2. Jacky Winter: Roy Peachey 2009

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1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
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1.8 Photographs
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1.8.2

Jacky Winters are modest little birds: about the size of a House Sparrow, they live in the woodlands of Australia and Papua New Guinea and can be seen often sitting on stumps (as here), waggling their tails, and going on acrobatic flights after insects. They may be small and grey, but they are full of perky character and charm, singing vigorously and wiggling jauntily from branch or fencepost.

Their lack of spectacular plumage and relative abundance means they are not often of great interest to photographers, but this is one of the reasons that I love this picture. Roy Peachey1 has said ‘No’, look below the surface, there is great depth of beauty here, subtle perfection in the filamentous feathers of the flank and the endlessly shifting tones of grey of the body. Look, too, to the black shine and confidence of the eye and bill, the character there and the essential ‘rightness’ of its existence and place in the universe, honed by millions of years of evolution (see 1.9.6 Poems, Hawk Roosting: “It took the whole of Creation to create my foot, my each feather”). There is no existential angst here, no doubt or fear or loneliness. This Nature is charming, confident, welcoming and accessible: “The mastery of the thing” (Hopkins, in Poems 1.9.8).

David Malouf, one of Australia’s finest writers, beautifully encapsulated the above in his fine book ‘Fly Away Peter’2. In it he merges the loss and grief for Jim, killed in WWI, with the photo of a sandpiper taken by Imogen, his friend. She remembered “all his intense being concentrated on the picture she had taken of the sandpiper, holding it tight in his hand, but holding it also in his eye, his mind, absorbed in the uniqueness of the small creature as the camera had caught it at just the right moment, with its head cocked and its fierce alert eye, and in entering that one moment of the bird’s life – the bird was gone, they might never see it again – bringing up to the moment, in her vision of him, his own being that was just then so very like the bird’s, alert, unique, utterly present”. What endures is “That in itself…as it for its moment was. That is what life meant, a unique presence, and it was essential for every creature”. What Imogen finds most moving is that, in the end, “A life wasn’t for anything. It simply was”.

The Jacky Winter is, but this dynamic present is anything but simple; it is magical.

 

1 Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority. 2009. Broken Boosey Conservation Management Network 2009 Calendar. GBCMA, Shepparton, Australia.

2 Malouf, D. 1982. Fly Away Peter. Chatto and Windus, London, UK.

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