Lockdown walk No 19. A bird pilgrimage by Colleen Keating

Bird pilgrimage

they walk the lake fringe
amidst its shore’s rehabitation

the susurrus of the lapping tide
a gentle background rhythm

to the chatter of a willy–wag tail
and magpie warble

they listen
after the whoo-crack of the whip bird

laugh together
when the female doesn’t answers her cheepcheep

they take a less worn track
through a forest of swamp oaks

come upon a landcare effort
at planting a stand of banksia
now wild with flickers of candle-fire

he was the first to spot
the honeyeater curled on a candle cone

she was the first to hear fairy wrens
chirping in the bristly heath

he spots the first one dart
low across dun grasses
so quick only visible swaying
is her first view and then she sees them

she says they are a burst of cobalt sky
he says blue shot in a shiny black cloak

and admires the aegis for the harem of
smaller brown females

 

they find an open grassy spot
warm curved encounter with
trunks of swamp oaks
upon which to lean their backs

little did they know
they had chosen the home

of a butcher bird family
who flew down to join their picnic

she listens to their song
he observes variance of colour

males, females, juveniles
and their glossy beaks

when they both struggle up to walk back
their attention returns to the lake

she admires the elegance of the black swans
he notices how the pelican looks so stately

she points out the swans’ flounce
as they bottom-up to feed
in the sea grasses
he admires the spoonbills way of grazing

 

seeing a large darter
with black wings hanging out
he calls it Dracula of the lake

she calls him a shag on the rock
and they both laugh

 

when cormorants dive
it becomes fun to guess
their resurface spots

they both sign with delight
at the family of ducklings passing
chaperoned so closely by mum and dad duck
he quotes Wordsworh’s ninth sonnet
“who put budding courage to the test”
i just stand in wonder

he points out a white–faced heron
she notices a few more
and a white egret

together they admire the elegance
of the herons stalking in the sea grasses
mindfully step by step

reminded of conscious walking
heads high
backs straight
they walk slowly home
hand in hand
to the willy–wag tail chitter

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Lockdown walk No 18: Rock-hopping and tide-pooling by Colleen Keating

Rock-hopping
can be done  through creeks and  brooks, in shallow rivers, and as with  my story today along rock platforms. It is not just stepping and hopping and jumping from rock to rock.
It is about finding your way, choosing rocks to step to, checking if each rock is stable enough for your weight, secure footing and finding balance. It means not overstepping but rather  like the heron checking the ground is secure before taking the next step, making your way through gaps, clambering up and down by choosing stair like features.
It is about reading the way, watching the tide ( easier at low tide as you have more selection of ways to travel,)  taking your time finding a rock to stand securly on  and gaze about,and  for mefinding  a flat rock to sit on with a  curly rock that fits my back. I always watch for and remember those places for  as a poets rocks are for sitting on with notepad and pen and if you have some water and fruit one can sit for hours well depending on the tide for the  ocean gives you time but returns to claim its own.

It includes feeling the texture of rocks that you use to hoist, heave and  hold,  along the way, to stop and wonder at the patterns and geological story that turns like a history book page by page.

 

Tide pooling

is about exploring tidal pools. A marine habitat for marine life providing a home for many hardy organisms such as starfish, crabs and anemone. with shells and rocks glistering with the action of water and sunlight.

Tide Pool Tips
1. The best time to visit tide pools is at low tide.
2. Bring a bag with you to pick up any plastic, paper, glass, or metal trash on the beach.
3. Find footholds on bare rocks, which are less slippery than those colonized with algae and other sensitive sea life.
4. If you peek under a rock, put it back where and as you found it. Leave the animals and plants alone.
5. Do not collect intertidal species. It is illegal to do so in many areas.

Safety Tips

Respect Marine life and be careful not to touch sea urchins,
blue bottles, octopus or any other creature you are unsure of.
Research the tides for the day don’t get caught out on the incoming swell
Rock pools are slippery be careful
Wear protective water booties
Stay far from the rockpool edge where waves can unexpectedly lap

 

Watch for the clouds and your reflectionin the mirored pools and sometimes the moon

and be prepared to meet herons,  cormorants, pelicans gulls  and rock fishermen along the way.

Rock Pools note

Formed in depressions along the shoreline of rocky coasts, tide pools are filled with seawater that gets trapped as the tide recedes. While these small basins at the ocean’s edge typically range from mere inches to a few feet deep and a few feet across, they are packed with sturdy sea life such as snails, barnacles, mussels, anemones, urchins, sea stars, crustaceans, seaweed, and small fish.
As ocean water retreats outside the tide pool during low tide, the resident marine life must endure hours exposed to the sun, low oxygen, increasing water temperature, and predators such as wading birds that specialize in dining in these shallow pools. At high tide, the pool’s plants and animals are bathed in fresh seawater, but must endure the pounding of crashing waves and foraging fish with temporary access to the shoreline.
To survive in this rugged environment, tide pool inhabitants often cling very tightly to any rock to which they can adhere. Barnacles, for example, produce a fast-curing cement that lets them stay put. This natural substance is among the most powerful glues known to exist. In fact, researchers are trying to figure out if and how it can be harvested or reproduced for commercial use.
The space in a tide pool may be limited, but the food there is plentiful. Every wave at every high tide delivers fresh nutrients and microscopic organisms, such as plankton, to support and replenish the pool’s intricate food chain. Washed in by the waves, these organisms nourish the smallest animals, which, in turn, sustain the larger ones.

 

lesson learnt

first rule when questing for the poetic
on a tidal line of an ocean rock ledge
watch for the rogue wave

it is not recommended to lie on the barnacled edge
of a scalloped moon-shaped rock pool
as you wait on its mystery and watch
your reflection in azure sky
with clustered clouds
like empty thought bubbles
around you fill with deep secrets

the second rule is to keep your wits
do not get lost in an inner realm
as you can in a Beethoven symphony

it is not recommended to become immersed
in tapestry of colours shimmered by the sea

in the light among the stones
drum-shaped chitons
clustered iridescent stars and speckled shells
a venetian-red anemone flirting
like a solitary flute
black spiky urchins and the wait for the shy crab
to scuttle out from the king neptune necklace

it is all too hypnotic

the lesson learnt –
expect the unexpected

From Fire on Water by Colleen Keating  2016

 

 

Lockdown walk No. 17, Loosing our Marbles by Colleen Keating

Photo: from our calendar  The night We Lost Our Marbles by  Michael Leunig, a modern day prophet, where I understand ‘prophet’ to be one who challenges us to remember our core values.

Loosing our marbles

“We not only listen to the birds but find ourselves talking  to them.”

Turning the calendar has its own monthly ritual.
Our Leunig calendar always gives us a surprise
often prophetic for our time.
Turning to October was no exception.
It gave us a laugh.

We resonated. It looked how we felt
on our walks in lockdown
birds, fish, flowers moon our companions.

It was while sitting against
the trunk of a swamp oak
on a lockdown walk
we found ourselves both talking aloud
to the Pied Butcher Birds
that had flown down to join us.

A family of seven
some with the distinctive black bib
some more tawny and freckkly
which according to Morcombo –
our Bird Bible –
is the juvenile and poetically
pale rufous-buff.

They hopped around
inquisitive about us relaxing
in their territory.

Besides watching them
dart for insects on the open grass
we enjoyed a choir on a branch above
its musical four-note sequence
lilting flute-like deep and mellow.

The laugh was on us.
listening to the birds
believing they were communicating with us
thinking we were understanding
and talking back to them

Are we happily loosing our marbles?

Now we talk to every bird that comes to meet us –
the willy wag tails  our companions on the way
the tiny wrens we chirping
and sometimes catch their splash of blue
the magpies that warble along our track
their carolling a rings from high
to low, deep and  always  tidings of joy.

We love the lake birds
find the  haunts of the white-faced herons
watch their monk like shoulders
ponder quietly as if pretending to pray
but actually with the great white egret
stalking to prey.
If our spoonbills call in
with their bevy of ducks
we become very effusive


and enjoy the plovers
telling us to be aware of their eggs
and their young.
We wait for the whip birds to sing
listen and laugh with its song of reply.

Loosing our marbles figuratively
gives us permission
to be immersed in their world
like the cartoon of the two
smiling contentedly
surrounded by nature.

Humbly we know we are a very small
and incidental part of their world
yet secretivly a little part
likes to think they are communication with us.
and loosing our marbles stays figurative.

 

 

Life isn’t measured 

by the number of breaths we take 

but by the moments 

that take our breath away

Treasure every day

 

 

Lockdown walk No. 16: Finding inner solitude in days of uncertainity

 

dappled light
filters through swamp oaks ~
a cathedral  moment
as a tiding of magpies  
fills it with song

 

 

 

Finding inner solitude today in these final days of lockdown after 112 days of retreat from the world.

June 23rd we knew Lockdown was in inevitable and so we stopped at our small apartment in the coastal town The Entrance, which gave us the feeling of being on a retreat rather than being at home, rather than a holiday, because we could not travel further than 5km. Now it has been 16 weeks of  searching for inner solitude. My tanka above was not  the one chosen for the Eucalypt 31 but it speaks of our days here.It sums up the days of walks  the birds our only companions and the ‘being’  rather then the ‘doing’as the frameworks of meeting with family, friends, writing groups, art gallery, concerts, gatherings for launches and celebrations even funerals, fell away.

What are we left with we older ones who are not homeschooling. holding down  jobs, working from home and keeping spirits of children high.? 

Then I found the perfection of the sonnet by Longfellow speaks brilliantly of my sentiment. 
Emily Dickinson grapples with the same in her brilliant way.

Like Dickinson, Longfellow finds that the one-to-one confrontation occurs best in nature:

And now for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My Cathedral

Like two cathedral towers these stately pines
Uplift their fretted summits tipped with cones;
The arch beneath them is not built with stones,
Not Art but Nature traced these lovely lines,
And carved this graceful arabesque of vines;
No organ but the wind here sighs and moans,
No sepulchre conceals a martyr’s bones.
No marble bishop on his tomb reclines.
Enter! the pavement, carpeted with leaves,
Gives back a softened echo to thy tread!
Listen! the choir is singing; all the birds,
In leafy galleries beneath the eaves,
Are singing! listen, ere the sound be fled,
And learn there may be worship without words.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, (1807–82), American poet
– is known for ‘The Wreck of the Hesperus’ and ‘The Village Blacksmith’ (both 1841) and The Song of Hiawatha (1855).

And now my  brilliant  friend  Emily Dickinson

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church —  324 or 326

by Emily Dickinson

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church —

I keep it, staying at Home —
With a Bobolink for a Chorister —
And an Orchard, for a Dome —
Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice —
I just wear my Wings —
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton — sings.
God preaches, a noted Clergyman —
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last —
I’m going, all along.

 

In the above photo
my cathedral is not of stately pines
but of vibrant grass trees and banksia
old river gums, iron barks and acacias
ancients rocks carved from wind and sea
and whispers of spirit under every footprint I take
and when I listen the choir in my cathedral
is full of the healing and comforting sounds of home

Colleen Keating

 

 

 

Lockdown walk No. 10, Under-cliff rock platform by Colleen Keating

 

Under-cliff Rock Platform 

A low tide walk
to explore the rock platform
snugly hidden
under the grassy cliffs
of Crackneck Lookout.

On the steep walk down
a whip bird song accompanied us
darting in and out of the foliage
with a clear sharp whip
content with an instant cheep-cheep reply

down on the beach
under the undercut of the cliff
through sand and rock and bush
scrub and mangroves

there was a salty feel to the day
out on the rock platform
we found a viewing spot
behind us the high projecting
grassy headlands
before us waves rolled in
dashing with jubilant spray
against the rocks

suddenly we were
the only two people in all the world<
the wide vista of horizon
like long arms curled around us
we relaxed into our oneness
into a cone of happiness
with permeable membrane
that allowed the real world to lean in
crashing of waves, rolling ofocean

then from out of a rock pool
a white-faced grey heron
like a mystic appeared

we accepted it as gift

namasté

our hearts as light as
lifting grey wings

At home I pondered once again the quote that has been tacked to my office wall for years

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.  Marianne Williamson 

Lockdown walk No. 6: Colours of early spring by Colleen Keating

 

Lockdown walk No. 6 Colours of early Spring

a wattle way
harbinger of spring

we take the track
to a chatter of lorikeets

they dangle like monkeys
from golden banksia

spring is coming
steeling through the twigs

silently seeping
through the sap

budding vernal green
once seen it is everywhere

 

lilac waraburra is showy
it vines over the scrub

purple trails up the trees
no wonder it is often called
happy wanderer

white star flowers sometimes
called ‘tread-softly maybe because
of its spiky leaves

and the pink wax flower
just budding open
sprinkled through the bush
fuchsias delicate little trumpets
stand out

bright red comes
with the dusky coral pea
hard to see at first
and then it turned up hiding quietly
in the brambles in the scrub

maybe wild jasmine
and wonga wonga the native climber
gives us our touch of purple in its delicte white trumpets

And the wattles three we found today

Galahs were busy too
one on a branch as decoy
and this gorgeous one
in a hollow of the old  tree

Finally at the lookout Crackneck
we watched an eagle play


on the air currents
and then down the less worn track
back to the car

Lockdown Walk No 4 – A track less worn by Colleen Keating

 

A track less worn

in  Wyrrabalong country
where the forest meets the sea
the hidden way winds along the headland
its overgrown track thick with the banksia‘s
and gums a May Gibbs world
of scrawly characters
as old man banksia stares down
to terrify snugglepot and cuddlepie

in this xerlerphyll remnant of forest
grass trees with their thick
green grug-like head of hair
act guard of honour
sway around us as we file
singularly through this other worldly place.

wattles and a few winter wildflowers
catch our attention
eucalypts  spotted gums  scribbles
river red gums and underfoot
leaf litter absorbs our steps
as if we are not there

and the ocean
with its shots of blue
like projected slides
each a new view through the trees
calls – breathe me  . . .my healing air is yours

its glide  roll  crash then gentle lap
a breathed rhythm of in and out
the space between
a silent tension between life and death

and twice we clamber out
to a headland lookout
and watch the waves perform

the only other sound
wrens butcher birds
distant magpies and
the erratic scratch
of brush turkeys

I felt a lightness of being
walking this quiet way
the air fresh
aromas of salty sea, eucalypt
acacia and a woody balm

They say to argue on the side
of happiness
and even though back in reality the news
is full of fragmentation and distress
here for this time is beauty
to feed the soul
and I eat and drink every piece of nature
on the menu.

Lockdown Walk No. 2 – North Beach/Lake walk by Colleen Keating

 

   

North Beach/ Lake Walk

A new lockdown walk.  We are calling it the North Beach/Lake walk. Today we set out across The Entrance Bridge,a thing I don’t normally like to do but there were very few cars today. We turned right and headed  up onto the ridge overlooking this all encompassing ocean.  Breathtaking.  It was a stunning winter day. The ocean wide and deep blue, lay out like a silken sheet loosely ruffled. Large rolling beachcombers (waves) continuously smooth and regular came in. Spindrift sprayed lightly. A few board riders demonstrated the perfect style of the waves.
Besides the photographic views to our right as we walked through the re-stabilised dunes, we enjoyed the work that the Bush Care groups have done over the years with the vegetation and bird life. 

The track, very smooth. solid, easy for Michael to walk, and the ground cover of cerise pig face,  yellow and orange gazania, pink bindweed and ground covers of daises.  it was like a rainbow carpet spreading out over the hills and down to the beach edge.

       

Growing up stands of golden banksia  with lorikeets dangling gleefully chirping, Bottle brushes, and the mallees mainly burgeoning wattle . Seagulls, magpies and in the undergrowth lots of fairy wrens . swinging on the native grasses flipping into the shrubs . We walked quietly – the sandy path absorbed the sound of our footstep.Towards the end we came across one of the volunteer workers and chatted briefly.

 

We came out and crossed the road to the lake side .  We walked along Tuggerah Lake to the Sensory Gardens  where we sat and had our picnic. 

We had come to rest and the lake slept without hardly a ripple.  A winter  afternoon sun

     

 

A blue haze enfolded everything . Reaching far into the distance the hills, the Watagans were suffused in a majestic blue to navy light. The hills looked like pile upon pile of tones of blue.  I felt I could reach out and and pull them to me.  Trees, bullrushes, small bamboos, reeds and the grasses had forgotten themselves in the daze blue. 

 

Just beyond two vegetated islands sat. On the furthest away a platoon of pelicans clustered close  . . one flew in and joined the group, cormorants diving and resurfacing, two ducks glided and then a canoeist glided past  leaving their wakes to whistle the water surface. 

Further out there was a flock of birds on the edge of a sand bank wading . We could not recognise them but had a sense it might have been the family of spoonbills we had caught in the muddy creek running into the lake over the south side. But couldn’t be sure. We were more sure of the chirping in the bamboo along the way and stood and watched the family of wrens . . .the blue fairy wrens and the flitting little brown wrens all busy about their chatter and just being.

(Interestingly earlier we saw a fairy blue wren feeding on  the nectar of a golden Banksia.  it flitted in and flitted away. For the last 100 metres we were joined by two willy wag tails chattering around our feet for awhile. They had a lot to say.  It felt they had been with us the whole way and came at the end to remind they have been watching our journey.

And we came along the lake back to the bridge to cross and our NorthBeach/Lake walk came to an end. How blessed we  are we that we can walk from home along the beach and along the lake all in 12.000  steps.