In these parts, when the sky crackles and chops with the sound of helicopter, you know something is up. “A bushfire or an accident on the highway?” you wonder, hoping neither, craning your neck, arms folded, pacing a stretch outside your house, your neighbours dotted up and down the street doing the same because the best view of any arial expanse is street-wise. Now you are part of a congregation.
Many times, I have longed for it to be a runaway criminal, a bank robber in striped pyjamas with bandits mask and a sack-full of jewels over one shoulder.
Once, it was Prince William and Kate, all the way from Cambridge which they now own, but that was a one off. I mean, they could come again, they may do and they would be very welcome. But I never imagine it is them returning for a second visit when the helicopters start up. It would be my last thought.
Sometimes, in fact, too often, someone has trekked too far into the bush. Then the sound crackles all day and night, especially at night because the choppers have infra red, heat sensitive lights that only work in the dark, although I’m not sure how they distinguish between a large wombat, for example and a small bush walker, someone from a country whose residents are mostly small, like … I don’t really know but I’m thinking of the difference between a large wombat and a smallish, adult person and it is not much.
Anyway, I am sure they know what they are doing. I mean, it would be a surprise for a wombat to find itself winched to safety in the middle of the night when it was only out picking berries, for example.
In that case, you have to wonder whether any of these examples are worth it, but I’m sure the training is not wasted.
When the sound is at crescendo, you go to sleep with it – brrr, chop, grunt, grunt, grunt – you wake up to it. “Have they found them yet?” you wonder. It must be agony for the loved ones.
Sometimes, the same noise is merely your partner.
Today, however, the helicopters are here for a small miracle: the Dali Lama is here. The real one, the one with the giggle. Almost unbelievably although it is true.
Last night, we all slept under the same blanket of stars, a small blanket, particular to our street and a few others, more a like rug. I’m sorry for sounding so exclusive but I’m trying to lap up the fact that the Dali Lama is here, not only here but five streets from our house, five hundred paces from the letter box.
It seems so unlikely but maybe that just goes to show. It seems even more unlikely given that when we learned of his visit last year, we assumed he would be in the big town, which is small, not even a city, so even this was a surprise. So far, everything is, starting with his agenda and finishing with his sleeping quarters. Neither of us gave a moments thought to that.
Just now, returning home from shopping, I was unloading the car, going to and from it and the house, when I thought I heard an echo of a mutter coming from around the corner. On closer listening, I realised it was the sound of a chant, floating over the valley, probably only five streets away.
I dropped the rest of bags inside the front door and got back into the car. My only abiding thought: I want to go to that sound, and I can!
A minute later I was there, to be met by a small and dedicated political protest group who had set up chant.
“Oh, that was the chant” I thought.
A couple of policemen in fluorescent jackets crossed the road to survey the scene which was only me as I was the only newcomer. Nothing else much was happening so I turned the car around and started back.
And then I saw a peacock.
Suddenly, it was there, ambling down the same street on the footpath – an enormous, dazzling, blue and green bejewelled bird, looking to cross the road.
Two passers by on the other side of the road, one holding a bunch of daintily, knotted grass which made me think they had been to the Dali Lama, had slowed to guide traffic around the bird, the man gently shooing, trying to make it walk a bit faster.
I pulled over, thinking to help from the other side of the road.
“It’s not a lyrebird is it?” I asked because lyrebirds are native to Australia and similar to peacocks but smaller and with less vivid colouring.
“No” said the girl and we all three wondered aloud the same and only question, ” What the …?”
With the peacock safely over the road and waddling in the direction of the Everglades gardens, the most spectacularly beautiful sanctuary it could have chosen, we got to chatting.
They had come from the Dali Lama’s talk. And I don’t know whether it was that or the mountain air or whether they were just super lovely and sweet but I was so happy to be part of the new little group.
I remembered that I had been to see him in London many years ago and told them how we all waited with baited spiritual and serious breath in some landmark London building right in the centre of the city but when he walked on stage, he was nearly bent over double and giggling.
“He did that here!” the girl said and pointing to her friend, said that somehow, he had got stuck right at the back of the room, right in the corner and while everyone was peering at the stage, waiting for His Holiness to come onto it, he suddenly appeared at the back, right behind her friend, saying “Hello, hello, hello!” and smiling and giggling. Then he spotted the top-knot, pony-tail on the top of her friend’s head, and pulling at it gently, started asking “what’s this, what’s this?” all the while smiling and giggling and pulling at his hair.
As far as this piece goes, I had only got as far as the title and now there is a peacock.
Meanwhile, my amazing leonine father continues to surprise as well; he is very loved in his personal kingdom and so well looked after. Some days, it occurs to me that he may have found the elixir to life but that is unlikely. At any rate, he’s very happy and funny as ever, which is all any of us could want.
Beautiful illustration, myvintagebookcollection by Art Seider (1963)
The Dali Lama, tibetanreview