John Elder: A dying man, a flock of parrots and a tree

In recent years I’ve been pondering why it is that birds sometimes turn up like visions, bringing a spooky element to emotionally delicate circumstances. One story in particular has been on my mind of late.

When I was 21, early one morning, while driving to my grandfather’s place on the Central Coast of NSW, I saw a man I knew standing on the other side of the road and staring at a tree. There were so many parrots in the tree that the world suddenly felt like Mexico. The man made it especially so because he appeared to be praying to the birds.

John Elder with a feathered friend.

John Elder with a feathered friend.Credit:

He played the organ at my grandfather’s church. He was wearing his church clothes: an old-fashioned grey plastic raincoat, grey slacks, black shoes and dark blue tie. His white shirt was dirty-white like a bleached bone rotting in a paddock. Indeed it was corroded in the armpits. I’d seen this, twice, by accident, in the toilet at the church.

“Did you come out here looking for the birds?” I asked.




You may also like...