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My Family and Other Animals

It was spring, and that meant several things. Firstly, it meant that the dares and threats to push other family members in the pool- still unpleasantly cold- had begun. It also meant that the season of family birthdays was in full swing; a succession in which, much to my dismay, I was the last. But most importantly of all it meant that my faithful friends the insects had returned in all their glory to the garden, and so every free afternoon I could find I would be down in those mosquito-ridden, overgrown paths with my camera.

They were exciting times. Beyond our lawn lay the pool, shimmering in the afternoon light. And beyond that, further still, was the garden proper: an exotic collection of mismatched plants and shrubs, crowned in the centre by a fig tree perched upon a large flat rock. Beside this ran a narrow, paved path snaking its way to the back of the garden before it petered out into nothingness. I would spend hours down here, crouched peering into the greenery or observing closely as an ant tottered its way around the edge of a leaf on the hunt for food. Always I was surrounded by the whine of mosquitoes, caught between the need for utter stillness and swatting at these pests.

And then there were the breakthroughs: those exciting moments in which I would stumble across something truly spectacular. It might be a large praying mantis, a lacework green moth, an ant freshly ensnared in a spider’s web- the nature of the finding itself mattered little. It was simply the pure joy of having discovered something new, something which I had all to myself… almost.

One afternoon, I was happily snapping away when I became aware of my mother poised on the garden steps behind me. It was highly unusual of her not to have said anything in greeting, so it was with no small amount of confusion that I broke my concentration and turned to her. Nothing. Stood feet ajar with a cumbersome telephoto lens sighted across into a nearby tree she was certainly quite the picture. I tried to peer up to see what it was she had found, without success.

After what seemed like an age, she straightened up and glanced down at my diminutive form peering up at her. She smiled, walking down to my level.

“So this is where you spend all you time, is it?”

As a conversation starter, I thought this could do with a little improvement, so chose not to respond.

“There was a pretty interesting cricket up in the canopy there, but it disappeared, so I took some nice photos of the leaves.”

Okay, perhaps I should have spoken first off.

“They aren’t crickets, they’re katydids. And there are plenty more down here- I paused to indicate a few- if you want. But really your chances of getting a decent photo with that lens are pretty slim.”

Sometimes it’s hard for parents to be perfect.

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