Saturday, 24 January 2015

Superb Lyrebird

At the top of the escarpment in the Blue Mountains.

In the rain forests of East Gippsland.

The first people valued feathers from birds and assigned them symbolic and ceremonial importance. Old bushmen also valued these - wearing a "gift" in their bush hat for bush dances and, then, when they left for war. 

It was a different time - when practical clothing were made at home, where three changes was thought profligate. Pride of place in a home was around a piano, and in the cool drawing rooms that housed that wonderful piece of furniture, sat small reminders of the land - carved emu eggs, perhaps a book of bush poems, vases of dried native flowers and a display of feathers - sometimes still attached to formal hats, of both men and women, placed well out of reach of inquisitive children and only worn on formal occassions - a trip to the races, a bush dance, a baptism, wedding or funeral. 

Not every feather is a gift. Instead a gift is a happenstance. It is a feather left on a path by a bird - an emu, a bush turkey, a rosella, a cockatoo or, most rare of all, a lyrebird.  A feather taken from a dead bird can never be a gift.

A gift gains value and import according to how many times it is given. From friend to friend. From parent to child. The story of a gift and its re-giving is often told. A gift can not be bought nor sold.

Images of a lyrebird feather left as a gift on a path high on an escarpment in a misty casuarina forest, this week.

Peter Quinton
January 2015

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