I: Blue Earth Café, Bodalla
I have a haircut at 10am, a really really short cut. Then I insert my emu feather earrings and head up to Blue Earth to wait for 12.30 and lunch with a special friend. I order a stiff black coffee, and settle down to read old Guardian magazines, yellow highlighter in hand, in a contemplative mood and a pleasant nook, surrounded by trees, deluged with sun-dapples, looking out towards a smoky east.
Half way through the wait I begin to notice my surroundings: the fading birds of paradise just behind me; luxuriantly demure buddings; flauntingly pink flowerings; sharp spike of leaves; work-of-art bark. Shell mobiles clink in the fly-defying breeze; the cafe street-library contains a few familiar names.
I watch a woman walk past wearing bright leggings, being led by four dogs.
My friend arrives, carrying a special bag, only brought out occasionally, and replaced when it becomes too worn.
I’m delighted yet again that I have this wonderful place as my nearest coffee shop, a mere 9 km from home, along a road frequented by lyre birds, macropods and wombats: and more particularly, wonderful friends to share it with.
II: Potato Point beach
Beachcombers are active ambassadors, listening to the sea’s many messages
… Kea Krause, Longreads
It’s not carols in the supermarket that herald Christmas in my neck of the woods. It’s sculptures on the beach. On the last day of November the first one appears. This time, the vertical poles are decorated, long stolons of grass festooned between them. The ones from last year’s holiday season only disappeared recently.
At the edge of the dunes, sand has banked up over clumps of seaweed.
The tideline is thickly ornamented with curves of debris: little bits of seaweed, green, red, black and occasionally bleached; broken tumbleweed; the odd mangrove seed. There are bright patches too – clear green, red, orange.
On the path to the grassy patch where we saw three baby plovers last week banksias lie deconstructed, and an as-yet-unidentified grass flowers.
III: Potato Point beach
Once upon a time I could guarantee a low tide walk would mean hard level sand. Not this morning, partly because low tide was .8, not the .4 I relish, and partly because the beach has washed away, creating a slope that require legs of two different lengths to walk comfortably, lengths swapped at the northern end of the beach for the return journey.
There are other differences too. Along the horizon lies a flat line of smoke from fires to the north that have closed the Princes Highway from Batemans Bay to Burrill Lake. At the weekend they were threatening Braidwood up the escarpment: now they’ve jumped the highway and are threatening coastal villages. There is a brief respite when warnings are downgraded to Watch and Act, but they’re now, a few hours later, back up to Emergency. How exhausted those firefighters must be. It’s almost obscene to be still taking pleasure in beach walking. I’m more and more convinced that my turn will come this season.
Swathes of pebbles shape the northern end of the beach: that’s another change.
Tumbleweed (aka Spinifex sericeus) pirouettes above its shadow on the water’s edge, and its earlier stage uses leaf as stylus to draw delicate patterns in the sand.
The sea is not the only thing that leaves traces behind.
Nor is the sea’s edge the only place that offers morning treasures.
IV: The connection between up and down
For a few weeks now the track from where we park the car to the beach has been littered with the innards of banksia cones, and occasionally a whole green one.
Today we hear squawking in the trees above, and look up to see the silhouettes of yello-tailed black cockatoos. One even fans his yellow tail, but silhouettes are all they vouchsafe the camera. They’ve been feasting and they obviously lack table manners. “It was OK for Henry VIII to chuck chicken bones over his shoulder onto the floor: surely we can litter the ground!”
Here’s what they look like, albeit up the wrong tree – this one’s cresting a casuarina.
V: Potato Point beach in time of fire
It’s been a fear-full week. A fire just north of Batemans Bay sixty kilometres away – no distance in a howling gale – has been raging out of control, burning out 78 000 hectares, and still alive. My beach bears traces in ash lines along the tide mark, mostly black, but sometimes containing half-burnt leaves. The weekend has been still and cool under a dense smoke haze, air made visible just in front of your eyes.
The futile prime minister sees no need to declare a state of emergency, even though our fire is only one of those burning the length of the NSW coast.
Under the sense of doom – it’s probably only a matter of time before we’re on the fire front – there is still beauty, even if one feels a bit uneasy noticing it while homes are lost, people devastated, and firefighters exhausted.
Something I haven’t noticed before in all my beach marauding: tubes poke up out of the sand under the wash of the tide – they withstand the sea, but break if you touch them. No idea – yet – what they are.
The familiar Lomandra longifolia is moving from flower to berry, caught in the act in the photo on the right.
Macropods are supposed to reabsorb a foetus if the season is going to be bad. This wallaby has a joey on board, quite a large one by the heavy sag of her pouch, although it keeps well hidden, no dangling paw or little black nose, although we watch for quite a while. Let’s hope she knows something weather forecasters don’t, and that there’s hope that the drought will break.