Posted by: Nancy | October 10, 2010

Thoughts on a vacation

Back from a two-week-plus holiday in Australia, some thoughts…

It was the birds that made Australia feel so different to me. Flocks of sacred ibis soaring overhead or swooping at the treetops gave me an impression of pterodactyls; the kookaburra was just remarkably goofy and fun. Other birds (ones I haven’t yet looked up) were vaguely familiar — such as the one that reminded me of a killdeer only twice as large, the ducks with the bright teal and purple coloring, the black swans. I couldn’t get used to the cockatoos, lorikeet and parakeet screeching and zipping about. Or the giant furry fruit bats with their elegantly folded wings, hanging upside down, gently unfurling themselves and zooming into the dusk.

* * *

There’s something delicious about visiting a different season than the one you’re from. It’s autumn here, with leaves changing, cool evenings and the misty fogs in the morning. But in Australia, where it’s springtime, the air was fresh and everything was sprouting and full of promise. Cherry blossoms, tulips, primroses, daisies, and wisteria — oh, wisteria everywhere! — was a delight.  Coming back, it was jarring to see our trees turning flame-red and dropping leaves.

* * *

There was one photo in our hotel that put me in a storytelling frame of mind everytime I saw it, so that’s at least twice a day. The photo is a portrait of a man, working at what looks like a furniture warehouse. He’s facing the camera, has a pleasant-enough face so at first glance, it’s an unremarkable photo. Then you see that in one hand he’s holding a large yellow tiger cat, and in the other, a mouse — upside down, tail held between finger and thumb. The cat is the real subject of the portrait; it is a study in concentration, desire, lust, hunger and pure instinct. The cat is intensely focused on the mouse.

That’s where the imagination and storytelling comes in. What happened in the moment before the man scooped up the cat? And what happens in the moment after the photo?

This image was, oddly, one of my fondest delights of the trip. It reminded me to pause and take a second look at the sights of this beautiful city. It also served as a kind of symbol of the Australian sense of the world — one of adventure and willingness to explore, a kind of fearlessness, and a quirky sense of fun.

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