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“Hi, my name’s Tracy Sorensen.
This is from a work in progress called Port Badminton. This piece is written in the voice of entomologist Dr Harry Baumgarten.
I’m sitting here with a little fire, a little boy scout fire, and an enamel mug for my tea. I’m listening to the chiming wedgebills, the endless circularity of their call. Did you get drunk? Did you get drunk? I have for many decades held a keen interest in birds, even though by training I am an entomologist. In two years I will be seventy years old. Look at these brown legs, the same brown legs I’ve always had, cheerful and determined, terminating in a pair of sturdy brown sandals. And well-developed calves, oft remarked upon. These legs have tramped through the decades, through the undergrowth, over sand dunes, down the aisles between banana plants, getting lashed and stung and sometimes gouged and cut as I chased and caught and catalogued thousands of insects and birds.
I’m here to record the chiming wedgebill. Last time I attempted it, in 1965, I was diverted from my task.
It occurs to me to pin myself down, for once and for all. I want to pin myself down like an insect pierced through the thorax with a long silver pin. This urge has come over me before, but I’ve always managed to sit it out or head it off with some pressing thing or other. A journal deadline. Consulting work. The fourth revised edition of my Wonderful World of Australian Birds.
To pin myself down, then: It was exactly here, on this spot, that Linda Johnson got out of the Johnson family’s new blue station wagon. She was coming to see me. I was lying in my tent, surfacing from deep sleep. I heard the car door through the canvas and my heart sank. I was still drunk but now, unlike a few hours earlier, I had clarity of mind. I knew I had to send her away. I did indeed send her away. I wish I had done this well. Instead, I threw my binoculars around my neck – why did I do that? – and emerged, fully dressed, having adopted a defiantly chipper attitude.
She’d just stepped out of the car, a beautiful young woman with long black hair. She was in the same dress she’d been wearing a few hours before, smoothing it down with both hands. I barely glanced at her. I was leaping out of my tent chattering about birds. At this she sank back against the flank of her car. She was a picture of the word deflated. We exchanged a series of meaningless inanities, entirely at odds with the intensity and honesty, well so it seemed at the time, of our conversation a few hours before. Then she got back into the car letting her hair hide her face. She drove away into the barest shred of early morning light, the shred that the birds were already singing to.”
ABOUT TRACEY SORENSEN:
I grew up in Carnarvon on the north coast of Western Australia. I’ve worked as a journalist and video maker and now teach these subjects at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst.
“My involvement with Varuna began back in 2008 when I won a place in the Pathways to Publication Masterclass. Since then, I’ve made a point of getting back there once a year. In 2010 I won the Penguin/Varuna Scholarship for my work-in-progress.” Tracey Sorensen
Lots of magazine and newspaper journalism; just a couple of published short stories.
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