There is a Tawny Frogmouth that is often perched on one of the fence posts near our front gate when I arrive home in the evening. It freezes in my headlights, and then when I get a little closer or open the car door, it opens its wings and flies off silently into the dark. They are such well camouflaged birds, particularly when perched still on a branches or in this case, a natural wood fence post. My eye often glides past it, only noticing it when it takes off and swoops over my head.
My brother had an evening bonfire for his birthday recently, and Edward and I sat outside and looked at the stars. He is fond of pointing out the moon to me, and I like telling him about the few constellations I can recognise. It reminds me of my own childhood, lying on a blanket down in our orchard with my father, binoculars pressed to my eyes and listening to him talking about the planets and stars. The night skies of my childhood were brilliantly clear, rural properties in Daintree not being particularly subject to light pollution, and my father made us go through a ritual of turning off all the lights before leaving the house so that no trace would disturb our star gazing.
The night sky at our house is not quite so spectacular, as we are surrounded by many more suburban and distant city lights, but on clear nights it is still brilliant. Standing at the foot of our stairs and looking upwards, there is a rough circle of clear sky, surrounded by the tops of eucalypts, and the Milky Way arches over our house. Before Edward gets too much older, I need to learn some new constellations so I can dazzle him with my ineffable depths of parental knowledge – at the moment I’m limited to Orion, the Southern Cross and advising him that that particularly bright star is probably Venus.