A Puzzle in the Bush

 

           Kookaburra

Kookaburra

 We tramped the bush tracks and I marvelled at the endless variety in nature. I thought of the different creatures we’d seen on our walk and began to meditate aloud.

‘They’re all unique’, I said to my companions. ‘If I were making everything, I’d have a set formula for each sort: one for all the birds, one for all the animals, another for insects and so on. Today we’ve seen kangaroos and snakes and stacks of birds and they all have their special colours and habits. I loved that kookaburra we heard. I felt like laughing with him. I wonder if there’s a laughing snake’. 

Dan, our walking friend, murmured, ‘Mmm,’ as his boots cracked the twigs underfoot. He’d once told me he keeps his breath for more important things than conversation. I ignored his silence and recalled the scene in my own garden that morning. ‘When the sacred ibis gather’, I said, ‘their curved beaks fascinate me. The way they poke them sideways into the soil looks like a bent knife in a jar of candied honey!’

I mentally scanned the animal books I’d read to my children over the years. ‘Have you heard this about the seahorse? The male’s pregnant with the eggs! I wouldn’t have thought of that idea’.

‘Probably not’, Dan muttered. I disregarded his barb and continued. ‘Did you know that the eggs of some fish don’t need to be fertilized? And what about the lantern fish? It has light organs on its tongue so it can lure food into its mouth. Maybe we could imitate that. It’d save on washing the knives and forks!’

I’d been thinking for a while about all these astounding facts and had a long list of wonders to toss at Dan’s steadily moving back.

‘I love ladybirds. They remind me of the song I used to sing when I was little: Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home. The way they eat aphids is unbelievable; forty a day at least! Do you know about hill-topping, where they get into houses on the crests of hills? We had some at our place a few years ago.’

We came into a clearing and Dan sat on a fallen log. I stood beside it and poked at a lump of sap on the bark while I continued my one-sided discourse. I was on a roll!

‘Have you read about the special dances the honeybee scout performs in the hive? Before they all go out looking for nectar, this one tells them where it is! If the best place is in a northerly direction, the dancer moves in a particular way. If it’s south of the hive, there are other moves to tell them where to go. Amazing!

‘Now wouldn’t it be great if everyone copied the ants? I’ve watched them on the path at home carrying loads larger than themselves. That’s a lesson in how to work for the common good, eh?’

I raised my voice above the noise of the birds in the trees. ‘Inventors have copied some natural things: echo-location, for instance. Bats listen for the echoes from their ultrasonic pulses when they send out high-pitched squeals or clicks of their tongues. That’s how they find their way around.

‘People have tried to imitate the human brain, but if we were like computers, we’d need updates all the time and have to carry our brains around in our pockets!’

Dan laughed and stood, stretching his long frame. He must have been listening to my rambling because he said, ‘When I think of all these amazing things, I must say I’m puzzled’.

I waited, then he asked, ‘Why do some people still think there’s no Creator?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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