Had I been looking, I would have seen the wombat.
Before moving to Australia 10 months ago, I had heard there was not much life in Australian nature. It was apparently pretty red, pretty dry, and pretty barren. I keep learning, however, that there is always life if you just look. I thought the native brown grasses were victims of relentless drought, and that dry lakes could not possibly be a regular occurrence. Beauty in nature according to my upbringing lay in lush, green grasses that my toes danced in. Life found itself in strong rivers and black, nutritious topsoil. Upon arrival, I even thought a burnt forest meant that it was dead. Of course, had I looked, I would have seen that it is teeming with life.
Maybe I had been looking, but through the filter of the city and society. The beauty had disappeared between tram stops and construction sites. I was slowly growing more frustrated with life. I knew I was not seeing much of life or its beauty when a stranger asked me for the time as I buzzed by, my mind elsewhere. I automatically replied “No thanks,” as if they were a street corner fundraiser, and marched on. I was 10 metres away already when I back-pedaled and looked him straight in the eyes. I said, “I’m sorry about that. The time is 2:45.” I had, again, not been looking.
So now, I put my head out the window, the salty ocean air filling my nostrils, but I do not dare let it do something that I do not see. I am wide-eyed, looking eagerly at all the plants and rocks and coastline. As the car winds its way along the Otway National Park, I spot a koala hanging out having a meal, a wallaby, and some funky birds. And then I see this guy:
Where did all of this life come from?! How did I not see this before? I began to spot things everywhere, finding every wallaby’s hiding spot and even a lizard of some sort. It only continued at the campground. On my way to the use the toilet in the dark, I was on high alert for yellow eyes shining in my flashlight. Sure enough, I saw two staring right at me, and it wasn’t moving too quickly. It was, of course, another koala.
There was little I didn’t see at this point. So much to see and learn, and at night the koalas gave their territorial growls, sounding like wild pigs. It is funny looking back that everyone talks about snakes and spiders when they think of nature in Australia, and I still do not want to see any ever ever ever. But by assuming this, are we really looking? Compared to North America with wolves, bears (Ok, in Minnesota anyway) and racoons–in addition to snakes and spiders–growling koalas did not seem so bad!!
By focusing on snakes and spiders, I would not have seen the other animals. By focusing on the brown leaves or minimal streams, I would not have seen all the ferns or waterfalls. It was hard to be convinced of red, dry, barren land amongst all this life.
I just had to look.