The tip turkey and the eagle hawk

In Healesville, where we lived until recently and where we have our community ties, there are two famous birds: the indigenous eaglehawk and the ibis.

As you drive in an out of the Healesville area, you can often see an eaglehawk, a key spirit for local Wurundjeri people known as Bunjil, circling above the highway near where it crosses the Yarra River, chilled, calm, on the lookout for juicy mice in the paddocks and gems of lizards in the bush land lining the river.

As you park in town, you may be warned by a local to not park under the conifers lining Queen’s Park, as the ibis, otherwise known as Bush Turkey, Tip Turkey or Healesville Seagull, is known to sit up there and just shit over everyone after stealing the leftovers of picnics.

Years ago, when as a young person I began my career as a university student, I remember being able to clearly see what a crappy essay on a particular topic would look like and what a really great essay would look like. The visions of these two essays were so clear, it was almost impossible to deliberately attempt to write the crappier one, and I was instead channelled into writing the good one. I wore what I liked and I always looked good; I would not think twice about striding all the way from outer Fitzroy to RMIT in platform boots and something so short it no longer qualified as a kilt.

Then I graduated and my ability to see what I was about to write was just as sharp, only I was now making plenty of money from it. Think, see, write. Think, see, write. Invoice. Collect. Think, see, write.

As I head towards the end of my Master’s degree by attempting a small research project, I am reminded by these two sets of images: Bunjil versus the tip turkey; the great essay versus the pass essay. I want so much to be Bunjil, but now that I am 46, a mother of some experience and responsibility, a person who has fought battles that ought to have not been fought and been too tired to fight the ones that really should be fought, who had too many boyfriends when young and none enough in later years, who has less friends but more time, I find the tip turkey and the pass essay merging with anything I plan in my mind’s eye.

Now that I’m old enough to really care who my friends are, to start to be a contented person, to have a career scurrying around after this research topic or that and to just sit quietly and be paid to write, why can I not clearly see the eaglehawk? Why are my dreams infested with tip turkeys?

Some call this ‘imposter syndrome’. It’s not.

It’s not about tip turkeys, you know. It’s deeper and gentler and it has a bigger purpose than just the service of my ego and the cultivation of my career. It’s the cool wind blowing that causes me to think twice, the wait on the platform for the train to arrive, the pause to take in the big work of art instead of instant absorption, categorisation, and evaluation.

The confidence of youth has given way to doubt as I age; the doubt now needs to be fashioned into something elegant and intriguing, wearing toned-down bias-cut silk and crafty flats, the counterbalance to the brash assertiveness of my uni days, all platform boots and miniskirts.

The bobbed hair and the naughty grin get to stay.


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