Midnight as I’m starting to type. I have just had the most splendid birthday in recent memory, and I can’t sleep now because, despite multiple warnings, I had too much tiramisu. I’m listening to Sun Kil Moon‘s recent Modest Mouse cover album, Tiny Cities. Cognitive dissonance here can at times be extreme, which I demonstrated to Em by playing two versions of “Neverending Math Equation” (Modest Mouse original, Sun Kil Moon cover). There was some pretty silly dancing in the kitchen.
Anyway, it’s a four-day long weekend down here for Easter; Friday and Monday are both public holidays. Why does America not do this? A Stromlo colleague asked me at morning tea whether they have an Easter long weekend in America, or whether it’s against (the Establishment Clause of) the Constitution; I wonder whether long weekends are themselves against the Constitution. At dinner Thursday night, Brian asked me what I planned to do. I said I had no idea, I mean, four days? really? but that’s the point, it’s an opportunity right? he said. And so it has been. He apparently planned to go canoeing.
So my descriptions of everything will have to be a multi-parter. The adventure I’m about to describe took place on Friday; it was a lovely day out and Em and I decided we needed to get out of the house. We packed a picnic and some water, put on some sunscreen and went on our merry way.
Our original plan was to go to Ginninderra Falls, in a block of land labeled as “park” on Google Maps; Em told me a story as we drove about how she was driving somewhere at 3 AM once and saw a sign saying GINNINDERRA FALLS which she thought sounded rather like the edge of the world. We believed at first that the edge of the world would be easily accessible somewhere over the NSW border west of Belconnen. No such luck: turns out this is now “private land”, and as Em’s dad later explained it is apparently closed in part due to safety (read: liability) issues.
Well, we thought this was an awful bummer, and so went in search of a proper adventure somewhere. After driving through some terribly upper-class-looking suburbs next to golf courses and plenty of KEEP OFF MY LAWN YOU DARN KIDS signs, we arrived at Woodstock Nature Reserve:
Walking out about 0.5 km got us to Shepherd’s Lookout, with a fantastic view of the valley below with a river winding through it. Em was determined that we were going to eat this picnic next to the river, so we followed the river’s length up and down several steep ridges looking for a way down. We hiked along a trail, well-worn in some places and in others little more than tramped-down grass, occasionally stopping to watch birds (remember Em is an enthusiastic birder). Following the thread down along a fence, through a dried-up stream bed, across a rocky quarry, and through some pretty pernicious undergrowth which left us with a bunch of sticky little seeds hanging from our clothes, we eventually got to the water’s edge.
The sandwiches were very good, as were the fruit and nuts. The chocolates we brought were not the most practical, being originally wrapped around a soft filling which can no longer be said to have actually filled the chocolates upon their removal from my messenger bag. The only appropriate way to deal with this emergency, clearly, was to lick all the offending chocolate melt off of the wrapper. This was a two-person job and not for the faint of heart.
We also found a bright green beetle in Em’s hair. It was cute. We did not eat it.
After some wading about in the river (there were fish! a healthy river!) we headed back up the slope, refreshed and rejuvenated. On the way Em described to me some of the distinctions between second- and third-wave feminism (a discussion brought on by our first-ever attendance at a Canberra Roller Derby League event, and related discussion of roller derby in general). By the time we got back up the slope the light had changed. The photos I took below don’t begin to do the scene justice, partly because the air was filled with haze and smoke from a series of recent bush-fire hazard reduction burns carried out around the ACT, but mostly because the Australian light is desert light and so my camera found itself chronically overexposing every shot. Offline gamma adjust can only do so much when you’ve saturated the detector.
Nevertheless it was a very productive trip. New birds (for me) sighted: an osprey (!!! — far from the ocean), a wedge-tailed eagle, a few honeyeaters and wax-eyes, a flame robin, a red-capped robin and an oriole! My camera had died by that point so I didn’t get any photos, but Em did (not shown here).
All in all the outing was four hours and I was tuckered out by the time we got home. A fine adventure. The rest of the day was spent reorganizing the shelving in the common areas, admiring the nearly-full moon, eating leftovers for dinner, and of course lounging around, goofing off, and ne’er-doing-well.