The hot night does not make for sound sleep and I wake in the dark. Again. It is 0430 but still dark outside, with no hint of light or noise. A little over thirty minutes later I resurface and I can hear the polite chatter of young galahs as they slowly chirrup each other awake. (they get a lot noisier in the evening). I pad out into the early morning and find the outside air fifteen degrees cooler than inside, and crisp and clean. The dust is talcum powder soft and cool under my feet. A pair of Blue Bonnet parrots change branches high up in the gum – I would not have spotted them if they had not moved. The first fly buzzes past, the lone reconnaissance flight preceding the teeming squadrons of them which will appear once the sun jolts them along. It pauses on my naked shoulder and all is quiet and still again. I leave him alone – knocking off one fly is a definition of absolute futility out here. He stands very still, as if anticipating all his busy work later in the day. As the light lifts I start to see the trudging march of sheep coming in single file out of the saltbush, plodding towards the dams and troughs for a drink. They don’t hurry but there is a doggedness of purpose in their step which is not something I usually associate with these dumb animals. But water is everything out here after all. The sun finally lifts in a flood of silent light and the birds hush, the sheep pause and the fly rotates 180 degrees preparing for launch. The lull is over. In a few hours it will be too hot to stand on this earth and too hot to be doing any work. The signal is up – get on with it or stand down now. We have lots to do out here so I turn to head back to the quarters and find a couple of others standing there in silence too. We grin at each other, recognizing the magic of this time of the day will only fracture if we speak. So we don’t. But get girded for a days work.
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