Confined to the curtilage of my home during the lockdown, I discovered quite by chance that I need not travel abroad in order to find adventure. In fact, I learned that adventure would find me even if I could not escape the isolation of my house.
On the small round white table on the back verandah, I place my breakfast of fruit, oatmeal and tea made from the leaves of mint plucked from the plants in my garden, and sit to enjoy my morning meal in the still cool air.
Keeping a sharp eye on the green lizard that scurries too close to my feet in its quest to capture a fly which lands nearby on the terra cotta tile, I observe close-up the busy colibri which flits from flower to flower growing in the plant beds which border the verandah. As its long beak reaches deep into the golden flowers, the bird’s body hovers stationary while its wings flutter frenetically to keep it afloat on the air.
Just beyond the strip of lawn separating the plant beds from the back fence, bees and butterflies gather on the hibiscus hedge which marks the boundary of my back yard. They too are in search of sustenance.
The neighbour’s ginger cat slips under the back gate to the freedom of the field outside and slinks silently in the grass bordering the field. He is in search of birds, or mice or lizards, I assume. A smaller shadow of the big cats which stalk the Serengeti.
I look up. A wave of white wings wafting silently against a pale blue morning sky alerts me to the flight of a flock of cattle egrets – the synchronized farewell of airborne travellers to earthbound creatures. But their journey is short-lived. Soon they return to settle for a moment on the dark earth of the newly- ploughed fields just beyond the hedge.
Their landing lures other residents of the nearby nature sanctuary out of the thicket of trees and bush which forms the natural boundary of the heritage site. First, one Barbados green monkey makes his entrance on the scene, propelling himself on all fours with the proud gait of an old prizefighter. For a moment he stands on his hind legs to survey the scene. Then, swiftly, breaking into a run he tries to chase after the egrets – in vain.
He walks away, trailing his long tail with the curled-up tip, reminiscent of the noisemakers which hosts provide guests at holiday parties.
Two, three, four other monkeys come to join in the frolic, pursuing the egrets which deftly evade them in a flutter of wings. The game is repeated and repeated, until, defeated and disappointed, the monkeys slowly retreat to the woods without their prey.
All this drama I had discovered from the privileged position on my back verandah just three days ago.
Next morning, early, I awake and make my way to the back verandah to witness the flight of the egrets and the ensuing action. I settle quickly at the table with my breakfast so that I would not miss the show. I do not have long to wait.
As if on cue, the egrets fly past in formation, then circle back to settle on the earth. Not long after, the hypnotized prizefighter returns to try his luck another day, and I become part of the drama – although merely a silent witness to this contest. The egrets win this latest match too. After two days, the pattern has been set.
This morning I take up my position at the table on the back verandah, eagerly anticipating the ritual. I am now armed with binoculars to secure a better view. I wait. I see the egrets fly past, make their return trip and land. I watch the trees, and wait. But this morning no monkeys appear.
A solitary egret steps carefully over the soil, its gait less graceful than the gliding motion with which it takes to air. Small groups of egrets converge for conversation, strategizing for the arrival of the monkeys perhaps. They flit freely about, undisturbed by any predator.
I finish my breakfast with only the egrets for company. Perhaps I’m late this morning. Perhaps the monkeys have thrown in the towel and gone in search of other prey. For a while longer I linger, sipping the last drops of the now tepid tea.
Then I rise reluctantly and gather up the empty breakfast ware. No show today.