I am a “lone wolf” motorcyclist.

A mystic biker.

It has always been this way.

To ride, is to escape.

To find solace, in solitude.

To be alone, with one’s own.

Solitary soul.

And yet, the times they are a-changin’.

For if ever there was a brotherhood of men.

One whom I would wish to befriend.

It seems to me that this would be them.

 

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Roaring through Moscow after dark with their big bikes, long hair and leather jackets, the Night Wolves could be Russia’s answer to the Hell’s Angels. But these are riders with a cause, and that cause is the motherland.

“Our values are quite simple: love your country, have faith and don’t use or sell drugs” summed up Alexander Benish, second in command of the powerful motorcycle club whose members President Vladimir Putin calls his “brothers”.

They may share a passion for the open road, but the Night Wolves — “Nochnye Volki” in Russian — reject the American biker label altogether.

 

The Night Wolves say they welcome members from across the former Soviet Union, regardless of their religious beliefs – and count Muslims in their ranks, alongside the Orthodox Christian majority.

Likewise its riders come from varied social backgrounds, from car mechanics, to businessmen — even a few monks.

“Everyone is free to join — except for women. ‘No woman no cry,” joked Benish in a play on the Bob Marley lyric.

“Years ago when it was founded, the club was a kind of symbol of virility, of what it means to be a man.”

 

Alongside the tough-guy routine, the riders also play what they see as a pastoral role, striving for “the moral and spiritual development of the young generation based on patriotism and traditions.”

“The words of Saint Augustine could sum up the philosophy of the Night Wolves,” said Benish, quoting the words of the medieval theologian: ‘In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.'”

 

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Time is not Money.

Time is Life.

How are you spending yours?

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Motorcycles

I’m the money

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Considering a Le Pera “Cherokee” seat for your motorcycle? I recommend it. An excellent balance of form, and function.

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I usually run a Le Pera “Silhouette Solo”. It is almost perfect for me: just the right combination of width, and firmness. And it looks great. I have done 600+ km (375 mile) all day rides on the Silhouette … with the help of soft luggage to lean on. For me, the only thing it lacks is the obvious: back support.

That’s where the “Cherokee” comes in. It appears to be about the same width, thickness, and firmness, with the added plus of outstanding lower back support. And all while still looking (I think) really, really good.

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Now, tassels and conchos are not really my thing. A little OTT for me. So I would honestly have preferred the plain side, pleated stitch version. It is available as an option but only to suit later model ‘wide tyre’ Softails. Since I picked this one up on eBay for a very low price — brand new, but with a tear in the cover, which I repaired well enough with Loctite Vinyl Fabric & Plastic Flexible Adhesive — I decided to live with it.

But I really couldn’t abide the original (and oh so cliched) Western Star concho. Cheap, flimsy, a bit “wanky”. I first tried painting it black, hoping to disguise it as much as possible.

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Dissatisfied with that, I went back to eBay. “Kristi” from West Coast Tack kindly helped out with a couple of attractive, and much higher quality alternatives, produced by Jeremiah Watt. Much better! Now only to settle on which of the two I prefer.

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More photographs: Psalmistice on Flickr

Motorcycles

Please be seated

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When thou comest by thyself,
think not before what thou shalt do after,
but forsake as well good thoughts as evil thoughts,
and pray not with thy mouth
but list[en] thee right well.

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And then if thou aught shalt say,
look not how much nor how little that it be,
nor weigh not what it is nor what it bemeaneth …
and look that nothing live in thy working mind
but a naked intent stretching into God,
not clothed in any special thought of God in Himself … .

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This naked intent freely fastened and grounded in very belief
shall be nought else to thy thought and to thy feeling
but a naked thought and a blind feeling of thine own being:
as if thou saidest thus unto God, within in thy meaning,
“That what I am, Lord, I offer unto Thee,
without any looking to any quality of Thy Being,
but only that Thou art as Thou art, without any more.”

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That meek darkness be thy mirror, and thy whole remembrance.
Think no further of thyself than I bid thee do of thy God,
so that thou be one with Him in spirit,
as thus without departing and scattering,
for He is thy being, and in Him thou art that thou art;
not only by cause and by being, but also,
He is in thee both thy cause and thy being.

— Anonymous, Epistle of Privy Counsel.

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For silence is not God, nor speaking is not God;
fasting is not God, nor eating is not God;
loneliness is not God, nor company is not God;
nor yet any of all the other two such contraries.
He is hid between them, and may not be found
by any work of thy soul,
but all only by love of thine heart.

He may not be known by reason,
He may not be gotten by thought,
nor concluded by understanding;
but He may be loved and chosen
with the true lovely will of thine heart … .

— Anonymous, Epistle of Discretion.

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On the art of contemplative prayer; that is, of love meeting love.

Motorcycles, Mysticism

Naked stretching

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Motorcycles, Mysticism

Harleys, Druids, and the Atlantean Tradition

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Has it ever been your misfortune to see the rather inane 2007 movie “Wild Hogs”?

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They say that the origin of the popular nickname “hog” goes all the way back to 1920, when a team of farm boys — who became known as the “hog boys” — consistently won motorcycle races. The team’s mascot was a live hog, which they would take for a victory lap on their Harley-Davidson following a win —

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It is said that team member Ray Weishaar was the man most responsible for popularising the little hog. Apparently, he was particularly fond of it —

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Some 60 years later, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company came up with a way to cash in on the informal tradition, by creating a factory-sponsored community marketing club and calling it “HOG” — the Harley Owners Group.  The company has even tried to trademark the word “hog” — unsuccessfully.

But let us set aside for a moment the cynical, the degenerate, and the inane use of symbolism in pursuit of corporate profit.

Could there be a deeper, ancient, mystical, and sacred significance to the modern association of the word “hog” with a mode of transport, of movement with rest, that so many — myself included — find to be, at least at times, an almost “spiritual” experience?

Here’s René Guénon with The Symbols of Sacred Science, and a brief excerpt from the chapter titled “The Wild Boar and the Bear” (plus, some fascinating facts on the ancestry of the Motor Company’s founders, at the end) —

Among the Celts the wild boar and the bear symbolised, respectively, the representatives of spiritual authority and temporal power, that is, the two castes of Druids and Knights, the equivalents, at least originally and in their essential attributes, of the Brahmins and Kshatriyas in India. As we have indicated elsewhere, this clearly Hyperborean symbolism is one of the marks of the direct connection of the Celtic tradition to the Primordial Tradition of the present Mahā-Yuga, whatever other elements, from earlier but already secondary and derivative traditions, may have come to be added to this main current and to be, as it were, reabsorbed into it. The point to be made here is that the Celtic tradition could probably be regarded as truly constituting one of the ‘links’ between the Atlantean tradition and the Hyperborean tradition, after the end of the secondary period when this Atlantean tradition represented the predominant form and, as it were, the ‘substitute’ for the original centre which was already inaccessible to the bulk of humanity. On this point also, the symbolism just mentioned can provide some information that is not without interest.

Let us note first the equal importance given the wild boar by the Hindu tradition, which is itself the direct issue of the Primordial Tradition and which expressly affirms its own Hyperborean origin in the Veda. The wild boar (varāha) not only figures as the third of the ten avataras of Vishnu in the present Mahā-Yuga, but our entire Kalpa, that is to say, the entire cycle of manifestation of our world is designated in the tradition as the Shwetavarāha Kalpa, the ‘cycle of the white wild boar’. This being so, and considering the analogy which necessarily exists between the great cycle and subordinate cycles, it is natural that the mark of the Kalpa, so to speak, should be found once more at the outset of the Mahā-Yuga; and this is why the polar ‘sacred land’, seat of the primordial spiritual centre of this Mahā-Yuga, is also called Vārāhi or the ‘land of the wild boar’. Moreover, since it is there that the first spiritual authority resided, from which all other authority of the same order is only an emanation, it is no less natural that the representatives of such an authority should also have received the symbol of the wild boar as their distinctive mark and that they should have retained it during the times that followed. This is why the Druids designated themselves as ‘wild boars’ even though, since symbolism always has multiple aspects, we may well have here at the same time an allusion to the isolation in which they kept themselves with respect to the outside world, the wild boar having always been thought of as ‘solitary’. It must be added, furthermore, that this very isolation, which took the form, with the Celts as with the Hindus, of a forest retreat, is not unrelated to the characteristics of ‘primordiality’, of which some reflection at least has always had to be maintained in all spiritual authority worthy of the function it fulfills.

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As one who has Celtic ancestry, and who has taken to a solitary life, finding this preferred isolation most often by riding “at one” with a “wild hog”, or travelling by motorcycle to a favourite forest retreat, naturally, I find Guénon’s research to be not without great personal significance.

I do wonder at the degenerate state of spirituality in our world today, when considering the many who prefer to ride in packs, rather than alone.

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It is interesting to note the ancestral origin of the founders of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company — William S. Harley, and the Davidson brothers.

The ancestors of the name Harley date back to the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. The name is derived from their residence in Harley, a place-name found in Shropshire and in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The place-name is derived from the old english words hare, which meant hare or rabbit, and leah, which meant forest clearing. The name as a whole meant “clearing with lots of rabbits”. The original bearers of the name lived in or near such a clearing.

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Shropshire. Celtic and Druid central, in the Iron Age.

Think blacksmiths.

Think too, of another popular nickname for Harley’s — “iron horse”.

And the name Davidson (“David’s son”)?

Arthur Davidson, Sr. (c. 1881–1950, Milwaukee, Wisconsin) was one of the four original founders of Harley-Davidson. His father William C Davidson, son of a blacksmith who owned a smithy in Netherton, Scotland, had emigrated to the United States around the year 1857…

— Wikipedia

First found in Perth, Scotland, where, in 1219, Johannus filius Davidis, a merchant in Perth, is mentioned. Some accounts suggest that around 1000 AD the Catti (Chattan) Clan, from whom the Davidson Clan descends, broke into two distinct factions, the MacKintosh and the MacPherson Clans. The Davidson Clan was part of the MacPherson element, but always considered itself to be the senior clan of the Chattan group… Bearers of Davidson were found on both sides of the Scottish-English border.

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 Again, Celtic central in the Iron Age.

All this a series of mere “coincidences”, of course.

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Motorcycles, Mysticism

The language of the birds

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I enjoyed another visitation today. Another close encounter.

This bird, unlike the last (‘An extraordinary gathering of angels’), had something to say —

My persistently vocal visitor reminded me to return here to an unfinished theme: a book that I am reading, Symbols of Sacred Science. A chapter titled ‘The Language of the Birds’. And, most importantly, the subject of rhythm.

This book has inspired me with many thoughts, and understandings. New insights, about this blog. About its titular portmanteau — “Psalmistice”. The symbolisms embedded in its winged logo. And, most profoundly, about my intuitions regarding the (dare I say) spiritual aspect of the silence I hear beneath the beat of a V-twin Harley-Davidson engine.

But not just any H-D engine. Only the old, pre- “noughties” engine.

When I first began searching for a Harley-Davidson, I rode a number of new, and recent models. All, I found to be lacking something. An indefinable something. But within moments of my first experiencing an old, pre-2000, rigid mount, 80 cubic inch Evolution engine, I knew.

This, was it.

The right feeling.

Rhythm.

Character.

Life.

Felt clearly, through each touchpoint with the machine.

Hands.

Feet.

Seat.

Not a vague shaking; that isolated, strangely separated, exaggerated rocking motion, as with a newer rubber mount. Not smooth, bland, sterile, lifeless, as with a newer “counter-balanced” rigid mount.

Pulsing.

Massaging.

Giving.

Living.

And so it came to be, that after a long search abroad, I was blessed to acquire a 1995 model collector’s machine, with just 340 miles (544 kilometers) having caressed the circumference of its tyres.

The 6,500 kilometers travelled since have presented countless hours of opportunity for observation, and contemplation. A recurring theme, I must confess, is that, whatever human product befalls my eye — whether it be motorcycles, motor cars, bicycles, lawnmowers, houses, household appliances, children’s toys, public buildings — the truth of the matter is this.

“They just don’t make them like they used to”.

Look around you. Consider carefully, the things our hands … or perhaps, ever-more commonly, a robot’s hands … have made.

Glitzy.

Shiny.

“Edgy”.

Gadgety.

Plasticky.

Quickly.

Increasingly lacking solidity.

Not to mention … simplicity.

Superficial.

Skin deep.

Insubstantial.

One cracked dab of glue, one failed diode away from redundancy. And relegation to landfill.

But what I have noticed most of all, is the growing absence of character. Real, authentic character.

Soul.

For some time now, it has been my ever-firming belief that mankind’s inner condition is, more often than not, reflected in the work of his hands.

As within, so without.

Just as (to cite the topical example) the Harley-Davidson Motor Company’s products have steadily declined in simplicity, solidity, reliability, longevity, originality, authenticity, and above all, soul, and all this most notably since the turn of the millennium, so too, I perceive the steady degeneration of the West’s moral condition. Indeed, so much so, with the passing of years, that I can hardly … rarely … bring myself to look at a television. At the gym, I keep my motorcycle earplugs in, to block out the music videos’ arrogant, swaggering, tempting, beckoning, shimmying, serpentine, slithering, haughty, angry din.

What is on TV?

Violence. Narcissism. Depravity. Injury. Sophistry. Flattery. Revelry. Superficiality. Irresponsibility. Momentary. Temporary. Greedy.

Loud.

Lifeless.

Soulless.

Charging, raging, with pounding rhythms, competing, but strangely lacking, something.

Depth.

Height.

Substance.

Resonance.

Harmony.

 

Please do not from all this think that my weltanschauung is bleak. Au contraire, I see darts of light reflecting everywhere. Shining all the brighter, by reason of growing darkness.

All this, by way of preamble, may now help you to see why it is that René Guénon’s ‘Language of the Birds’ resonated with me —

Likewise it is said in the Hindu tradition that the Devas [angels], in their fight against the Asuras [demons], protect themselves (achhandayan) by the recitation of the hymns of the Veda, and that it is for this reason that the hymns received the name of chhandas, a word which denotes ‘rhythm‘.  The same idea is contained in the word dhikr which, in Islamic esoterism, is used of rhythmic formulas that correspond exactly to Hindu mantras.  The repetition of these formulas aims at producing a harmonisation of the different elements of the being, and at causing vibrations which, by their repercussions throughout the immense hierarchy of states, are capable of opening up a communication with the higher states, which in a general way is the essential and primordial purpose of all rites.

This brings us back directly and very nearly to what was said above about the ‘language of the birds’, which we can also call ‘angelic language’, and of which the image in the human world is rhythmic speech: for the ‘science of rhythm‘, which admits of many applications, is the ultimate basis of all the means that can be brought into action in order to enter into communication with the higher states.  That is why an Islamic tradition says that Adam, in the earthly paradise, spoke in verse, that is, in rhythmic speech; this is related to that ‘Syrian language’ (lughah suryaniyyyah) of which we spoke in our previous study on the ‘science of letters’, and which must be regarded as translating directly the ‘solar and angelic illumination’ as this manifests itself in the centre of the human state.  This is also why the Sacred Books are written in rhythmic language which, clearly, makes them something quite other than mere ‘poems’, in the purely profane sense, which the anti-traditional bias of the modern critics would have them to be.  Moreover, in its origins poetry was by no means the vain ‘literature’ that it has become by a degeneration resulting from the downward march of the human cycle, and it had a truly sacred character.8 Traces of this can be found up to classical antiquity in the West, when poetry was still called the ‘language of the Gods’, an expression equivalent to those we have indicated, in as much as the Gods, that is, the Devas,9 are, like the angels, the representation of the higher states. In Latin, verses were called carmina, a designation relating to their use in the accomplishment of rites; for the word carmen is identical to the Sanskrit karma which must be taken here in its special sense of ‘ritual action’;10 and the poet himself, interpreter of the ‘sacred language’ through which the divine Word appears, was vates, a word which defined him as endowed with an inspiration that was in some way prophetic. Later, by another degeneration, the vates was no longer anything more than a common ‘diviner’,11 and the carmen (whence the English word ‘charm’) no more than a ‘spell’, that is, an operation of low magic. There again is an example of the fact that magic, even sorcery, is what subsists as the last vestige of vanished traditions.

These few indications should be enough to show how inept it is to mock at stories that speak of the ‘language of the birds’. It is all too easy and too simple to disdain as superstitious everything that one does not understand. But the ancients, for their part, knew very well what they meant when they used symbolic language. The real ‘superstition’, in the strictly etymological sense (quod superstat), is that which outlives itself, in short, the ‘dead letter’. But even this very survival, however lacking in interest it may seem, is nevertheless not so contemptible; for the Spirit, which ‘bloweth where it listeth’ and when it listeth, can always come and revivify symbols and rites, and restore to them, along with their lost meaning, the plenitude of their original virtue.

 

8 It can be said, moreover, in a general way, that the arts and sciences have become profane by just this kind of degeneration which deprives them of their traditional nature and, by way of consequence, of any higher significance. We have spoken of this in L’Esoterisme de Dante, ch. 2, and The Crisis of the Modern World, ch. 4 (see also The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, ch. 8)

9 The Sanskrit Deva and the Latin deus are one and the same word.

10 The word poetry also derives from the Latin poiein which has the same signification as the Sanskrit word kri, whence comes karma, which is found again in the Latin creare understood in its primitive acceptation; at the beginning, therefore, it was a question of something altogether different from a mere artistic or literary production in the profane sense that Aristotle seems to have had uniquely in view in speaking of what he called the ‘poetic sciences’.

11 The word ‘diviner’ itself is no less deviant from its meaning; for etymologically it is nothing else than divinus, signifying here ‘interpreter of the Gods’. The ‘auspices’ (from aves spicere, ‘to observe the birds’), omens drawn from the flight and song of birds, are most closely related to the ‘language of birds’, understood in this case in the most literal sense but nevertheless still identified with the ‘language of the Gods’, who were thought to manifest their will by means of these omens. The birds thus played the part of ‘messengers’, analogous — but on a very low plane — to the part that is generally attributed to the angels (whence their name, for this is precisely the meaning of the Greek aggelos).

And so it is with my personal experience, and more particularly, my deeper intuition, of what it is that truly lies beneath the extraordinary “legend” of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Heard, felt, only by those with “an ear to hear”.

A rhythm, a pulse, a vibration, resonating through the body, calming the spirit, vivifying the soul, opening a door to communication with “higher” states of being; a particular rhythm which can now only be found in the “old-fashioned”, “under-powered” vibrations of a simple engine design rendered “obsolete” by the “sophisticated” glories of modernity.

That is to say, by the simple greed of accountants, lawyers, bureaucrats, executives, and shareholders.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

— Leonardo da Vinci

 

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Motorcycles

Old school

“What are the three bowsers for?”

The muffled voice came from behind my right shoulder. A snowy-haired man, of average frame, perhaps 75 years or more, bearing a vague expression, seeming somewhat nervous, uncertain in his gait, and apparently struggling to catch up with my longer yet slower strides, gestured in the direction of my Harley-Davidson resting alongside bowser number five.

Removing one of my ear plugs to hear him more clearly, I smiled, in part to put him at ease, and in part simply because his face was pleasing, before briefly explaining that the numbers written on each of the nozzles — 100, 95, and 91 — represent that fuel’s octane rating; further, that “E10” written on the nozzle represents 10% ethanol, and, what is the relevance of all these to various kinds and ages of engines.

Seeming satisfied with this, the old man mumbled something about having bought his car “about 10 years ago”, turning to point back towards a dark blue Toyota Camry parked across the way at bowser number two, then simply doddered off in its direction without further word.

This little interaction was the highlight of my day. It caused me to feel a long lasting surge of inner happiness, and satisfaction.

And that joyful feeling prompted a time of reflection, as I rumbled homeward bound.

It is truly, such a wonderful thing. Simply to be able, to help someone else.

To be of service.

Often times, helping can entail little more than the sharing of information gained, not through any great effort or expense, but simply from having been blessed with experience of living.

Life experience.

Indeed, it was this somewhat paradoxical aspect of my interaction with the old man that most provoked my contemplation. Because here, a younger person was able to help an older one, by virtue of having and sharing basic information that the older man had not, apparently, otherwise gleaned, despite having many more years of life experience.

For some time now, I have lamented the ever-growing encouragements to worship of youth. There are, I think, far too many harms arising from such worship, to even begin to explicate them in this, what was intended to be, just a little anecdote.

Even more so, however, I have lamented the coincident — or perhaps, consequent? — ever-growing encouragements to loss of respect, of reverence, for the hoary head of experience.

You see, I really like old people. Always have done.

I see every old person as a fascinating mystery, and one holding great opportunity. A rich beneficiary, of a great and limitless universal trust fund, established for all of us, by a wonderful benefactor named Time. A beneficiary whose relative riches have been increased in proportion, more or less, to the Time they have known, loved, and held on to. A veritable storehouse of unique and rare pearls of simple wisdom, and little glittering jewels of useful knowledge. Received through Time, and now hidden amongst the clutter of foolishness and falsehoods, and the cobwebs of forgetting; which is only human, of course. A treasure trove of gems, gathered together, one by one, from across their ages, or passed down from their ancestors’ ages.

Some, or many, of these riches may soon be lost to us. Never to be discovered, by you or I, through our own experience of Time.

Unless we ask for directions.

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Motorcycles

A good paddock

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Birds of a feather feature prominently in the fond recollections of my recent motorcycle tour.

Like the Crimson Rosella that, in a stupendous feat of aerobatics, so narrowly avoided taking out an oblivious Rob’s left leg on a densely forested section of Tooma Road, as we descended from an epic ride through rolling grasslands, steep ravines, and the haunting vista of snow gums, up to Cabramurra, Australia’s highest populated town.

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Or the pair of Crimson Rosellas that alighted a mere handful of feet away from us, quietly observing as we sat on the deck of our cabin a hundred metres or so behind the Tintaldra Hotel, in the sharp chill of early morning, bare feet, sipping Rob’s superb coffee, earnestly discussing matters metaphysical, and reverential, by way of analogy to the pond across the road.

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Indeed, from the moment that Rob and I rolled into town and pulled up in front of the famous biker’s hotel, birds were to become, for me, a highlight of the trip.

It was around midday. Alf and Maija, the publicans, exchanged pleasantries with us. As our accommodations were not yet readied, they kindly offered to let us drop off our gear — I declined, since mine was serving as valuable lumbar support — and told us we should aim to be back in time for a beer on the verandah watching the kingfishers.

Apparently, they are something of local celebrities. There’s two of them, that come down most afternoons to sit on the electrical wire out front of the hotel, and perform aerobatics for the audience.

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They disappointed us that day. But on the following afternoon, they came. Such exquisite little birds they are. My apologies for the photo quality. They are so small, optical zoom was insufficient; I had to resort to the use of digital too.

As we sat on the verandah chatting with the locals, the conversation, as is a not uncommon tendency in such environs, turned to bird spotting of another kind; identifying who of the women employed at the General Store in a nearby town had served us breakfast.

They were all most interested because, alas, Rob had described her as seeming “a bit fierce”, and not so friendly as the cheery woman who had served us the day before, when we stopped in to refuel our bikes. The situation was quite interesting and amusing for Alf and Maija and the locals; Rob’s observation perhaps representing fuel for future small town gossip, were I to hazard a guess.

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So there we were, sitting at the front of the hotel, in audience for the kingfishers.

Terry, a stereotypical Aussie farmer — faded jeans, flanno, weather-beaten Akubra, leathery dark-tanned skin on all sun-exposed areas and lily-white elsewhere (I noticed his gut when he stretched!), and possessed of a wonderfully soothing laconic drawl — was perched up on the verandah railing, slouched forward a little from the waist, stoop shouldered after a hard day’s work, beer nestled in one hand, and the other loosely gripping the verandah post. His mud-spattered Toyota Landcruiser tray back ute softly tinkled behind him, as it slowly cooled on the baking hot asphalt.

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They were all — Maija in particular — enthusiastically quizzing Rob about what she (the “fierce” one) looked like. Rob was asked how old she appeared to be (“early 50’s”).

Terry the farmer piped up, “Been in a good paddock?”

I smiled immediately.

Even more so, when it took Rob several moments to get it.

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