Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Away from the madding crowd

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside. Especially this, my own corner of the seaside - with its old glacial reef and its seascape of rocky islands and the mighty Bluff. Encounter Bay, where the scent of the sea invigorates and renews as the tide goes out exposing the rocky reef and its weedy life forms - beds of mussels, urchins, weed like strings of pearls, ribbons of kelp, starfish...
Bruce and I are having a wee retreat. I have a week off work and he is over from NH on his annual leave. Precious time for us both. In our own house with its sublime view, the sea a casual stone's throw from the door.
It's been a quiet few days - just us. We have walked our familiar path to the old screwpile jetty to watch the fishermen, we have sat on beaches watching the sea, on the little calm, sheltered bay beneath the bluff and also on the mighty Waitpinga beach where the Southern Ocean crashes wild surfing waves onto the vast stretch of golden sand. Looking at that sand under one of B's high-powered magnifiers (which he carries around the neck on nature walks) it was to find a world of glittering, sea-smoothed gemstones - tiny golden quartz, which gives the sand its color, and pure crystal quartz like miniature uncut diamonds.
It was a breezy day when we walked Waitpinga. Only us and two fishermen casting into the furious sea. The waves were massive, raging over in rolling breaks and frothing up like seething meringue. Down the profile of the coast, the perspective of headlands was cast into pastel hues by the delicate salt spray whipped up from the wind off the sea. B and I, after padding through the soft sand to the little rivermouth, headed inland along the edge of the river - which, after the drought, was narrowed leaving broad, firm beds of sandy marsh mud. Opportunistic little wildflowers were greedily spreading their way across the new soil, rejoicing with bright blue blooms. As we walked the water's edge, we noticed masses of little marsh flies flying in little leaps and bounds around our feet. The further we walked, the more of these little ground-dwelling flies we saw until they were a dense black carpet. We were fascinated by the way their population seemed to grow thicker the further inland we walked - until I turned around and observed that there were hardly any little flies behind us. They were keeping pace with us, a step ahead all the way. We were herding them. Fly herding!!!!!! And we had herded them by the zillions. Oh the power.
Our friends, Barb and Brian, came down yesterday and we rolled off for an Aussie pub meal. Hearty and very average - but easy and fun. Today we lunched at the Miniature Vilalge tearooms amid its wonderful rose and native garden - watching birds feeding their young in nests under the eaves of the verandah. Blue wrens, swallows, honeyeaters.... And we had merriment with Eric, the corella, who says "hello Eric" and performs tricks of dropping rocks with his claw and catching them with his beak. Clever bird.
Later B and I drove to explore a native flower garden I had noticed from the road (it's good to be a passenger sometimes) - and what a joy this 5-acre native garden. Nangawooka I think is its name. A serene place with 2500 different sorts of Australian native plant - and the accompanying birdlife - more blue wrens, galahs, sulphur cresteds, wattle birds, crested doves...a wonderous racket of birdsong amid the sweet fragrance of vegetation. There was no one else in the reserve - just B and me, wandering unurriedly, marvelling at the primeval nature of some of the plants, rolling their names around on our tonges - Grevillia, leucospurum, callistemon...
Reading in the window seats, watching the ever changing hues of the sea, waking to the first peek of the orange sun on the horizon (and then going back to sleep), walking to the boat ramp and watching the pelicans, seagulls and terns on their rocks...
Oh and we had a storm...a wild electrical storm which raged all night long. Not much rain, of course. Lightning and more lightning, illuminating the sea and islands in stark relief. Just before sunset, the sun made a last appearance and an incredible rainbow emerged almost vertically beside Wright Island. So deep and rich in its colors. The full arc was massive when we went outside to check its extent. And then a second rainbow twinned the first in softer colors. We stood on the balcony gazing in wonderment - and then the most spectacular coiling, curling, bright and extensive lightning struck right through the core of the rainbows. Talk about gasp! Oh yes, we gasped. What a phenomenon.
Ain't nature grand!

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