Here’s a random fact: Pigeons have learned to discriminate between the paintings of Monet and Picasso. It’s just one of many interesting snippets that my late night or early morning web-weaving forays throw out.
When I’m involved in a project, I have difficulty thinking of anything outside of my bubble so, when I woke from a dream with the sensation of flying and the words ‘Medusa One Snake’ in my head, I headed straight for the computer.
My project was a collection of short stories commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Tasmanian Black Tuesday bushfires so I Googled fire+snake+bird. After some toing and froing and weaving about in the ever-widening web, I was startled by an article that brought my three search words together and got my writerly synapses writhing.
Matthew Crawford reporting for ABC’s Radio National in June 2016 poses a question: “Could flocks of birds be picking up burning sticks and dropping them on unburned ground in order to spread fire?”. Crawford’s question resulted from his interview with Bob Gosford, a columnist and bird researcher endeavouring to prove the theory that birds of prey follow fire fronts to feast on fleeing reptiles and insects.
The article sent me on further web trips, researching birds of prey, their habits and habitats and a hell of a lot of other stuff and then I left it alone and let my imagination take over. What emerged was a humorous tale with a fiery twist, included in my forthcoming anthology Flame Tip. Medusa One Snake is a proud, intelligent bird with a son – Scout Junior – who is elegantly analytical and mathematically inclined. Medusa’s partner – slow in thought and deed – has the contradictory moniker ‘Swifty’. The birds analyse and harness the fire, flying into the future as winners.
The early morning random web-surfing that sent me Bob Gosford’s research also left me with a heap of [possibly useless] information about bees (they have been trained to recognize explosives), ostriches (the males can roar like lions), Alaskan law (in Alaska it is illegal to whisper in someone’s ear while they are moose hunting) and cats (cats have 32 muscles per ear and a house cat can outrun Usain Bolt). I use the word ‘possibly’ in relation to the uselessness of this information because one or all of these snippets may eventually prove to be useful if the facts check out (or even if they don’t). Keep an eye out for my ‘Usain and the Egyptian Mau take Manhattan’ story.