For the most part, I try and focus on what things are. Or at least, in my experience. But to change it up a bit, I thought I might focus a post on a couple of things that aren’t… Well, what we call them and how not like those monikers they are.
And in doing so, I dedicate this post to the Spirit of my Little Jack. And all the Little Jack’s in Australia.
Little Jack was an Australian Magpie. Below is a picture of an Australian Magpie (and a fine Jack he is!) And despite the depth and breadth of imagination being demonstrated by British settlers, black and white and wings is about all these fine creatures have in common with the Eurasian Magpie. Everything we have come to understand of Old Country Magpies through the related folklore does not apply.
They are NOT thieves. They like to play with shiny things, certainly, but they’ve no interest in running off with your jewellery past the distraction of trying to get it off you. It’s the tug-o-war they’re interested in. They are NOT a omen of ill fortune, indeed, if you wake to the song of your local Jack and Jill, I say, it’s a good day. They have garnered a poor reputation, but it is undeserved. Their supposed penchant for attacking humans (and yes, on occasion they have done very serious damage to people, really, children have lost eyes. Add it to the list of “Australian Things That Will Harm/Kill You”.) is not a penchant at all. They are affable little beings (well, not that small as birds go) and an aggressive pair in your neighbourhood might be an omen of ill: That living near you or did live near you, was some sort of twat of a child or person who did something completely shitty to them, like throw stones or some-such. (Although, I confess sometimes that has to do with necessary things like tree lopping and branch removal.) They have very long memories, and it is hard to convince them otherwise once they’ve felt threatened. And that threat has to be almost exclusively to their nest and young. The Maggie is deeply invested in family.
If you manage to garner the favour of your local Jack, then you’ve secured an ally that will eat your garden snails and your strawberries! And pass on his loyalty to several generations who will remember your house, and the times you are home. He will actively diminish the occurrence of imports and annoying nesters in your guttering like the Indian Minor, pests and other undesirables. I would go so far to say that I would back a Jack and Jill against any foe, slithery or venomous. He is the glove-slapper of the Bird Kingdom. Duel with him at your peril. If you see a pair against the largest of birds of prey, always bet on the Jack.
And once you’ve negotiated the mood-swings of this most idiosyncratic of hoity-toity Aves, they will sing you a duet. And a thing of beauty is a joy forever. Because the Australian Magpie is NOT a Corvid, he is a true song bird.
And in his glorious song, his long memory, his loyalty and staunch commitment to defending his own, his prowess and agility, his very sharp beak, his swagger, and his dinner-suit-esque attire, his Mercurial nature reveals itself. If you make a Jack or Jill your friend, and invite them for dinner, it is entirely possible to receive an invite to follow him into unknown places…
It is entirely possibly that were the Magpie less invested in his own ego, he might be more invested in shiny things.
No matter how fast the interwebs move, it seems it will never be fast enough in order for everyone who is not Aussie to not call Koalas “bears”. That’s a “NOT” that’s too obvious; the only time a koala could be said to be like a bear would be the day after the bear had smoked his weight in weed and had just ran out of Cheetos. In that brief moment, if that were to ever happen, then maybe a koala would be like a bear.
What is like a bear, but related to the koala?
Meet the Wombat. My Canadian (that is, from Canadia) friend recently told me how adorable she thought the wombats were. Indeed! Cute and cuddly! We even give the plushy kind to royalty. Just like a Teddy Bear. You know how else they are like a bear?
They will knock you down and maul you to death! (Ok, death is an exaggeration, maybe. Hospitalised, in excruciating pain, and calling out for your mother? Probably.) A “bear with a sore head” is a wombat on a good day. You know how there is a different theory for survival when encountering a bear in the wild every other day? Play dead, stay completely still, run for your life, find a tree…? And how none of them really guarantee you will survive? The question you have to ask yourself in the Aussie bush is “can I bench press 40kg of pure rage with a severed achilles tendon and multiple open wounds to my legs, arms and torso, whilst completely winded?” Because unlike a bear, you will never see him coming, you will be flat out on your arse and struggling to breath before you have even worked out a wombat has just attacked you.
Ok, so maybe that is somewhat of an exaggeration. Except for this poor dude. And let us all hope that if that ever happens to us, we too will find a neighbour with an axe to dispatch the fell beast. They do bite, they do bite hard, they can knock you over. And they’re actually called “Bear”, Vombatus ursinus! But then, so is the koala, only in Greek. In the meantime, consider this darling little juvenile, they learn fast…
If the wombat could be described by any other single word it would be “territorial”. And probably, “tank”. Otherwise, more like short, quick cows. If I had to pick a correspondence, I think I will describe the wombat I got to visit several times, who was well fed and very used to people. He liked a warm spot in the sun and a good scratch. And settle on Jupiterian. Occasionally prone to excess.
P.S. ‘N’ is for ‘Not’. This post participates with The Pagan Blog Project 2014.