The Secret Place

“The hardest thing of all to see is what is really there” J.A Baker (The Peregrine, 1967)

North of my office window at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, where the flat fields of the plateau fall away sharply into the mighty escarpment (often mistakenly called the “mountain” – but don’t get me started…) there is a place where the crest of the landform dips for the passage of a gully. Gazing across the roof of the rainforest, as I do more often than I possibly should, one notices a corresponding low nick in the forest canopy.

I have learned to be watchful of what moves through this secret place.

It was perhaps six years ago when I first saw a predatory bird sneak across this hunting flyway. Gliding on enormous, outstretched wings and scudding barely above the canopy, a massive Wedge-tailed Eagle silently infiltrated the low corridor from the west. With an ever-so-subtle raking of its wing tips, she burst over the steep slopes of the escarpment without raising the normal rattle of panicked bird alarm that is the bane of aerial predators. 

The whole episode was over in perhaps a second, yet it had an enduring impact on my psyche. Indeed, since that first unexpected encounter I have often found my attention gravitating towards this secret place.

Over the years I have witnessed a bevy of hawks, falcons and eagles entering the escarpment through this same defile. It is clearly not simply a coincidence that so many use the flyway, but rather there is a reliable hunting advantage involved.  Possibly birds have been hunting in this way at this spot for thousands of years?

Sometimes it feels that I lock eyes with one of these ancient masters of the sky and my face pressing at the window does not go unnoticed. 

And yet, despite my keen intention to pay close attention I cannot help but reflect on how many of nature’s wonders go unnoticed by me?  What arresting stories of natural beauty writ large across the landscape are we oblivious too? How can we learn to notice more of what is really there?

My advice?  Start by watching what happens outside your window.