Far from the madding crowd.

For the last two afternoons I have taken Maggie down to the neighbours’ dam for a swim. Their dam is much bigger than ours–usually about three metres deep–but I’ve never seen it so low. But it didn’t matter to Maggie, who was in and paddling before I even got down there. She does some laps, swims to the side, gets out and shakes herself, then stands there waiting for me to start throwing sticks. I think she would fetch sticks from the water all day if I kept throwing them.
But the thing that struck me while I stood there in the late afternoon, was the calm stillness around me. The trees stand quietly. The birds flit from branch to branch, twittering to one another and occasionally swooping down to dip in the water. They fly back up onto their branch and shake themselves, rearranging their feathers before diving down again for another dip. The sun still has some warmth in it, but loses its fierceness as it goes down and the softness of Autumn is already tempering everything; having weathered the brutal heat and hard light of summer, everything breathes a quiet sigh of relief.
I often think of those in the city when I’m sitting by the dam or walking along the track above the river in the morning. I can hear the roar of cars from the main road as people race to school and work, but the countryside is indifferent to it all. Far from the frantic pace of the inner city, of people hurrying across intersections, while impatient drivers wait for the lights to change, with the roar and rush and beeping of the pedestrian lights, the natural world carries on doing what it has always done, oblivious of the worries and stress of human beings who need to be somewhere. Trees quietly grow, occasionally rustled by a breeze or, when storms sweep through, standing firm or sometimes giving up a branch or even their whole trunk if they must. The wallabies lay low in the grassy paddocks during the heat of the day and creep down to the water holes in the early morning and late afternoon, bounding away in a moment if startled.
Yesterday, as I hung out the washing, a single bell-bird called from a tree nearby: a single, clear note that rang out and was answered by others. I stood and listened and thought how fortunate I am.

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