Sam Pickering, best known as the inspiration for Robin Williams' character in Dead Poet's Society, seized the opportunity for a year-long sabbatical from teaching, and took his family on a trip to Australia. The result is Waltzing the Magpies , a tour de force of sensual observation.
Pickering has the curiosity of a scientist and the soul of a poet. And whether he's cataloging the cost of transferring nearly his entire family to the other side of the planet, describing the call of a lorikeet, or reveling in the beauty of a coral reef, no detail escapes his eye.
Waltzing the Magpies invites us to participate in, not just observe, the author's vision of life's gorgeous pageant. It is Sam Pickering at his finest.
From Waltzing the Magpies:
"Of the three places we snorkeled, my favorite was Turquoise Bay. . . . Here I drifted wantonly, beneath me groves and bowers, seraglios, caverns, evenings of rose red twilight, golden sunrises, and fish, looking like birds one moment, the next petals ticking through the air. Plate, cabbage, lichen, and brain coral slipped luscious beneath me, pink and blue, sometimes hard-shelled, other times downy. A green turtle paddled past. A moray eel wound through stone, its skin pale lattice. . . ."
". . . I spent much of the afternoon looking at birds. A barking owl swallowed a mouse head first. A grass owl stood motionless in a bower. Torres Strait pigeons cried 'you.' The call of a Macleary's fig parrot sounded like water spurting from a faucet. Peaceful doves bubbled, and the chatter of red-collared lorikeets smoothed into weeping. Noisy pits wore tails through brush, and bush thick-knees stood motionless in profile, single blue eyes staring. Apostle birds clustered in cup-shaped nests, feathers sticking out like slivers of decorative chocolate. Bills of long-tailed finches seemed the clearest orange I've ever seen, and the blue adorning fairy wrens was so bright the sky seemed white-washed. For a few moments I forgot cages, but then a Muir's corella stared at me, cocked his head, and said, 'Hello.'"