I: Potato Point beach: morning and evening of the same day
Two aging bodies need a level, lowish-tide walking surface. Around here at the moment heavy seas have created on many beaches an uncomfortable slant. My home beach is still relatively flat. So it’s there we go from the bush block on a Saturday.
The beach is quite busy: a couple of paddle boarders standing on water; kids kicking balls and building castles and canals to the sea; a young man contemplating temperature before he takes the plunge.
We walk barefoot in the gentle waves. I indulge my desire to collect shells with the camera: I have enough at home on window ledges collecting dust.
At the northern end of the beach, we regret leaving our shoes behind, and step gingerly onto the rock platform, spiking our feet despite the apparent smoothness of some pathways. We realise that sand has built up: last time we rock clambered, the ledge we’re on was a metre above the water, now it’s an easy step. Tender feet prevent us from going far, so we sit, sheltered from the wind, and contemplate the cliff face, something I’ve never done before. The conversation turns to Harold Bloom, who died this week, and his liking for writing that describes place so you can envisage it. How, we ask, could we possibly describe this?
Our eyes wander over different formations (patterns? texture? placement in relation to the rest?) and vegetation (easier: you can almost get by with names – boobialla, pigface, native geranium, coastal rosemary, poa grass clumps.)
We sit cogitating the difficulties of description, and fumbling for words, then scramble back to the ease of sand. Beach grass creates delicate shadows and the blades trace even more delicate patterns in the sand.
We return to the beach towards evening and the next low tide, passing grazing red-neck wallabies, and another array of shells.
This time we wear our rock-clambering shoes, and make our way easily over the rocks that were unwelcoming in the morning. The cliff face looks almost nondescript now.
However, as we scramble further, the world of rock-pools opens up.
II: A sea star walk – Bingie
On a peerless late spring day we walk out to the tip of Bingie Bingie Point to reactivate our geological urges on a site for which we have good documentation. Sure enough we see familiar dykes: basalt, dacite and the other one, the huge one, the apricot coloured one: what the heck is it called? Aha! (as we drink apple cider and watch a whale blow half-heartedly) Aplite!! We see clearly the junction between tonalite and gabbro-diorite; the place where garnets can be found. We walk over the batholith that “goes down and down and down”.
But what really makes our day are rockpools. Joe says “Hey! Look at the starfish.” I peer, not very hopefully and finally see it under weed fronds swaying to and fro with the movement of water.
Then it’s as if an eye-door has been opened. They’re everywhere.
They gazump the spectacular views …
… and even the place where twin basalt dykes and the aplite dyke intersect.
III: Potato Point half-walk
I’m tired after the weekend, and go out reluctantly, drawn by the beautiful day (no! unfortunately it’s not a rainy one) and my need to walk off stiffness. I pass under the arch of callistemon in my drive.
I pause at a fern I’ve been eying off from the car, and find fiddleheads coiled up waiting to open.
In the dunes, lomandra is flowering, those irresistible spikes of pale yellow tulip shapes against the broad flat leaf blades ideal for basket weaving.
I’m heading for a grove of grass I noticed last night, what I’d thought were two separate plants suddenly revealing themselves as one (more of this as native grasses become the new obsession.)
Iguana (now there’s a predictive text to ponder – I thought I typed “fatigue”) catches up with me, so I plonk myself on the sand. A pair of black poodles come to investigate, but I’m not very interesting. I pick up a piece of dried seaweed and begin to play with it as a frame, something I’ve done before with some pleasure.
Suddenly the sea behind it comes alive with giant splashes and the gleam of whale bodies. They are weaving the sea almost like dolphins, breaching and blowing and slapping quite close inshore. They’re heading south around the headland so I follow them. From the stairs above Jemison’s Beach I watch enchanted as two groups leap and send up water-puffs.
IV: Around Moruya
In between seeing the accountant, attending a Refugee Action Collective meeting, having the car serviced and visiting the exhibition at the BAS, I criss-cross town. The public vegie garden is thriving; red roses and deep blue unknowns flourish outside a cafe. As I head across the grass in front of the Anglican Church I’m attacked by a clacking plover, swooping close enough to my head to make me shudder.
V: Low tide at Spud
We hit the jackpot with low tides towards the end of October: great swathes of hard sand to walk on and rocky coves usually inaccessible under ocean waves.
When I run out of shallow water I climb up and over a rocky ridge onto a platform, where I can look out to sea or back to the village headland.
The rockpools are colourful: sand dollars barely visible; small shells on the move; stodgy grey starfish in piles, one with arms bent back, displaying a pale underside, one edged with far more attractive pink.
On the day marking 48 years since our marriage, Joe and I rendezvous at super-low-tide and walk into a number of coves, usually deep under surf. A black crab scuttles as the waves roll in about our ankles; weed in swirls and curtains holds fast to the rocks; colonies of cunjevoi, usually seen washed up dry and dead crowd in their clefts; pools reveal bright orange-red globes and shiny crimson globules.
Rocks are a panoply of shape and texture and colour, an intricate patterning of weed and coral-like growths and embedded chitons.
The sea is eddying in from all directions leaving subtle patterns in the sand, a scattering of tiny pebbles and minute ridges and gullies, sand pools a mere smear of blue and snakeskin ripples.
The consequences of the howling winds that have been bending eucalypts are strewn on the sand, single leaves acting as cups for sand and water and reflectors for the sun.
An intact dead shearwater is lying displayed on the sand. I photograph its delicate grey feathers riffled by the breeze with my iPhone, screen dazzled by the sun. This is what appears when I check at home.
When I finally download camera photos, I find what I intended to capture.
VI: Eurobodalla bush
Weekends have become a pleasant mix of bush and beach. A gentle stroll along Bullocky’s Hut Road to Dead Car Hill or down the Triangle towards the site of the soon-to-be-constructed dam begins the day. (Bullocky’s Hut Rd is a gazetted name: the other two are family nomenclature.) It’s a journey through consequences. There’s been no rain for a long time and the leaves and fallen bark are crackling-dry.
On Saturday the wind was rages and fallen branches attest to its power. Joe is eager to walk – maybe the eucalypts will provide him with longed-for specimens, those mingy trees that refuse to lay before him, on the ground, flowering branchlets or nuts guaranteed to be from that particular tree.
Flowers are sparse: a few eggs and bacon, two species, smaller flowers than usual, straggle beside the track. A grass tree has last year’s pods dry and open on its black spike.
However, leaves and needles and grass curls provide visual pleasure, and so does bark.
There is still some majesty amongst the desiccation – a grand old spotted gum with its companion burrawang, backed by slender ironbarks. However, the treetops are thinly leaved: house lights across the valley, usually hidden by foliage are now visible. The weather sneers: promises of rain yield a few drops, or a brief horizontal pounding that doesn’t even dampen the ground.