Blackbird Song

The blackbird sings its song to a variety of accompaniments.

Yesterday morning, in relative silence after the huge rumbling,shaking and flashing thunderstorms which crashed over Melbourne overnight, the song was a tuneful counterpoint to the steady hissing of rain and tyres on the wet roads. I hoped the bird had been safely sheltered from the elements.

A few days ago, it was singing along to the arrhythmic hammering of the carpenters on the nearby building site. If I knew more about music, I think I could talk about jazz.

Sometimes, I hear it filtering through ‘builders’radio’ which is less than pleasant for me but I suspect that the bird doesn’t notice.

My favourite time to hear the simple, pure song is in the dark early morning when there is no light, just sound.



I learnt a new word a few weeks ago – biophilia.

I liked the idea of ‘love of life’ as a simple definition. It corresponds with I’ve been thinking about in defining Urban Nature in my writing.

Biophilia refers to having an ‘innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world’, and the concept was developed by the academic, Edward O. Wilson in his book, ’Biophilia’, published in 1984. Wilson talks of an urge to affiliate with other forms of life. He, in turn, derived the word from the psychologist Erich Fromm, who was talking about ‘a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital’ in the 1960s.

Then, on the ABC’s ‘Catalyst’ last week, 23.10.2014, I heard the word again with reference to the positive role of plants and the natural world in open plan offices. Aha! I thought. I know that word.

And it jumped up again! This time in The Age on Saturday, two days later, when I read that there is a film of Bjork’s show, ‘Bjork – Biophilia’ whose theme is about the link between music, nature and technology.

There’s clearly something in the air and also a chance to use another word I love.


The First Cruise Ship of Summer

“What’s the Channel 7 helicopter doing?’

We went out onto the balcony and there, behind the red and white Spirit of Tasmania ferry which is always there in the morning, was a towering white ship. The first cruise ship of summer, the Dawn Princess, had come in silently overnight and berthed on the other side of Station Pier. It was about twice the height of the Spirit and longer, a white, floating apartment building.

So! Not the first swallow of summer but the first of many summer season cruise ships which appear in the morning and are gone by the evening. They are a clear marker of summer in Port Melbourne.


Later, I walked down to the pier, and realized that there were actually five ships jammed around the pier. There were two small Navy vessels rafted up against the wharf and a black and white lighter tucked up against the Dawn Princess, a lamb next to its mother.


I’d seen the Navy boats coming up the Channel yesterday but had thought nothing more of them. But seeing them today made me realize that they were possibly part of yesterday’s Commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of Australian soldiers sailing off to World War 1 from the next pier along, Princes Pier. Suddenly on the TV news last night, Princes Pier had flashed up on the screen in the background of a ceremony honouring those soldiers of 100 years ago.

Outside the fish and ship shop, a group of people sat with large cases in front of them. Others were striding off down Beach Street wheeling their cases and more were piling up at the 109 tram stop trying to make sense of a transport system new to them. I suppose they’d already bought their Myki public transport swipe cards from the IGA because there were large blue temporary Myki signs stuck up on bigger signs and fences.

Yellow taxi after yellow taxi crawled up the road towards the ship and a taxi bus from Traralgon was parked awkwardly waiting for its passengers to take back to Gippsland. Huge fuel trucks and garbage trucks joined the stream.


I turned around from photographing the traffic and looked straight into the grey, hairy trunk of a palm tree. It was a happy surprise to look closely at something natural after all the traffic and bustle.The diamond pattern of its crisscross strips of bark and the fraying strands escaping from it were a satisfying combination of the simple and complex in one structure.


Later that afternoon, I was writing this piece and got up to check the size of the ship. And there it was , sailing away down the channel already. Well, that was quick!


Blackbird Song

4.12 am. It’s as pitch black as the city will allow. A brief birdsong rises up the cliff face of the apartment building and enters my window. The bird tries again and adds a few quiet bars. Next time, a bit more volume. I wait but the blackbird song doesn’t quite get going. All is silent again except for the occasional passing car.

4.15 pm. Another winter’s day. I step out of the building for a walk along the beach and enter a courtyard echoing with blackbird song. The piping music soars in the entire space with the simple clarity of a boy soprano in a cathedral.


I look around. There it is. One small blackbird puffed up against the cold, perched on a white balcony.

The sound follows me as I dodge across Beach Road to the beachside footpath.

Looking back, I can still hear the high clear song as it floats above the roar of peak hour traffic into the crisp, clear, wintry sky.