Familiar beaches, yes, but never the same beaches. A lot depends on so many things. This week we’ve had heavy seas, so things that were exposed last week, are covered with sand, and quite deep pools, goudged out by the sea, are swirling around rocks where no deep pools were before. This week low tide is higher than it was last week, so rocks we could walk around then become impassable without wet legs up to the knee. Today the sun is behind cloud and there’s no need to remove layers of clothing as we walk. The light is perfect, a grey wash, slightly luminous, reflecting rocks (mylonite, chert) and clouds in the encroaching water. The chevrons are splendidly etched, and colours in the rocks vibrate, whereas last visit in blazing sun we saw only darkness, coaxed into some detail by post-processing.
Sunday morning is freezing. I cower in the living room as J thumps around the roof with the leaf blower. This weekend he spends a lot of time on the roof: on Friday I arrive just as he discovers the chimney has caught fire. At least in the chill (snow in the mountains), the fire is going safely again. Then we discover, after all this time, that our view of the progression of low tides is reality halved, and that coveted low tide doesn’t happen till 1pm.
We set off at 9 anyway, and suddenly the world is warmer. We drive south and turn off the highway along a dirt road between a caravan park and a creek, and leave the car where the creek is in conflict with the outgoing tide in a swirl of rushing current.
The sea is blue and agitated, and the sun surpringly warm, although I still sport the innovative fashion of sunhat pulled down over beanie.
Today J takes the level high road in support of his leg and I walk the tideline. My pleasures are small ones and of the present. Geology takes a back seat in the face of expanses of sand, where seaweed settles, surprising colours and textures from the sea are showcased, and black and cream patterns emerge.
Along the dunes, sand collapses after high seas have made smooth shelves; trees tilt with a lifetime of wind; thick grass runs long distance, anchoring itself with runners and delicate shadows; and dead branches make a subtle pattern against vertical rock face. A lagoon glimmers dark with green reflections and then blue behind a barrier of trees, the same expanse of water you can see from the highway just past the high school.
I look at rocks and pebbles without geological speculation; explore the occasional track off behind the dunes; and try to see inside the greenish bubble-worlds the receding tide leaves behind.
Occasionally however geology does intrude. This is, I am assured, “unmistakable BIM.” Including chert.
J’s damaged leg has carried him the furthest he’s walked since the damage happened, and he discovers the comfort of barefoot walking on sand. We scrape off the sand, return to the car, buy a pair of custard tarts, and eat them looking out over Wagonga Inlet towards Gulaga. We end the weekend raking up leaves ready for a calm-day burn. It’s a long time since I’ve experienced the satisfaction of combing the surface covering of the earth into piles.
My stamina for focused reading has dropped right off, although I can devour a lightweight detective story in three gulps. So I discipline myself to sit for a solid hour with notebook, pen and Kindle, as I read “The years of extermination: Nazi German and the Jews 1939-1945” by Saul Friedländer. I recharge the iPad in another room so I can’t flick it on to check this and that. By the time I’ve finished, I’ve learnt more than my heart wants to know.
After lunch walk struggles with doze. Walk wins. Along my street past a cluster of mushrooms, the big-as-a-dinner-plate ones, pushing through the loose soil on the verge, some smaller and creamy-brown, one with a peeling browned-meringue top. Up the board stairs, watching my footing carefully, and down on to Jemisons Beach, high sandcliffs a legacy of heavy seas.
I find a sand-shelf just the right height for sitting and let the sun, the breeze, and the sound of the sea relax me. My companions are a swathe of sea-weed and a white crab claw. I watch the waves crashing on the rocks, counting to seven as I wait for the next big one.
When I’m sufficiently soothed I head towards the track behind the dunes and discover freshgoldenred seaweed, traces of the ocean far beyond what I thought was its reach. Along the track, more fungi: beige spots and stripes, rich velvety brown, orange, and brilliant red.
There are tiny flowers, even wattle with its fist-buds, and in my front yard minute red mushrooms lurking under the creeping foliage of scurvy weed.
Oh and near home, traces of the hobbit among the casuarinas.