[Walk – 8 June 2017]
The intrigue with the kangaroo bones at the Ngaraka Shrine continues. Today the children tried to imagine how the bones might fit together. One child found several bones of a similar shape, and comparing the bones to his own body, he observed: I think it’s a knee bone. Let’s take a look at this one.
Others looked more closely into the decaying bones, intrigued as to what might be inside: ‘There’s a big hole. There’s sand inside.’
Long after some of the others had moved on, couple of children lingered under the Shrine, hesitant to leave.
Eventually we did continue, the children stopping here and there at patches of soft orange and red earth only made visible by the avid digging of the rabbits.
On our previous walks, the children had gently touched the soft earth, feeling its texture. Today, they seemed more intent on using their hands as rabbit claws. They furiously scratched at the earth to simulate rabbit-claw digging marks.
Moving on from the familiar bones and rabbit-clawed diggings, our walk took a new turn. The children gravitated to a large landscape sculpture they call ‘The Teeth’. They spent much time squeezing their bodies in and out between the vertical jaw-like structure.
All of this ‘teeth’ activity was suddenly interrupted by a puzzling and slightly gruesome find. Lying on the ground near the sculpture was a single possum tail.
For some time, the children stood around the tail, keeping slightly back as if not sure what to expect; some thinking the tail might still be alive. One child pondered: I think the front of it died. And the back is still alive.
But the tail remained still. Emboldened by its inertness, one child picked up a stick to prod it. Others cautioned: It’s a possum tail. Don’t touch that. It could be a poison tail. Eventually, the other children also decided that it might be safe to prod, and one by one they all set of searching for prodding sticks: ‘I’m going to find a stick. Me too.’
Using their implements, the children reached out and gently prodded the tail, checking for life and feeling its texture.
‘It’s not alive. It’s fluffy.’ … ‘It might be a baby possum. Maybe this is the mummy of the baby.’
‘Just lift it. Don’t be scared.’ … ‘Yuk. Yuk. Leave it there.’
‘There’s something spiky on it. It’s just the prickles.’
The mood was sombre as we tried to work out what might have befallen the possum. ‘Poor possum’, the children said.
One child recalled a lizard [skink] that he had once seen lose its tail, and explained: ‘When the tail came off it was moving and the lizard ran away.’ This immediately prompted a more hopeful thought: ‘Maybe the tail came off the possum and the possum ran away.’ On this note, we headed back to the Centre, leaving the tail lying next to ‘the teeth’ and at the whim of the elements and other creatures who live in this place.
On the walk back, one of the children reminded us of the king parrots she had seen feeding on the berries. As on other walks, looking at birds always poses a particular dilemma – you need to get close to have a look, but the closer you get, the higher the chance the birds will fly away. The children are constantly navigating this human-bird territory – pausing, ‘shhing’ and tiptoing when they spot a bird – and then sighing with disappointment when the bird flies away, perhaps also grappling with a niggling sensation that our presence was in some way responsible for the bird moving on from its feeding ground.