Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Reef Diary.


Appreciating the beauty of a West Australian rock pool.

22 12 94      The crows are noisy.  I make my way to Vlaming’s Lookout.  Dedicated to the people of Western Australia by Princess Beatrice of the Netherlands.  There is an interesting cultural poster on the train:

“She sits down with the book again.  Opening the book.  The book falls open.  Where to start.  She picks up again.  From where she left off.  Now, where was I?  Wondering.  Each step she takes.  Her hands are her feet.  Her eyes the travellers.  She wanders the world, turning the page.  Her maps spread out before her:  the tiny valleys and ridges that lead her on.  Alone.  With her thoughts.  Gazing into the pond of writing.  Winking up at her.  She blinks.  Black on white.  Intricate space.  The lure of the line.  She stops.  She starts.  Falling into spaces.  The silence.  The babble.  The book.”  Anne Brewster.

Here, at the beach, I watch the dancing sparkles, listen to the soft crush of the breakers, wonder at it all.

This is the beach where the Cyclops lives.  He leaves his ropes in the water, and has staked the reef several times.  He is huge.

Near my favourite rock I find a black wasp, dead, but measuring at least an inch.  I put it in a groove in the rock.  It will be protected by the spiders.  Their webs are sad but hardy.  I try very hard to be gentle with the wasp.  I do not want its wings to fall off.  It will have enough trouble guarding my rock.  Later.

I find a ring and leave it beside the wasp.  The wasp’s eyes are like holograms, huge and orange in the sun.  I find other things.  A twisted ringpull.  A quarter nut.  I curse my lack of botanical/zoological knowledge.  I find a starfish, white, with an arm missing.  I watch a type of bird, a type of seabird, a gull, but not the scavenging kind variety that exists from St Georges Terrace to Fremantle.  I call it a sundipper.  I suspect it is relatively new to the area.  It hangs on the air, on the wind, above the reef, and plummets, suddenly.  There is a small fish in its beak, but only for a microsecond.

The scavenge variety I call white angels.  I watch them chase the sundipper.  Later, walking home along the coast, I notice the two species in conference.  Far out toward Rottnest two angels are dancing amid the fading azure.

24 12 94      Rabbits exist in the bush near Victoria Street Station, near the reef.  In the sky two hawks, one almost white, are minding their own hanging on the air business.

 Here and there one finds faded cans in the sand.  I think of logo design.  A blowfish is wallowing at the reef’s shoreline, ignored by the gulls.  It died unknowingly in the pursuit of fish stock survival.

The wonder and variety of seashells in this area!  The sundipper’s seem to like 4.00 pm.  There are surfers on the edge of the reef.  A common critisium of this behaviour is that it represents a suburban phenomenon.

I mistake a shag for a serpent.  I swim with it for a while.

 I find urchins both on the shoreline and by treading carefully about the weed in the water.  There are probably many varieties; notable are crimson, maroon and grey.  They keep the wasp company.

Someone has defecated on a rock.  I ignore the butts and beer cans, later putting them in the bin.  I find a soiled towel.  I take it home and wash it.  I will leave it at this place for a few days, and then claim it as mine.

A piece of plastic has BARBARELLAS stickied to one side.  I leave it at the rock, but it disappears two days later.  The towel does not disappear.

The Cyclops has studded the reef with an Iron bar.  I do not look at it.  Someone has twisted twine about a bramble.  Straw stars flutter up the beach, dislodged from the vegetation.

Also, feathers.  Up in the sky an almost military performance.  Planes, biplanes, bombers, helicopters, jets.  The shipping is more interesting, though I don’t find like finding foreign food wrappings and drums.  I buy diet colas from the shops nearby.

30 12 94       Equilibrium.

The Lockness Monster was a cormorant.

I begin to notice seaweed.

I see a beige stingray off a sandbank formed to the South of the reef.  It seems angry.  I warn the surfers, who laugh at me.  They’re funeral.

03 01 95     An English tourist stops and enquires about the urchins.  I give her these with some of the more interesting shells, but not my skipping rock (smooth as glass0 or the wasp.  The wasp has nearly had it.  I put it in a box and take it home.

I am still smarting from the stingray I saw.   I told the surfers to hop it, but they thought me a madman.  Cliff Street Publishing sent me a crazy seaside painting.

There are stonefish in these parts.  An artificial reef would be lovely, south of Wedge Island.  A fisherwoman points out a spiny urchin, it’s the size of a dinosaur egg and makes my feet shiver.

I think of stars.  I have relatives in these parts.

The sundippers disappear from their usual 4.00 pm performance.  Diving, I can just make out the blue-green fish they eat.

04  01 12     I take a friend with me to the beach and point out the little ‘squirrels’ (slaters) that exist on seaweed holdfasts.  I find baby crustaceans (about one millimetre long and dark grey and translucent) in weed both floating in the water and on the weed crest by the shoreline.  There are easily fifty different varieties of weed.  Red, green, white, pink, brown, fawn.  All are amazing.  Some is pink and looks like cactus.  Some resemble houseplants.

Sunsets seem distributed by the tankers on the horizon.  Fluffy pink clouds.  Flies, I’ve noticed, are quite rare, but do bight.  Ants seem interested in the growing weed collection.

I find an old brown feather in the sand.

06 01 95     Coral.  Three varieties, all white.  I am stunned.  An uneasiness nags me all the way home.

07 01 95     There is a bag of kelp abandoned near the lookout.  I avoid it.  I am no David to face the frigging Cyclops.

08 01 95     The weed continues to impress.  Also seasquirts, and condom fish.  A girl informs me she has, at home, the amazing sponge brain.

24 02 95    I find a sponge with red eyes.  I find a weed with concentric circles defining its ‘arms’.  Some seaweeds resemble plastic.  Yellow, but goes brown in the sun.  On some of the weed strands up to four different species cling on.  These strands turn from yellow to pink in the sun and make good decoration for my rock.  Some weed resembles coral when dried.

I spy a mullet, swim in a pool of blue-green fish.  The sundippers have returned.  I wonder if the Deparment For Community Development or the Montessouri School or The University of W. A. is looking interested in my finds.  I leave more and more of it at the rock.  The Cyclops has stabbed a lizard, which I pinch from the ants and use to replace my wasp.  It is gone a week later, but the spider’s web was not disturbed.

28 02 95     I find a stone with a needle hole.  The sundippers have become friendly and squawk for me as I swim.  There is a weed that grows on furry strands that looks like hemp leaf.
It occurs to me that the Cyclops has a profound home, here in this “power spot’.  I begin to wonder how long a seagull might live.  They have a terrible time with wires, and some have damaged legs.  I find a clamshell, its surface is rough but the inner face is opaled.  Tankers are lined up on the horizon.  Cyclone Bobby has delayed road trains from the East.  I build a wind indicator out of a strip of disguarded towel and find surfing debris, children’s caps and a piece of snorkel in the water.

People walk their dogs.  The gulls seem adverse to one in particular.  Believe it or not, perhaps it was a lack of action.

Angels dive for fish only rarely.  I believe their eyesight is inferior to the sundippers, who are doing amazing things at low tide.

I find a pebble that has an inscription.  It is from Atlantis, though it may be a Cyclops throwaway.

A fly with yellow-dotted wings lands on my shoulder.  I am still for as long as is required.  I have never seen such a beautiful fly.

A skywriter puts glasses and exclamation marks in the sky.

At the AVRO Clinic in Subiaco seahorses are on display.  I am asked where gulls sleep.  They sleep standing, or sitting, on the, with a system of alarm.

I decorate the rock with tubey things.  I find a surfer’s lump of wax, and an empty water bottle.  I find pieces of Ripcurl labels floating in the water.  My God, does anything not happen in this place!?

Baby shells originate at seaweed holdfasts.  The word the sky was looking for was pearly inlay’.  The sky is full of voices that bake me to bodysurf the reef.  It seems, no-one else is brave enough to do this, but it might be a weight problem.  It is fun to negotiate the channels.

I walk to The Writer’s Festival.  On the way back a pigeon stops the traffic by stubbornly refusing to get off the road.

06 03 95      An English wasp, lost and suffering, falls, writhing, at my feet.  I crush its head but it won’t die and continues to writhe.  I consider it as a new guard, but decide the Cyclops will only come and eat it.  I put it in a box and take it home.

07 03 95     I find a crusader beetle, watch it scurry across the sand.  More planes.  I wonder what they scrape off their windshields.  I find a crab’s claw that will guard the rock.  I am using a white gull’s feather as a bookmark.  South of this spot are doves, and more coral.

10 03 95     I find a pink tissue that isn’t litter, and a leaf floating in the water, perfect for blowing my nose.  An ant gets caught in the zinc (you should have seen the abdomen!) and I hope it isn’t a handicap for him.  I feed him a little piece of bread, which attracts the gulls, who devour the rest of it.  In a groove in the sand there is a tiny fly, next to a seaweed bauble.

It is hot, though the Weather Bureau said otherwise.  Sun up.  Nose down.  I find a vertebra.  And a fishhead.  The ants claim the former, the fishhead disappears that night, the last resort of hungry gulls.  No-one, it seems, wants to eat the blue worm, which appeared on my rock from I do not know where.  I think of vials of white West Australian sand for tourists, and employ several ‘floating’ plastic bags to this end.  I accidentally squash an ant and have to apologise to The Buddah.  The Buddah says I have suffered sea urchins long enough, and now may refer to them as apples.

11 03 95    

A seal. 

I run to it, but, wordless, it disappears.

From the Mermaid and The Cyclops, a true tale.  The prettiest shell I offer to my girlfriend.  The Cyclops has removed his stakes.  He tells me he feels sorry for the weed, which must do so much in a hurry, as it bears the continuous possibilities of storms and being covered by the sand.

It is a sad, fragile place the reef.

And that, alas, is my story.  Far out at sea two swallows dance around each other, like lovers, whilst I, baking in the sun, wait patiently as grasshoppers and striped lizards wish me well.

Robert Ellery Phillips
12 03 95

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