© Maureen Smith, April 2021

It was early September; the weather was changing from warm sunny days and low humidity to cloudy skies and the air so full of moisture you could almost drink it. Every day became more humid so the only time to enjoy the outdoors was early in the morning. However, rising early had always been difficult for me and that morning was no exception. After dragging my body out of bed, splashing cold water on my face and dressing in shorts and tee shirt I was ready to hit the road.

My dog Jessie saw these preparations and as I was tying my shoelaces, she danced around excited to be going on a walk. As we stepped outside the air was fresh and almost cool - the sun sent shafts of golden light through the trees, wispy clouds smeared the pink sky, and a soft breeze ruffled my hair. I broke off a few gum tips to use against the inevitable March flies and paused for a moment to look at our mango orchard. The fruit was beginning to swell, some even had a rosy glow, my mouth watered at the prospect of slurping the juicy fruit next month. Jessie bounded back, barked her impatient message, an encouragement for me to keep walking. I left the orchard and weaved my way through the undulations of the ploughed paddock. I disturbed a flock of black cockatoos scratching about in the newly burnt ground, so they flew off and rose above me in a cacophony of sound. Jessie now convinced we were on our way ran off into the bush to do what dogs do.

I looked around; it was splendid out here, how could I have wanted to stay in bed? There was not a soul in sight, I had this peaceful morning to myself. I reached the gravel road that led to my destination, the Billabong, and realised I was not really alone. Recent snake slides and fresh wallaby tracks, pig and buffalo hoof prints were clearly visible.

I strode along happily; my breathing was steady my step rhythmically crunched the gravel. I stooped down and picked up two pebbles, slipped them into my pocket, just in case a dingo challenged me for right of way. In the distance a tree stood head high above the low scrub, incredulously it appeared to be a magnolia tree in full blossom. As I approached the magnolias flew away, cooing. The Torres Strait pigeons had arrived. I heard drumming in the dense growth of a bunch of wild plum trees nearby. As the sound grew louder a wallaby bounded across my path closely followed by a panting Jessie. I called her name and with a look of shame she ran to me and sat down.

Swishing the gum tips around my head made no difference to the March flies. It felt like they were making nests in my hair so I reached up and grabbed as many as I could catch and squashed them between my fingers, then threw their broken bodies into the dirt. It's called survival. The unmerciful sun was climbing higher and hotter in the sky, and rivers of sweat coursed down my back. I shaded my eyes to see how far I had to go to reach the coolness of the shady billabong and was pleased it just ahead. My step quickened in anticipation of the opportunity to sit and meditate at the waters edge.

The fallen leaves crunched under my feet as I made my way down the steep bank towards the water. I stopped a few metres from the edge to stand in awe. I never grew tired of this sight, the reflections of trees in the water, the pink and white waterlilies floating on green lily pads. I took a long slow breath and closed my eyes to better experience the serenity. For a moment I was not an individual with everyday worries, I was the breeze swirling on the water's surface, I was every drop of water embracing the creatures that lived within, I was the hawk gliding on the air currents. I was at one with my environment. I was at peace.

I was snapped out of my trance by the sound of crunching leaves behind me. I turned around and looked into two large beautiful brown eyes. Eyes that would melt your heart, like cow eyes, cow? No, buffalo! Standing a little more than arm's length from me was a large beast, complete with horns and a swishing tail and he was blocking my path back to the road. I had two options, fight or flight. I checked my arsenal, two small pebbles. Fight was certainly out of the question. Flight then. Where to? Behind me was the billabong, and crocs have been known to visit it, so I stood my ground. Was there another way? Yes, I had read somewhere that Buddhist monks could subdue lions with loving kindness.

I summoned all the loving kindness I could muster and even spoke kind words. 'Nice buffalo, pretty buffalo, such a sweet fellow. Peace be with you.' He didn't move. I shut my eyes to summon more loving kindness, 'Peace be with you,' I whispered again and again. I opened one eye to see if it had worked, I couldn't see him, so I opened the other eye. Yes, he was gone. Had he vanished? Oh wow, I did it. I heard a splash in the billabong, was that a croc, maybe I could use my loving kindness on him? I turned around quickly to see the buffalo wading out into the water, tail swishing at those irritating March flies. Relief flooded over me.

I scrambled up the bank and called for Jessie. She came running to me her tongue a long pink strap. I signalled to her not to bark as we might alert the buffalo and walked quickly down the road towards home. No, I didn't walk, I floated. I had been transformed, I was now a person of peace and loving kindness full of the mystic power of peace. My feet were prayer drums beating out a holy message to the world.

I reached home in a euphoric state ready to tell my amazing feat to my husband. But as usual he was on the phone speaking to a neighbour. 'Yes, I will, oh here she is now, just a minute,' he turned to me and asked, 'did you see a buffalo on your walk?'

I smiled with self-righteous satisfaction and nodded. 'Yes, she did,' he said into the phone, then again to me, 'where did you see him, he's the kids pet and has been missing all night, he's harmless you know and the kids are worried, where did you spot him?'

I managed two words, 'the billabong' before I escaped into the shower to wash away the sweat and my acute embarrassment.