Something that someone said the other day reminded me of a close encounter that I enjoyed immensely, in Australia, almost exactly four years ago. It’s been haunting me ever since, and the only way I can ease the pressure of the memory is to share it with you. I was traveling with a friend and colleague from Melbourne to Canberra. Here is an excerpt from my journal:
By the time we reached the town of Cann River, we had come some 500 km since leaving Melbourne, and we turned north. Several immense thunderheads were building, but none were in our immediate vicinity or quite in our path. Still, there was a good chance that we’d have a nice sunset, so we were trying to keep going. While I was studying the sky eagerly, Steve suddenly hit the brakes and cried, “Echidna!” and he backed up hastily about 50 yards. He’d spotted the little fellow (actually a pretty good-sized one) moving through the eucalyptus litter a few feet off the side of the road; luckily, they move very slowly, so that we were able to get truly up close and personal. As soon as it saw us moving toward it at close range, it curled up into its classic defensive ball, but when we made no further threatening moves, it soon uncurled and resumed its slow pace, permitting me to catch it with its little face exposed. Tempting as it was to try to pick it up, I did not, for they are solid creatures and fairly heavy for their size, and the quills are extremely sharp, though they do not easily detach, as do those of the porcupine.
I lay on my stomach and got right down to its level and, after I’d made a few portrait shots, Steve followed suit with his little camera, and I made one more of him in the same position that I’d adopted earlier. And then we drove on happily with the sun setting behind us.