The Egret Palace
Scott got out of the car and waded into the tomatoes with his camera. I lounged in the shade with my notebook and pondered the scene. It took me nearly a minute to discern the wave of cacophonous jungle sounds coming from the trees behind me, to awaken to the world around me. I walked down the road to be nearer the sound, my steps instinctively careful and quiet. The solid windbreak broke, and I tucked my head into the gap. Tall eucalyptus trees were widely spaced throughout the clearing, providing an almost unbroken canopy of thin leaves. The noise increased. I took one step into the glen and set off an tornado of small white dragons. Six dozen egrets resettled at the very top tufts of the trees and pretended not to look at me. I retreated.
I was a little giddy when Scott returned, squatted by the open trunk of my car, and began to change his film.
“You ready for some fast shooting?” I asked him.
We approached the clearing. The birds were less nervous now. The whirlwind I saw failed to form, but the sky was filled with criss-crossing streaks of white. Further into the grounds, the earth was white and powdery from the effluent excretions of the avian court. We noticed the litter of eggshells among the shit-caked eucalyptus leaves and the general cacophony became more targeted and personal. Egrets flew towards us, their wings slicing the air near our heads. We looked more closely at the trees and saw a host of rough nests in low branches. Clumsy half-fledged egrets ran from us.
“This is a special place,” Scott said, “We shouldn't be here.”
“I think that there is a body of water further on,” I said, “Maybe we can skirt around to the left.”
Along the left side of the citadel an alfalfa field endured the gossamer attentions of a butterfly horde. They flew like pieces of burnt paper. Half were the color of egg shell, the other half were yellow as an egg yoke. A deeply rutted farm road wound around the trees. Firewood and brush were piled separately along side the road at regular intervals. We found another gap in the ring of eucalyptus and climbed a brief acclivity. A lagoon covered in green moss and crowded with trees waited there for us. We crept on our hands and knees closer to the water. A quick-eyed pair of ducks spotted us and flew low and fat across our vision, resettling with some noise not far away.. A downy feather fell onto the water and the wind helped it walk across the moss towards us. It crossed the entire pond in this manner. The branches of the trees were all stained white and shook with the restlessness of the egrets. The birds relieved themselves into the water with loud plops. I don't know how long we sat there. What are watches to wilderness?
We left our perch and continued to follow the ring of trees. Around the bend the familiar site of a working farm yard jarred strangely with the nearby jungle. Prefabricated tin sheds and large tractors sat outside a barely visible single-story house. A huge metal pipe crawled out of the water and into the yard. A small dock became visible along the far edge of the pond, and the path we followed led to wooden bridge overgrown with some kind of flowering vine. The bridge led to a small island. Posted at the foot of the bridge was a sign.
No Fishing from Bridge
--From EOB, obviously