An oasis is a place in the desert that has water and is fertile.  The rigid foam that secure flowers in an arrangement is also called an oasis.  So is that quiet place in one’s mind that is fertile, and anchors one’s spirit.  Ordinarily none of these would describe the place I am headed to.  But, I admit to being proved wrong.

I am going to mining country again.  Checking the temperature is part of preparation.  It promises to be 400 C on both days, 20 degrees higher than home.  Karratha is approximately 1500 km north of Perth.  The hotel, some two years old, seems to have been developed at the end of the mining boom.  It is located a short distance from the centre of town and is surrounded by rugged outcrops of rocks and spinifex.

After sleeping well I find, the sun is two hours away, so I get some work done and then wait for it with a coffee.  At first light I step outside my chilled room.  Waking to frangipanis and warmth is a delicious feeling.  Inside the perimeter of the hotel is an oasis.  The frangipanis and yellow trumpet flowers catch the sun, as they do my eye.  The ixora, in pink, white, orange and red are planted generously around the property, interspersed with delicate coral bush, now in flower.

The birds arrive around 7 am.  They must know when the garden has been watered.  They fly between boughs of leaves and bathe in the droplets caused by movement.  The smaller white plumed honeyeaters are feeding without much noise, until I open my door.  My presence agitates them.  They protest, but remain focused on their routine.  So do the brown honey eaters.  Slightly larger they are unable to balance on the delicate coral bush, so they feed off the flowers that lie on the gravel, weighted down from moisture.  Soon a flock of tiny zebra finch arrive.  They swarm and cluster on the lawn in groups of 10-30.  Almost comical, their birdcall sounds like a vintage doll.  The kind you tip over and it wails.

Once done, the birds chase each other incessantly.  Their playfulness is joyous.  They delight in brief encounters.  As do I when a honeyeater, with a yolk yellow head lands on the light in front of me.  Then bigger honeyeaters arrive.  Their beaks are longer and sharper.  Their profile is predatory.  I know people like this and like the birds, I have learnt to keep them at a distance.

The work day has its challenges, mostly from heat and constant air conditioning.  A drive to the local jetty is a welcomed break.  Icky mud skippers carpet the shore.  A sea eagle watches from vantage point.  They are an unattractive meal option even to him.  Foraging at the shore, a small wader goes about life as known to it.  The landscape around the jetty is stark and natural.  It is as much an oasis as the garden I’ve come to love.

My return home is a relief from heat.  The sun is setting to my right.  Fiery bright, it mellows with time.  Melting into the horizon it leaves a horizontal rainbow of indigo, blue, yellow, persimmon and black.

My job involves being observant.  Sometimes, I take in more than I say.  I have developed a sense, too, about people.  It is a feeling that has no vocabulary.  Observing without judgment is an acquired skill.  There is an natural quality to this type of observation.  I did not attend university to learn this.  I did it as a child.

Until next time, as always

a dawn bird



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