Spring in Canberra can be a beautiful time of year: flowers are blooming everywhere, the grass is greener than ever, and daytime temperatures are usually mild and pleasant. Yet springtime is also the magpie swooping season. Australian magpies are very curious, inquisitive birds. They are known to approach people with some confidence and easily accept a feed, but they are also extraordinarily territorial animals; so much, that for as long as their little ones remain in the nest, they will harass anyone who approaches.
I was walking back from school the other morning, reading a book as is my custom, when I was suddenly attacked from behind. The magpie gave me a bit of a fright; my sunglasses fell to the ground. Much more hassled was a girl who was riding her bike to school; she eventually had to dismount because the magpie would not stop attacking her.
It feels as if it were only last year when Clea came running into her grandparents’ house, crying and holding her head. She had been playing outside, in the paddocks near the hay shed, when a magpie swooped down from one of the old gum trees on the farm and scratched her, drawing a little blood. She was very upset. I recorded the episode in a poem I wrote more than a year ago, ‘Whisper Her Name in the Wind’.
The magpie was simply protecting their little ones, I tried to explain, and did not mean to hurt. All animals have developed a sense of protection in one way or another. It is in every parent’s nature and instinct to protect our little one. Like the magpie, I would have done anything to be able to protect my little one.
When you lose your little one, the world becomes meaningless, and perhaps it can regain some semblance of consequence and logic after a long time.