At last I walk again, exploring more half-familiar territory near J's. On Saturday I drive into Bodalla early to grab bread for the evening fondue, a seventies phenomenon, an occasional treat when the children were young, requested by S for old time's sake.
I want somewhere a bit unfamiliar to walk so I head out past the discarded school, now a Men's Shed, and towards the river through farmland. The air is oddly chilly for mid-January, almost autumnal and the road winds invitingly along a ridge looking down over green paddocks and the vestiges of floodwaters. The landscape is astonishingly green for an Australian midsummer. I startle cows into a mini stampede, gaze my fill at roadside grasses, enjoy the many pleasures of spotted gums, and watch two birds raise lazy wings spotted with white as they fly between clouds and earth
On Sunday I decide to walk up the road through Tyrone Farm to the quarry, the source of the procession of large trucks creating a danger to life along the narrow and now flood-damaged Eurobodalla Rd. This road crosses a ford and passes a dam covered in red algal bloom which looks beautiful but is in fact a pest. Flies swarm around me: it is after all cow country until the road begins to climb. I look down on a channel through a green paddock, a windmill turning lazily and a large open concrete tank, and then a rainforest gully full of tree ferns. A large bird lands in a gully tree, a lyrebird I think. As I follow wheel tracks through grass at the top of the hill, my eye is caught by the pale green trajectory of grasshoppers and the orange and black fluttering of a large butterfly.
I look out over the treed paddocks to tree-covered hills, and see the unnatural signs of the quarry in conflict with the beehives and rough stone wall. There was local protest about the quarry when it started up and I had my first lesson in the ineffectuality of the EPI process: all the letters in support of the quarry were from relatives of the quarry operators. When visual amenity was cited as an argument against the quarry it was dismissed: “It's out of the way. There's no one there to see it.” This failed to take into account the dairy farmer who was planning to build a house on his own property and was told he could no longer do it because it was too close to the quarry. There are still signs of his dream: an avenue of deciduous exotics, and grand gates.
As I head back down to the car, I spot an eagle with uplifted wings riding the air against the blue sky and then its mate emerges from the background of trees and they soar together. My eyes drop back to ground level and fall on a tiny finch no bigger than the butterfly, and the orange and green iridescence of the carapace of a Christmas beetle.