked for her hand in marriage. Although reluctant to part with his daughter, Icarius agreed, and Penelope went with her new husband to his home on the island of Ithaca. Penelope and Odysseus were deeply in love, so it was with great sorrow that Odysseus later left her and their infant son, Telemachus, to fight in the Trojan War.
The Trojan War lasted ten years, and it took Odysseus another ten years to get home to Ithaca. During that time, Penelope received the attentions of many suitors. For a while, she put them off by saying that she would consider marriage only after she finished weaving a shroud for her father-in-law, Laertes, who was grieving over Odysseus’s absence. Each day Penelope would sit weaving the cloth, but at night she would secretly unravel her work. After three years, a servant revealed Penelope’s secret, and she had to finish the shroud. When her suitors became insistent again, Penelope announced that she would marry the man who could shoot an arrow through the loops on a row of 12 ax heads.
Other wild duck stories on this blog are: