24 Jan 2014

My Wild Garden

This piece of mine has just been published in "Spanish Australia Magazine" online magazine featuring a selection of Spanish and Latin cultural events and businesses based in Australia.

I'm not brave with bugs. In the time I've lived in Australia I haven't sat on a bit of grass without getting jittery every time I feel a slight itch on my skin... 
So when I realised a colony of black, beetle-like creatures had taken over the lemon tree in my garden, I tried to get rid of them from the farthest distance. As I pointed the hose in their direction and shot water at them, hoping they didn't fly off towards me, I noticed a bitter smell. Later I read these bugs eject a caustic fluid when disturbed.
Ahem, I guess I was lucky not to get "attacked."
My husband jokes I've been fighting my own battle with nature since we moved to Australia a couple of years ago. He's probably right. Australian bugs are bigger and more plentiful than any bugs I encountered in Spain (where I grew up) or England (where I was living before moving here.) They're louder too, which means I sometimes find myself shouting at cicadas to shut up.
Last year I was excited to see a grasshopper, till I realised it was part of a plague of locusts destroying my plants.
I know we have more types of spiders than I feel happy about and lots of ants but thankfully not bull ants (a name that seems created to scare people like me.)
Thankfully, it's not all insects we get; we also have other visitors. A blue-tongue lizard sunbathes next to our fence every day. We get myna birds, kookaburras, magpies and of course crows, which are the birds whose caw caught my attention the most when I arrived in this country: a cross between the bleating of a sheep and the crying of a toddler.
Australian birds are imposing, loud and incredibly comfortable hanging around humans. Sometimes too comfortable, as I found out the first time I got swooped by a magpie. Nothing like the sparrows or swallows I used to see growing up in a small Spanish town. Here we put water in the bird bath and the birds drink from it, then rest on the branches of the nearby jacaranda or our bottle-brush tree.
If I'm enjoying an outdoor conversation on a warm evening, the call of flying foxes provides a soundtrack.
Not being able to see much can make the experience a bit nerve-wracking. As I told my sister when she visited: 'Do you know that sensation you get at times, as if something is crawling on your skin but there's nothing really on it?'
Well, be careful when you go out in the garden for a cigarette because, in Australia, if you feel something on your skin you probably have something on it. It sure cut down the smoking in the evenings...