Follow the Bird

Friends are as companions on a journey, who ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life.

Lyrebird, you are an artist, poet and philosopher. I think it important I tell you this on behalf of my human species.

I know you’re a private and elusive soul – you like eucalypts and scrubby undergrowth, you like sandstone recesses and leaf litter, you like shadows and solitude where nature hums her simple tune of habits and seasons, and you like a home unaffected by the complexities of rapid change or covert influences. You know Lyrebird, I like these things too.

It seems you have a knack for showing yourself to me at times when I need inspiration, or have many big questions buzzing round in my head.

‘Look a lyrebird’ – this is how I view it – and there you are making my world instantly buoyant. I’ll stop and watch and listen, mesmerised while you exhibit your creativity and sophistication merely by going about your business. And the performances I’ve seen to date have been quite resplendent.

One time, Lyrebird, I was alone and talking to myself in a world of delirium when you appeared on the bush-track I was walking on.

I’d dropped off the pace and my three teammates were far ahead. I was very tired and fatigued. All my muscles and joints ached after walking through the night – up and down gullies and over logs, creeks and sandstone shelves. I was struggling in the latter kilometres of the Trailwalker event in which I was partaking in bushland north of Sydney. I remember the morning was bright, crisp and cool.

I had no idea why you were out among the throng of competitors in the event, I thought you’d have taken refuge and waited-out the annual weekend influx of noisy humans traipsing through your scrubby homeland. This is probably what I would have done.

Look a lyrebird and you showed yourself as a figment of my imagination and I wouldn’t have been surprised if you were. I stopped on the track to take stock of the moment because of how you stood boldly yet without pomp or pageantry, in the relative openness, looking at me like you had a purpose.

Lyrebird, thank you for appearing when you did, your timing was impeccable. You could have been a fairy or pooka or leprechaun but I knew you were real and present. I think I said “hello” like you were a long-lost friend.

Maybe it was your alert eyes, or the confident posture you struck while taking assessment of our interlude under an early morning winter sun. Maybe you sent yourself to help me when I was physically distressed and mentally bedraggled, to see me through an awkward time. Or at least that’s how I viewed it.

You gestured to the track ahead as if to say “This way please, follow me” and away you trotted.

I heard myself say “Follow the bird” and once in forward motion, repeated the mantra over and over. You walked straight down the track ahead. You probably sensed from my tiresome shuffle and delirious gaze that you could easily sidestep into the safety and obscurity of the scrub, but you continued with me in tow some three metres behind. You looked over your shoulder, probably to gauge a safe distance between us, but I liked to think you were saying “Come along, hurry now” which I did without complaint. You knew I meant you no harm.

I had a warped sense of time. We could have walked together across the country and back, though days and nights and weeks.

But you were there with me for a while, this I know. When you finally diverted into the bush at a terminus where my civilisation of people and bricks and asphalt loomed, I turned to look across the saddle over which I had been guided by you. Wow, I followed the bird quite a way!

The foliage canopy opened to reveal the random order of suburbia. Smells of sandstone and leaf-litter were replaced with those of fertiliser and grass clippings.

I was grimy and caked in dry sweat. It seemed perfectly logical to seek out the front yard of the nearest house and lay down on the lawn to sleep. So I did.

The next thing I remember was being woken and raised to my feet by my teammates. And away I dozily wandered after what was a beautiful sleep. The lawn I’d chosen for my nap was one block from a Trailwalker checkpoint and once my three teammates and I had reformed we were ready to complete the last twenty of our one-hundred kilometre walk, which we did in a canter.

Lyrebird, it was you who spurred me on. Please know you aided me when I needed aiding and you played a significant part in helping me on my journey across the line.


About Blair Paterson

Blair grew up and lives in Sydney’s Inner West. He first realised a love of nature and the outdoors during weekends and holidays with his family on the Hawkesbury River. From humble childhood pastimes building billycarts and tree houses to spending large chunks of time in the bush, Blair now embarks on outdoor pursuits whenever and however possible – by foot, kayak, bicycle or other. He has worked in Environmental Management and currently Outdoor Education. Some of his fondest travels to date have been around Australia and through the Indian Himalayas.
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