The hills are alive: getting back to nature

filed18 Nov 2010 from Carmen Jenner CategoriesOutdoors, Perth, Western Australia

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“Beep, beep, beep,” drones the forklift. It reverses up and down the salvage yard next door, just a few metres from our lounge room. A grunting semi-trailer pulls up with a delivery of wood to be unloaded throughout the entire afternoon. Soon, the rubbish truck will arrive to empty the enormous bins with its noisy hydraulic lifts. A plane thunders above and if I run outside I can wave to the passengers. A train “toots”. On the other side of our home, I listen to every single nail being hammered into the wooden house being built, as I have done for the past six months. Somehow, my daughter sleeps soundly through it all. I’m in awe that she can block out the racket of a typical day in Guildford.

Three years later, I have found the quiet that I longed for. Apart from the distant sound of renovations and dogs greeting each other, all I hear these days is rustling leaves and the birds gossiping above. We’ve found our solitude in the Perth hills. The city folk have gone bush and are savouring the peace and serenity…most of the time.

There’s always a trade off no matter what you do. You can fix one thing, only to ruin another. As I’m writing this, I gaze over the rugged valley below. Sunlight filters through the foliage and warms my back. My cocker spaniel and beagle snore at my feet unaware their sisterly ginger cat waits patiently to pounce on them when they least expect it. But all the while, I’m on the look out for our other “pets.” I’m not talking about the ducks and fish that inhabit the pond. I’m referring to the wildlife.

Mother Nature was particularly generous when she handed out the growth genes to the flora and fauna in the Perth hills. Gum trees dwarf our cottage. A wild vine weaves itself around stone walls and up any tree that allows it. A hornet the size of a small bird whizzes by. A spider the size of my foot, wipes its hairy feet on the mat by the back door. Our eight legged friend interrupts the conversation me and my husband were having as we both look down between our feet in amazement. I linger longer than I care to admit in awe of its sheer size. Then suddenly, the realisation strikes and I begin screaming and I run. I now understand the saying, “Run for the hills.” I don’t care that our daughter is wondering what’s happened to mummy. All I want to do is to get away from the thing.

I have a bit of a history in running – but not of the chic jogging kind. I’ve been known to bolt from a car on a freeway crammed with friends. I was sitting in the back in the middle until I looked up. I was the first one out of the car and it’s still undetermined whether the car had actually stopped moving either. One time I was on the phone to my mum and I felt something tickling my shoulder. I looked down and there was a huntsman looking back at me. My mother was ready to call the police until I called across the room at the phone I had thrown to explain I wasn’t being murdered. Many years ago we lived in an old house with an outside laundry with a concrete trough the colour of ash. When I turned on the tap one day, a huge huntsman, which I had failed to notice since it was grey, became furious at the disruption. It jumped up, looked me in square in the eye with its dozens of eyes before hissing its fangs at me. This time I did not pause. Instead, I bolted in what seemed like slow motion through the door. During my exit, I tripped over and banged my head on a pole. Meanwhile, my husband looked up from his weeding with raised eyebrows at the commotion. Through my daze I stumbled around trying to explain what had just happened. He struggled to keep his composure although I’m sure I heard a stifled snigger – until he realised he was going to have to deal with the culprit. Thinking back, that spider was a baby compared to our recent uninvited companion.

That night I wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t discovered the spider on the mat when we did. It might have hovered on the ceiling ready to drop at any time. Or perhaps it would have played hid and seek and would only make an appearance when my husband was absent. Who am I kidding? Spiders that size have their own homes with a boat parked in the driveway. As I lie petrified in bed, I wonder what else lurks. Maybe there’s something in the sheets?

You might laugh at these stories and even think, “Well, it is the country. It’s to be expected.” I agree. But I just didn’t think they would be so friendly. I’m ashamed to admit that I send in our daughter to check on the inhabitants of her cubby house, and then ask for a full report before I will enter. I try to be brave during our tea parties in her cubby and she will say, “Don’t worry mummy, they won’t hurt you.” So now, my nightmares of spiders are replaced with her wise words – and the niggling fear of the psychological damage that I’m causing her. So I called in the professional exterminators and now all we mainly find are corpses. I know this is bad and please don’t judge me. But at least when my daughter tells me not to worry, I can at least put on a brave face. And now, I have many tea parties to look forward to. I’ll just have to ignore the rustling beneath the cubby…

Note: At the time of writing this, the author experienced a close encounter with a scorpion. The new arrival was attracted to the plague of millipedes that marched towards her home every night. Apparently, they are drawn to the light. Although the logical solution is to turn off the lights at night, complete darkness is not an option.

Albany to Walpole April 2009 223

Planning a tip to the Perth Hills for your own wildlife encounter? Check out Mundaring Tourism

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