Image Posted on Updated on
A long drive through sandy, sometimes rutted bush roads, leads to the western tip of Magnetic Island, a small island off the Queensland north coast.
West Point is a sought after location on the island in which to watch the sun set over the strip of water between the island and the Australian mainland.
We gathered with backpackers and locals keen to bask in the last light of the day and watch it sink out of sight. One of the delightful additions was the spectacular light that lit up the sand making it gleam a ruby red. The sand rivulets are actually made by what appeared to be fresh water bubbling up through the sand from inland and seeping back into the ocean.
My eldest cousin passed away this week, we hadn’t been in contact for many years but he was on my heart at Christmas and I sent him a card with a scrawl about my growing family, namely my three young grand-daughters. In a couple of days the eldest of these girls turns five and David’s passing in the same week reminds us that birth and death are the cornerstones of our lives, an inescapable cycle that all life participates in.
Because I have been beach walking, accompanied by the ocean tides, I am reminded of how this cycle is evident at all times all around us yet sometimes it slips from our conscious mind. Yet if we look for it we can see it in the push and pull of our everyday lives, in the ebb and flow of water, the opening and closing of a flower, the melting of a hail stone, the bare branches of a deciduous tree, its barrenness belying the quiet growth of the roots as the tree prepares for spring.
When I am walking at high tide I am energised by the ocean’s passion and strength as it hurls itself against the land mass with the same gusto a new born babe tests out its lungs. This tide brings deep water and white horses, waves that move sand, shells, seaweed and starfish around in a tumbled mess. On the mid-tide one moment these creatures are thrown around and the next they are lying like stranded castaways on the soft sand at my feet. The only movement the popping of air bubbles indicating where sand crabs and beach worms have burrowed. Such a tide is not unlike the way our own lives have moments of frenzied activity then quiet stagnation. On low-tide the ocean falls back leaving pools of still water, what were once jagged shoals become placid ponds where life suddenly appears in abundance and all is calm. Tiny blue periwinkles slither up underwater boulders, minnows dart amoung delicate foliage, frilly sea-cucumbers float beside the imperceptible swaying of an anemone. After the frenzy of the surge tide there is a richness to be found here, a wealth of history and timelessness on show. A fruition of all the activity that preceded it.
We are all participants in this cycle of life, fellow dancers skipping our way through the cosmos, sometimes its a foxtrot, sometimes its a waltz, but we all dance to the same orchestra, we experience shared moments, we walk together on this planet named Earth before we dissipate into who knows where. Like the air bubble that floated to the surface of my rock pool we pop into this world then vanish, disappearing into something greater, leaving behind us the indelible but dissolving image of a little hole in the water.
We are so often surrounded by urban noise its little wonder we seek out nature to refresh our spirits.
Considering we are looking for a respite from urban sounds as much as the urban environment its strange how much we tend to think of our ‘nature experiences’ primarily in visual terms and relegate sounds to a secondary position.
I have always been conscious of sound, I am one of those that takes great pleasure in the ‘sounds of silence’ preferring the subtle background rustles of life to canned music.
I am perplexed by people who go bush walking and beach combing with their iPods plugged into their ears, and by those who go camping in National Parks with their radio blaring.
As I walked today it was my great pleasure to be accompanied by the constant sound of the ocean quietly rolling in from the west onto the soft sandy beaches and rocky outcrops where I wandered.
When the path meandered over the headland I heard the soft tut tut tut of the kangaroos as I walked past. As I traversed the path behind the sand dunes I walked through groves of trees where I heard the soft twittering of sparrows, the cawling of the currawongs. the trilling notes of the honey eaters feasting on grevillas and the galahs shrieking in the banskia trees as they feed on the cones.
I crossed a grassy area where butterflies danced silently amid long grasses. The hum of insects buzzing floated lazily in the air while in the distance I could hear the first of the summer cicadas. A family of magpies pecked lazily at the grass.
As I rounded the final corner in the bush track I came across a big grey kangaroo, I have seen this one before in the same spot but it has always shied away from the path. Perhapes it was that I was intentionally walking quietly imagining myself to be at one with my surroundings that made it accept my presence. A fairy wren flew down and performed a little song on a branch and the kangaroo tut tut tutted in response.
My heart filled with gratitude, not only for the little bush creatures and their concert that seemed to be performed just for me, but also for being able to hear all these wonderful sounds. To hear sound is a gift most of us take for granted and the sounds of nature are the greatest of them all.
Sound file from the Australian National Botanic Gardens website