Back to the Start: A musing by Rohan Anderson

Words by
Rohan Anderson
| September 8, 2015

The last days of this winter are upon us. It’s been a beautiful winter – it always is. Hell, let’s face it, every season we’re alive is pretty good, right? The only thing I don’t like about winter is the ability of the cold temperature to shrink certain manly body parts. Apart from that, I just love it. Why do I wait until the end of winter to consider investing in thermal undies?

Cosy undergarments aside, I wanted to share something a little bit more classy than disappearing testicles. Ducks. Baby ducks, in fact. They’ve started popping up in the dams. The adults paired up long ago and now little ducklings appear with their mum and dad, as they waddle out from the long grass and sedge that grows on the banks of the frigid water. They have the cutest walk; their little bums wiggle as they stumble on dry land, but they look far less awkward in the water. I’m the complete opposite. I look like I’m drowning when I’m in the water, but look almost normal on dry land. The point is, these beautiful little ducklings have the ability to make a bearded man turn all schmoopy-whoopy. All at once I revert to the child version of me and appreciate that beauty through childlike eyes.

Today I sat alone on the bank of the big dam and just watched as the duck family swam about happily. Above the dam, circling on the thermals, was a brown hawk. Birds of prey are common where we live, probably because there are so many damn rabbits around. This bird is an absolute machine of nature, built tough, fast and violent. What a bird. I can’t help but compare us humans with the hawk, or any bird of prey for that matter. Although these days, let’s face it, most of us aren’t built for speed. But we do hunt. Well, actually, there’s another lie; we mostly get someone else to do the ‘hunting’ for us. And by hunt, I mean buy meat, mostly farmed meat, which we get someone else to do. Okay meat, whichever way it comes.

Out here I feel privileged to be able to observe an ecosystem. Ducks have babies, predator eats new ducks, feeds baby hawks, some ducks survive and the cycle continues the following year. It’s a basic biological formula that’s been in existence for aeons.

We humans are part of it; we’ve just been a little ‘smarter’ by inventing ways to manipulate the system a little – farming is just an advanced form of hunting, for example, a manipulation of nature to our advantage.

We’re currently the masters of our food chain, but I can’t help wondering how long we’ll last at the top. Our system has its weaknesses. The one particular weakness is fossil fuels. I can’t imagine how our current modern system would operate without it. But I bet you, regardless of our dwindling fossil fuels, those ducks will continue raising ducklings, and those hawks will continue soaring in the heavens, stalking their prey for many moons to come.

A dirty great black cloud is rolling in from the north. The wind has picked up and the hawk has buggered off, uninterested or distracted. The view here is amazing: one side of the sky is bright with patches of blue, the other side is dark and menacing. It’s the end of winter. This is the beginning of the crazy spring weather, marking the approaching end of another year in our cycle. The garden is full of potential food and some of it has already started to flower. Soon I’ll be eating fresh broad (fava) beans, peas and broccoli. In a few months the summer veg will get planted in the damp spring soil and our bellies will rejoice in a mostly vegetarian diet for the summer. It’s a beautiful system.

Some people have said I’ve lost everything by pursuing this life of practiculture: my career, my possessions, my financial wealth. But to tell the truth, I’ve gained everything. I’m content to exist in this ancient cycle, to live with real food, purpose and mindfulness.

I sound more and more like a damn hippie every day.

This is an excerpt from A Year of Practiculture by Rohan Anderson. It’s out now and published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $49.95.

Pic by Kate Berry