Water Buffaloes

(Seeing and Noticing)

Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a very nice wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss were going to visit their good friend, Shelley. Aunt Lillibet had made a pumpkin and prune cake, and Aunt Moss was taking caramel pecan tarts. Benson said thoughtfully, “Would you like me to come and help carry the tarts?”

Aunt Lillibet looked hard at Benson and said she thought Aunt Moss could manage, but Aunt Moss said, “Oh yes, that would be lovely, Benson. Shelley would love to see you.”

Benson got his hat and his water-bottle and they all set out. It was a beautiful day, bright and sunny but not too hot. The track along to Shelley’s place was overgrown with long grass. It was so long that Benson could hardly see over the top of it. It was like being at the bottom of a deep green river.

“Benson, where are you?” Aunt Lillibet called. She got a long stick, and swooshed the grass away to make a path. Benson walked along the path, with walls of green grass on each side of him. It made him think of water-buffaloes wading through green, wavy water.

Before long, Aunt Moss was lagging behind.

Aunt Lillibet said, “Benson, go back and see what’s holding her up.”

Aunt Moss was picking some flowers that were growing wild in the grass. “Aren’t these freesias beautiful? I thought it would be nice to take some to Shelley.” A butterfly floated down and settled on the bunch of flowers she was holding, and then another one and another one, until there was a whole cloud of butterflies hovering over them.

Aunt Lillibet called impatiently, “Come on, you two, you’re so slow!”

Benson took the basket of tarts so that Aunt Moss could carry the flowers and they hurried up to catch up with Aunt Lillibet. Before long, Aunt Moss was lagging behind again.

Benson went back to see what was slowing her down. She was standing very still, watching a very small black bee that was buzzing around an old banksia tree.

“Shhh,” she said to Benson. “See that little native bee? I think there must be a hive nearby.”

They stood very still and watched the bee until it disappeared into an old dead tree.

“There!” said Aunt Moss. “Shelley has been worried that there are no bees around to pollinate her macadamia tree. She’ll be so pleased.”

Aunt Lillibet yelled from way in front, “Come on, you two! We’re going to be late!”

Benson and Aunt Moss hurried up and caught up to her, struggling through the long grass. The tarts were starting to melt in the sunshine.

Before long, Aunt Moss was lagging behind again. Aunt Lillibet shouted, “Moss! Hurry up!” She sighed. “Benson,” she said, “please go and tell Moss to hurry up!”

Benson went back along the track and found Aunt Moss looking at some feathers that were caught in the long grass beside the track. “These are currawong feathers,” she said, “and I think these belong to a noisy miner. It looks like they’ve been fighting over something.” She looked around and found a bush covered in berries. “Midgen berries!” she said. “So this is what they were fighting over!”

Aunt Lillibet shouted, “Can’t you two go any faster? You’re slower than snails!” Benson and Aunt Moss hurried up and caught up with her. “Now, no more dawdling!” she said. She strode on, swishing through the long grass, with Aunt Moss just behind her and Benson scampering along at the back.

Shelley was very happy to see them. “Did you have an interesting walk?” she asked.

“Not very,” Aunt Lillibet said. “The grass is very long, so Moss was very slow, and Benson isn’t any better. He always walks along as if he’s in a dream.”

Aunt Moss said, “We had a lovely walk. The freesias are blooming, and we found a big midgen berry bush covered in berries.” She took handfuls of midgen berries out of her pockets and gave them to Shelley. Benson gave Shelley the flowers.

“These are lovely!” Shelley said.

“And we have very good news: we found a nest of native bees right beside the big yellow banksia,” Aunt Moss said.

“Wonderful!” said Shelley. “I haven’t seen any bees in the garden for such a long time.”

They ate the midgen berries with the melted tarts and Aunt Lillibet’s pumpkin and prune cake. When Benson had eaten all he could possibly eat, he asked for some pencils and paper so he could do some drawing while the grown-ups kept talking about the things grown-ups talk about.

He drew a long green river with three water-buffaloes wading in it. The first water-buffalo was wearing a hat that looked like a crow had landed on her head, and she was carrying a sword. The second water-buffalo was covered all over with butterflies. The third one was much smaller. He was swimming in the river with a mask and a snorkel.

Shelley came over to look at what he was drawing. “You’ve got such an imagination, Benson!” she said. “Where do you get your ideas from?”

Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss came to look too. Aunt Lillibet looked hard at Benson, but she didn’t say anything. Aunt Moss looked at the drawing, and she and Benson smiled at each other.


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