Gemma is small and brown. She is part Corgi (her legs) and part Joy. She loves to run around and around in great circles over the grassy hill and back again.
Dooley is my Mum’s fool of a poodle. He is tall and thin and black and he chases after Gemma, barking. She runs around him, leaping at his throat when he gets too close.
After the chasey game, they lie in the cool grass and I sit with them as the stars start to come out. There is slobber on my leg and my foot, but Gemma is lying on her back in the grass with her tongue lolling out, smiling up at me.
23 years ago, we are at the edge of the Kuranda Rainforest track. Outside, there is only glare and heat and damp. The morning sun bites hard and hot. The bitumen is sticky with heat. The air is so wet that I breathe heavy from the short walk from home. And the blazing song of a million million cicadas buzz, throb, and pulse around us.
Kirra and me, we carefully ease past a cascading curtain of wait-a-while, and we enter the forest.
We enter the cool and dark and quiet.
We enter the stillness of the forest.
I pause to breathe a few breaths and to be present, here.
Kirra wriggles off my hip and runs ahead.
In the heart of this forest there’s a spot where the Kuranda creek murmurs around a large flat rock, 15 steps across: 25 steps for Kirra. There are flay dry patches of rock and little pools, rivulets, and a deep crevasse where an eel may – or may not – live.
Kirra is playing in the creek, perched on the rock, writing on the water with her stick and counting taddies.
I lie on the cool cool stone to look up at the forest giants.
The giant trees, columns and canopy shade us completely: just a few slender rays of sunlight are made visible where they illuminate a leaf, a twig, or tiny floating particles of dust.
And rising between the columns, a cloud of Richmond birdwing butterflies, green stained glass, catch and reflect that sunlight as they circle and eddy slowly in a gentle updraft.
They said I was mad to plant milkweed… but here we are six months later hosting Monarch caterpillers. Now, I’m as ambivalent to all things American as any Australian ought to be, but the romantic tale of the arrival of the Monarch or Wanderer in the late 1860s and via New Caledonia has me intruiged. And the caterpillers are so full of character. How could I resist?