I am speaking with a completely amateur voice, and everything I say may be totally wrong!
I visited Shelly Beach some time ago with my friend who sings with magpies. At the weekend J and I returned, this time in search of Cambrian-Ordovician rocks, laid down in deep water under the ocean somewhere between 460 and 500 million years ago. Our guide was an information sheet produced by four geologists, who are taking a group (including us) to five local sites in November. As a mature age learner I can't bear to arrive in a state of total ignorance, and this reconnoitre was to puzzle over the site and become a bit familiar with it, not least how to get there.
Yet again J leaves me trailing. He's spent a chilly week reading Winchester's The map that changed the world and envying the clarity of English geology; and perusing Mary White's Reading the rocks to get a handle on the big picture of Australian geology, which is apparently much messier and much less clearly laid out.
What we were seeing at Shelly Beach was our first taste of sedimentary rock, originally created from deposits of fine sand and silt. The typical layering of sedimentary rock was visible (I think): but this layering has been interfered with by the weight of overlaying sediment and by the heat and pressure generated by the action of plate tectonics, which has also uplifted and deformed the sedimentary beds. We could actually see some of the resulting folds quite clearly, although my capacity to think in 3D is limited. By the end of the morning we were discussing buying plasticine so J could demonstrate his explanations by slicing layers with a very sharp knife.
By the time we left this very beautiful array of rocks (I'm preparing a post that concentrates on aesthetics!) I had a few understandings and a number of questions.
And finally we came across something I could understand without cogitation, and smile at rather than frown over.
Shelly Beach is magnificently placed at the mouth of the Moruya River, with a backdrop of mountains. The breakwater winds around to a peaceful lake-like expanse of river. It’s hard to believe there’s an airport just over on the other side of the river, until you see how very small the airport actually is.
I walked along the beach early in the morning with an old friend. We passed a sculpture-pile of stones, a dishevelment of breakwater rocks, an irresistible patch of tumble weed, and a warble of magpies. My friend entered into a musical conversation with them, and later captured the song-dialogue in a lovely occasional poem.
Two friends went down to the beach one day
And met at the breakwater wall
A magpie, and it’s mate nearby
Who started a chortley call
They paused their elegant confabulation
Seemed to wait for some sort of reply
So I joined the chortling conversation
Tho’ much less elegant was I
When next I paused, they again did start
And after another minute
There was a space for me again to take part
By now I was beginning to wing it
And so it continued this ping ponging song
The magpies then me in tandem
Tho’ my vocals un crafted sufficed just so long
They gave their response with abandon
This call and response ‘tween me and the ‘pies
A sweetly special engagement
Spontaneous and playful it did not rely
On high training, or planning or talent
(written by Sandy Wilder, November 2014, and used here with her permission.)