Thursday, January 17, 2013

This morning I lost my spectacles.
I had briefly used them earlier, registering then that perhaps I needed to follow up the year long urges from the eyeglass company to get re-tested.
I have 2 pairs - close work, long work...the latter meaning the ability to read the required eye chart for a driving test. I only use either sometimes.
I use the close work ones mainly: just to check.  And that's what I needed them for: ensuring details were correct.
I had used them in the kitchen, noting how poor their help was, so first I went back there to check: result zero.
Maybe near the computer?  Ditto.
On the work table? No.
So, they must be in the kitchen. No. And around and around and around.

I recalled Nancy Phelan' s tribute to her eye exercises restoring her vision. Is that my alternative? But that requires about 3 months, as far as I could recall, and I needed to check details now.
Nancy Phelan was a yoga enthusiast and promoter, and a  vibrant tribute to her beliefs. 
Her autobiography of growing up in Mosman in the early years of the last century,
"A Kingdom By the Sea," is an absolute delight:.  When she speaks of a visitor arriving unexpectedly and the family rapidly closing all the doors down the hallway so as to hide the untidiness, it rang bells with me.
She recounts her mother's nightmare with hiring domestic staff: they would vet you, and disdain to work for you if you were disorganised or untidy, as her family constantly was.  So, when hiring staff, you were required to lower your sights again and again and again, as the most desired sniffed snobbishly at you and moved on.
And of course a cook ... what a "cook" can actually cook may not be what you accept as acceptable food,  then as now.

In a brief time I had working with unemployed people, I became surprised how many youngish, scruffy men called themselves "chefs". One would not particularly have wanted to eat anything that they had handled, on the whole, without a tetanus shot and some strong antibiotics: cleanliness didn't seem of any importance to them at all.  I found out from them that the difference between a "cook: and a "chef" is that a "cook" has to do the washing up, and a "chef" doesn't.

I recently bought, at a flea market, a book written by Nancy Phelan when she was quite old.  The stories in it were admirable and perceptive - one of an old and eccentric man destroyed by his daughters' desire to keep him "safe", one of a retired woman sinking from optimism and engagement into fear and dependence - but they showed her age. Of course.  Of course?
I also read a P.D. James, published in 2008, when she was 88.  Was the conclusion a little weak?  Well, perhaps: the rest was sometimes gripping, always readable, and there was no sense at all that it was written by an older.

I gave up on the great search for my spectacles and decided to make do, do what I could.
That's when I saw them next to my bed, where I had left them last night.
No wonder, really, that when I looked at detail in the kitchen this am, in hind sight through the wrong specs, I found them somewhat lacking.
I'll put off that eye test for a while. 

Teenagers and all that

Persistent, repetitive, demanding:  the teen magpies, almost the size of their parents, appeared about a month ago, with their high pitched nagging squawks.  I take my (figurative) hat off to the parents who seemed unruffled by their incessant needs, their nerve-fraying persistence.
As time has passed I have seen that although the teens can pick up food, and they do, they have a little difficulty in getting it from the front of their beaks back to their throat. Seeing this has made me feel kinder towards them.
The parents feed themselves, as well.  But when they turn to the child, and beak a mouthful deep within, there is an impression of bliss:  perhaps, for a young bird, feeling a hard, food providing beak deep within yours is what parental comfort is all about.
Perceiving behaviours and empathising is part of being human.
If  I note behaviours and reactions or happenings in you, and deny to you the associated emotions that I might feel in that circumstance, that would label me as  a psychopath.
If I react in the same way to other creatures, it is ridiculed as anthropomorphism. 

Currawongs, with their staring yellow eyes, are present here all the time:  not seasonal, as at home.  They are a fierce looking bird: big. black, beaky. This is a nasty trick that nature has played on them, because they are a little timid, and well down in the assertiveness rankings. They have a range of calls, tunes and whistles: all with a pleasing richness of timbre.  Unfortunately they seem to congregate in mobs and talk a lot, and have loud voices, so that one can simultaneously think, "That is really beautiful", and "I wish they would stop."

One day when they - about 15 of them - and 6 or so magpies were guzzling the mince I scatter around, a loud currawong "clang! clang!" from on high, sent them all instantly into flight and hiding. I had had no idea that they had sentinels, and I was impressed that it was across species..(maybe wrong word there).  But, the magpies split as fast as the currawongs:  they knew the message.

Kookaburras cause me frustration. I feed them gravy beef, as the mince that all others gobble is, I understand, bad for them. Throwing them a slice, they may cock their heads, stare at it reflectively, and watch benignly while someone else steals it.  And then suddenly stir themselves to action and swoop on some mince that I want them to avoid.  Are they stupid or philosophic?  I only feed them now when they perch on the back railings and I am tossing  from about 20 cm. They like to shake and beat a strip to make sure that it is dead, before heading back to the clothesline to either swallow it or feed it to their fluffy babies. Oh, those babies ae adorable.

I used to try to protect the small birds, but I have no need.  They are swift and agile, and generally all the birds  interact with behaviour that I can only interpret as a kind of respect and tolerance.

Not that there are no disputes, or no hierarchy.  Assertiveness is always displayed with harsh noise, and a rearing and stretching of wings in order to appear larger.  Evidently it is inbuilt in all species, including us, to be intimidated or impressed soley by size.

Although I can see it working in bird disputes, I'm not sure that this innate instinct is helpful towards creating the kind of society I would prefer.