Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hot Holiday

This post is coming to you from an internet cafe at Trinity Beach, near Cairns, Queensland, Australia. I'm having a holiday, a real, live, purely self-indulgent holiday, my first in years. I'm here in Northern Queensland because I was invited to stay in a tree house in the rainforest, which just happens to dovetail with a dream I've held for 20 years, about staying in a treehouse in the Daintree Rainforest, inspired by the film, Bliss. When offered the chance to follow my Bliss, I didn't hesitate to accept.

I was pretty nervous before I got here about coming in the height of the Wet Season when it is hotter and rainier than any other time, with cyclones too, and when the stinger jellyfish and crocodiles make swimming dangerous. But I find that in reality, I love this climate. The sensual, languid, tropical heat makes me feel very happy and at home. My physiology isn't necessarily as keen on the heat as my soul: I almost got heat stroke in Kuranda after spending too long inside a greenhouse-type butterfly enclosure (but oh, the butterflies here are so abundant, so beautiful). I'm fine in the fresh air though and have discovered that when I am really hot it is more bearable to be moving than sitting still panting like a wallaby in the shade. The rain held off for the first five days of my stay, and now that it has come the air is cool enough that we even turned the fans off last night.
Thanks to stinger nets on many beaches I'm getting lots of swims. The best so far was a calm evening when the sun was setting, the moon was rising, the water was bath warm and as I floated on my back in the undulating, amniotic water hundreds of fruit bats flapped silently overhead, silhouetted against the darkening sky. I like the fruit bats here very much. I was walking past the library in Cairns (an air conditioned oasis in the city) when I looked up into the huge trees to see what was causing the cacophany of squeaking and twittering: hundreds of fruit bats hanging upside down, flapping their big black wings steadily to cool off their golden furred bodies. They were not asleep at midday, but chattering and playing -or fighting, and even flying a little from branch to branch.
Fruit bats on the banks of the Daintree River.
My best animal encounter so far was also totally unexpected. Santo (my treehouse host) and I were waiting in the train station gift shop for the scenic train up to Kuranda and he beckoned me over to see a display of clever paper sculpture animals, specifically a green tree frog which I was admiring when our eyes were caught by a remarkably likelike frog-toy on top of the display stand. We both were thinking, how clever and lifelike this mechanical toy was: its white throat pulsing, and then we realised it wasn't a toy but a real Common Green Tree Frog, somehow inside this gift shop. Crowds of tourists swirled around us as we spent a few long magical minutes with the hand-sized frog, making eye contact and wondering at its presence. Only when I lifted my camera up to take a photo did he leap away, swift and far, to land high on the wall, still unnoticed by anyone but us.

Tomorrow we head North for four or five days in the Daintree. I love the rainforest here, especially to walk very slowly, or sit still for an hour in one spot, and let the detailed diversity of the flora and fauna enter my awareness in a way that is simply not possible on a swift pass no matter how skillfully guided. At speed, from a car or boat, or even a brisk walk, it doesn't seem so different from dense bush at home... But with contemplative awareness I become suffused with its unfamiliarity, taking it into me to become familiar, and already it feels like another home, one that I have imagined for so long and now is where I breathe and feel and listen and see.


Carol said...

Hi Meliors, I'm delighted to find your blog. Also envious reading about your holiday up north. I'm in Sydney but try to get to NZ each year to stay with Sheila Coltman, hopefully this year in March or April. And make books of course. I'm interested to read that you are into letterpress. A couple of Sydney binders have been wondering if anyone teaches letterpress in Sydney - do you have any suggestions? I haven't gone through your letterpress posts yet but will do it bit by bit.

Anonymous said...

what an amazing holiday - I have always wanted to stay in a tree house. kate,