Ali Cobby Eckermann

The air sound from under a parrot’s wing is quite different from other birds. It seems to contain magical bells, just out of earshot. It reminds me of waking in the early dawn, in the villa at Taman Bebek, when I attended the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Bali last year.

I love birds, or ‘tjulpu’ in my language. Every bird offers a relationship. We are lucky at Koolunga, to have birds and bird song all day long, without industry noise or traffic gossip in the background. It is a peaceful town, filled with amusing and peaceful people.

Angry noises caught my attention. I saw two magpies hunting a crow. That crow was flying fast; the two magpies on each side of its tail. They had not slowed their pace when they flew from view. My poet’s imagination indulged some time wondering of the crime. All scenarios concluded trespass.

I had a trespasser in my home once. A magpie used to wait for my morning exit to the front verandah. It would quickly hop inside the slow closing door. Propping on my work desk, or sunning in the shop front window were its two prime perches. One time I followed him, laughing, as he marched through the entire house, checking out the decor, even the bathroom. He stayed for several months.

Another visitor to Koolunga is a lone kookaburra. The locals in the pub say there has never been a kookaburra known here, in living memory. He is heard most mornings, sometimes in the tree outside my store. But his call is never complete. Without a partner for back up, the verse remains unfinished. I heard one of the retirees followed the bird along the river, imitating the call, trying to teach him the song. But one cannot sing true without love. Nature teaches us that.

The nature of gardening is like poetry. One creates with plants, as one creates with words. There is a love attached to both. It is a true love, as both are nurturing to me. Every seedling is a new chapter, and I eagerly await the fruits. It seems concentrating on one, allows the creativity of the other. This serenity comes when one belongs.

Excessive hours in the garden this past week have allowed me to observe the busy antics of a blackbird. He is as busy as I. He has already made me sit on a milk crate, guarding my vegie seedlings. We co-exist in silence. He seems to have no song. Maybe because he does not, truly belong. In Yankunytjatjara culture, all bird names are based on their song.


piil-piil and ipuru gather grass roots and berries
walawaru and kaanka observe from the apex of trees

mirilyirlyi and kurpara gossip down the street
ikarka and kalaya are tireless on their feet

kakalyalya and piyar-piyar laugh and tease each other
piiwi and kuur are clever story tellers

killykillykari and kuwirkura acrobat through open skies
tjintir-tjintir and tjulily-tjulily inform Ancestors are nearby

many birds are my Family
ngayulu kutju wiya

© Ali Cobby Eckermann 2011