A tranquil expanse of water, stretching into the sky, glittering in the sunshine as it merges with the horizon. Slow moving rippling light is reflected from the water surface to the underside of bleached paperbark limbs reaching over the inlet, branches dangling into the water.
Whirring wings of honeyeaters and chirping chatter of fairywrens. Nature’s music. The sky is blue, the earth is damp.
Solitude. No-one else’s energy or thoughts to deflect – just nature emitting nurturing energy. As I rest in the shade, Mother Earth’s chilly fingertips brush my neck and bare arms, and I shiver involuntarily.
Alone with nature – four elements of earth, fire, air, water – all speak to my senses. Although it’s a ‘place’ I’m sitting at and admiring, it’s more than a ‘place’. It’s a part of everything that the universe encompasses – and I’m a part of all that.
A special moment where the birds jump about my feet – unthreatened by my presence because my energy is totally loving and giving. I want nothing from them, just the privilege of sharing their company and space. I shift to sit in the sun and let the fire in the sky warm my back.
When you’re aware of the absolute perfection of solitude and when you feel overwhelming gratitude for the nurturing hand of Mother Nature, clarity trickles over your being, and you know that everything that you have in this moment is all that you need. There is no temptation to think of the past or the future and all the angst it might hold for you.
Thoughts disappear as I embrace the incredible beauty of solitude and nature.
Dry, dusty inland Australia – the sky belongs to raptors and ravens. The land ‘belongs’ to humans to do with as ‘they’ see fit.
I don’t agree that particularly thirsty crops like cotton and rice have a place in Australian agriculture, but, I do appreciate the expertise, employment, and economic value and sense of pride that goes with these industries in rural communities. Travelling west from Hay in the Riverina, vast paddocks of cotton spread across the landscape, giving way to even bigger paddocks of wheat stubble. Not a tree in sight. Wait. There’s one. Just imagine the noisy scuffles in those branches when the whole bird kingdom feels the urge to nest at once.
Murrumbidgee River irrigation gives way to Murray River irrigation as we drive into the Riverland district of Renmark and Berri. Acres of quality vineyards and citrus orchards butt up to parched Mallee and saltbush country. The strategic placement of dripping water produces lush and bountiful fruit crops, not a drop goes elsewhere.
The might River Murray, according to records, is apparently nowhere as mighty as it once was. Over use and mis-use. I can’t verify that, but to my eyes, the Murray is still a splendid river, running wide and clean, lined with grand River Red Gums and weeping Willows. But I am just an on-looker.
And, I was overjoyed to see for myself that water is being allocated to maintain wetlands vital to water-birds’ health and wellbeing. What progress it is to see Murray River water diverted into wetlands surrounded by saltbush and sun-baked earth. Governmental view of environmental needs is finally making some slim changes that evoke hope.
As we prepare to leave the Murray River, I feel sure we won’t find another that can stand anywhere near its grandeur until we trip around Australia and find ourselves back here.
Shorebirds can be difficult to identify by a shorebird-novice like me. But for someone who appreciates the nuances of animal behaviour, they can be endlessly entertaining, even without names.
Cudgeon Creek estuary at Hastings Point on the north coast of NSW proved to be a great place to watch the comings and goings of sand dwelling birds – our first stop on our around Australia caravanning trip.
Other sand flats and rock walls gave up surprise encounters with fascinating birds too. Like the Osprey, a raptor that generally preys on water-dwelling creatures, but is not immune to opportunism created by humans. I watched a woman catch a garfish and secure it to a bigger fishing rod in the hope of tempting a table fish to her hook. But the Osprey had its name on that garfish. It swooped to steel the live bait from the line and flew off to feed on it from a high perch. Brilliant!
And bath time always provides plenty of amusing antics. Crested terns scooped water up with their bent wings, splashing like children for longer than necessary. They all bath differently. Ospreys stand alone in the shallowest of water, tentatively dipping headfirst, throwing water onto their back, with its mate on patrol in a nearby tree.
A Mangrove Heron skulks among the rock-pools searching out tiny fish, freezing like a statue, then thrusting its bill into the water at such speed that I always miss the catch. The heron did not miss.
Birds with long straight bills like straws, others curved downwards, poking and prodding the sand for morsels of food – birds that have flown halfway around the world. How is that possible? Incredible.
Grand. Awesome. Immaculately groomed tropical plant collections from here and other tropical countries, obviously lovingly and expertly maintained.
Flecker Botanic Gardens, Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia. I’ve explored arid-lands botanic gardens, high-country botanic gardens, city and country, native and exotic, and always immersed myself in the beauty and fascination of the plants displayed. But really, this tropical garden tops them all.
Amazing ferns and palms are features. Stunning foliage plants. Mysterious carnivorous plants. Gorgeous blooms and odd seed capsules. Relatives of the grotesquely beautiful Corpse flower. Bromeliads, gingers, bamboos, and creepers. Orchids and strange fruit trees. Lush lawns and waterways. And tucked away in little leafy nooks are seats (themselves works of art) for contemplation and rest.
What a truly inspiring piece of natural paradise. After wandering in wonderment, and sitting in silence, we enjoyed delicious food at the outdoor cafe. And then it rained, as it does in the tropics.
She was hanging in the garden in a huge web tinged with gold. A BIG spider. A scarily BIG spider. I first saw her while I was having breakfast outdoors. She darted to the bottom of the web pouncing on a brilliant blue butterfly. The butterfly escaped, and Mrs spider returned to the centre of her web, awaiting another hapless insect.
How do I know it was Mrs? Because in the spider kingdom, the female is usually hundreds of times larger than the male. At a close inspection, two tiny spiders were hanging out in the outskirts of the web, presumably waiting for a chance to impregnate the impressive mama, and probably get eaten in the process. It’s tough being a male spider.
During a late afternoon tropical shower, a dove flew through the web, leaving half the silky net in tatters. And then to make matters worse for the spider, the clumsy bird flew straight back again, almost taking out the spider.
More rain through the night, and when I checked out the spider in the garden, I was amazed to find a finch caught in the web. Now, the finch was only a little smaller than a House Sparrow, so that’s really some achievement for the spider’s silk – known to be stronger than steel of equal size. Nature is awesome.
The bird was still alive, and the spider showed no interest in the potential meal, so the owner of the Park rescued the bird and carefully plucked off all the silk fibres connected to its wings and legs. After a stumble, the bird flew off.
This is what I love about nature. All the little details. All the daily behaviour and mystery. And that’s why I notice Mother Nature’s subtle, yet wondrous stories. Because I don’t just look, I experience. Yes, nature is awesome.
It’s like the peace hidden and lying in wait in every person’s heart has emerged, just for a few moments. I wonder if they felt it? And I wonder if they experienced a connection with the other travellers they wandered amongst? And I wonder if any person leaving the beach was changed forever?
There are no directional signs, and it’s not an official tourist attraction, yet the beach is obviously visited by thousands of travellers who contribute to the impromptu art. Balancing towers of rocks and stones against a backdrop of tropical ocean, on the road from Port Douglas in far north Queensland to Cairns. I guess it’s rather unique.
Just picture: all cultures, all religions and all faiths, all political persuasions, all sexual orientations, and a full spectrum of social standings mingling, admiring, and feeling part of something simple that is also something special. And knowing that this simple natural expression of cross-cultural creativity is special. Boundaries have been crossed and walls have come down, and everyone is part of a whole. There are no officials telling dark-skinned people to go there or rich people to go here or heterosexuals to go there. Every person is equal and one with everyone else. A celebration of humanity. That’s how the world should be.
I’m disappointed to find, a few months later, that most of the stone stacks are gone. It doesn’t appear to be an act of wanton destruction by humans, but rather, I think Mother Earth has claimed the stones with boisterous stormy seas. More towers of balancing stones are starting replace those washed away, and I hope the process will be repeated so that people from all over the world and from all walks of life can once again leave their positive energy and creativity for all to enjoy.
I sat on the beach this morning amongst the new art pieces to write, imagining cultures mixing, and all going away with a smile in their hearts.
They’re common birds. I see them every day. Yet they still provide interest and delight to a genuine lover of nature. With one wing lifted and spread out, the dove rolls over and appears dead in the midday sun, presumably enlisting the heat to evict parasites. Its mate joins in the ritual. Then they get up, shake, spread the other wing and stretch out on the grass. Finches feed around them. Suddenly, with a whirr of frantic wings, birds large and small move as one, disappearing into the undergrowth. The brown torpedo-shape of a juvenile Black Butcher-bird darts low over the feeding grounds, diving into the undergrowth. The predator emerges empty-billed, and the pray remain silent and still until the clearing is again safe.
Nature plays out extraordinary sequences of well-being and survival, dedication and loss, life and death, everywhere, every day and night. To the human who appreciates and is fascinated by the details of nature, these sequences are always interesting, often entertaining, sometimes laugh-out-loud amusing, and with limitless beauty and wonder.
Whilst travelling, I meet other birdwatchers/photographers. Some are pleasant company, more are so obsessed with the end result of their hobby (ie: the number of ticks on their species list, or the perfect photo) that they miss the point of nature entirely. They emit stressful, threatening energy that repels the very birds they’re chasing. That self-serving vibration repels me too. I wander off in search of the natural peace that nature IS when nature is left to BE. And because I have no agenda, all I want from nature is to enjoy the beauty and magic of the moment, whatever that moment might produce, PEACE is granted to me.