Tiny Dancers  

Following a massive downpour the night before, the morning felt not unlike the morning after the night before. The air had been surprised at its own behaviour and there was a general feeling of unsettlement in the air. Apart from providing a welcome watering of gardens, the unexpected and heavy downpour seemed to have rebooted nature, in particular the local fauna.

Flies are everywhere in Australia, although possibly not as bad as they used to be. I think someone introduced the scarab beetle – one of my personal favourites, who does good, steady work cleaning up poo. Much like Bob in this short film. The morning after the rain, though, it seemed as thought the flies had called in reinforcements and there were hundreds of them about, all trying to get up my nose, in my ears and down my throat. We took the dogs for a walk and as Lucy investigated a butterfly, I overtook my husband on the path and asked, ‘How many?’

He replied, ‘At least thirty and they are all over your left shoulder for some reason.’

Just as I suspected, those flies that were not dive bombing me were clinging to the back of my T Shirt, despite the fact that I had sprayed myself with insect repellent before leaving the house.

My husband remained untouched. Flies do not attack him and neither do mousquitos. He could set next to a fetid swamp of still water and never be trouble by one, while I would be covered like PigPen in the Charlie Brown comic strip.

I was doing stuff in the house after we got back when he called me out into the garden to witness, ‘a swarm’ of dragonflies.

I joined him on the porch to watch two of them float over the grass.

‘Hardly a swarm,’ I pointed out.

‘Wait,’ he said.

Sure enough a few seconds later a cloud of long-tailed dragonflies descended into our patch, swirling and whirling, looping the loop and being closely followed by a number of birds who had got wind of some snacks they could grasp on-the-fly and were tracking the group’s movement both in the air and from the branches of a nearby tree.

Our last mass encounter was coming home after being out for a couple of hours at night. We had left the light on outside the house, except that we could barely see it. It was covered with what looked like about fifty to a hundred moths. Somehow in my confusion at this sight I decided the idea would be to open the door, switch off the outside light and get in as the moths flew off in search of someone else’s door light.

Wrong. The moths followed me in in search of the light I had left on in the house. About ten of them. It was like a vampire movie, and I had invited them in.

I could have just sprayed them with insect killer but maybe the memory of the butterfly earlier, or the cider I had drunk made me want to save them and while I probably could have turned all the lights off inside the house and held a torch by the door to show them the way out, that would have been too easy and I ended up lugging a stool around the living room and risking damaging my already bad knee further by standing on it and cupping each one of the moths, one at a time in my hands and climbing down from the stool.

Then, one at a time as each one fluttered like a tiny dancer in my cupped hands, I walked them to the door and set them free so the dragonflies could eat them.


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