Walking in nature

I’ve spent the last five weeks or so travelling, in England and Scotland mainly, doing lots of walking, thinking and some writing. The walking has helped a lot, even though I’ve come back with a sore knee which I think was due to all the steps on Arhur’s Seat.

I’ll post some more about this later, but the two most memorable places for me were the Lake District, with its wonderful walking and Wordsworth connections and Skye (see below) for the sheer beauty of the landscape.

Walking in nature is refreshing, reviving, consoling and inspiring. And, even if it makes your legs sore, or because it does, so so important.

Skye, Scotland

The solace of wild places

After the tragic and inexplicable loss of two of our best friends I’ve been finding some solace in seeking out the natural and the wild places. Not truly wild perhaps, and very much on the edges of the city and suburbs, but mostly untouched, and uncrowded. I’ve been lucky enough to be on leave from work so have had some time to walk and think. There’s something about the nature of walking that is both meditative and therapeutic, especially walking in nature. I’ve written about that before as have many others. I also enjoy cycling, for the harder physical exercise and the social side, but when you’re riding a bike you have to concentrate on that. Walking is different.

So, I’ve been walking some of my old favourite walks on the Mornington Peninsula, mostly by myself, but sometimes with friends. And it’s helped a lot. I usually take my camera, so here are some of the images from the last couple of weeks. Poems are coming, particularly one I’m working on about entering the Estuary at Mt Martha and coming into that world out of the shoreline.

 

Merricks to Red Hill walk
Pines. Merricks to Red Hill trail

Milky
Milky waves. Shoreham Beach.

Crunchie Point
Crunchie Point, Point Leo

Point Nepean
Storm coming, Point Nepean.

Point Nepean
Walking among Moonah Trees, Point Nepean

The Southern Ocean
The edge of the Southern Ocean

Point Nepean
Fortifications, Point Nepean

Bird Rock to Fossil Beach
Near Fossil Beach

 

The Eye

I’m sure this will be a poem sometime: sitting in the bird hide in the Briars late yesterday afternoon, after a walk in the cold and wind, just enjoying being inside and watching some cormorant drying their black wings, suddenly a white egret flying in and sitting inches away, feathers rustling, holding itself close against the wind and the cold, it’s bright, unblinking eye.

Egret in the Briars
Egret in the Briars

Walking by the bay

Refreshing the spirit

First day of the mid-year holidays after a busy term’s teaching, finishing up with lots of report writing and deadlines.

So, nice on a cold Saturday morning next day to walk along the edge of the bay from Mt Martha to Mornington and enjoy the wind and the bay in my head.
Too windy to ride I decided and, while I like getting out on the bike, there’s something more contemplative possible when you’re seeing the landscape at walking pace. I took some photos along the way and blended them into this short movie to start the holidays.

The end of place

Any long-time half-listening reader of this blog would know I’m fascinated by place. The placeless of the place. Where things were. What happened here. Maps. The uniqueness of these coordinates: where the battle was fought, where the rivers converge, where the babies came home.

I write often about specific places, landscape poetry sometimes, landscape-memoir my daughter calls it. I try to capture some of these in my poems, or photos. A kind of preserving.

So, I was a little sad on a long holiday walk last week to find our old house, our first house, falling into disrepair. It’s in roughly the same area we live now, only a few kilometres away but I don’t go up that way often. So, I was saddened to see what had become of it.

We weren’t there very long; less than five years, but it’s where we started as a real family. We bought the kids here when they were born, thirty years ago now. My grandfather and my father helped me build bookshelves and extend the verandah. We planted trees, I was proud of a native frangipani that somehow thrived in the sandy soil. We built a sand-pit, a barbecue and put up a tin shed. My daughters hid letters and drawings in the structure of new cupboards and bookcases for the future. Which is here now it seems.

It looks like the place is being pulled down. The fences are gone and it looks like it’s being dismantled bit by bit, the materials being stacked up to be sold. Maybe a block of flats next? To paraphrase Dylan Thomas: Place passes. Have a look. Place passes.

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Below: a long time ago, when the house was new.

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Re-connecting: Walking in the Briars

Most of the year for me is spent split between working in Melbourne and getting down to the Mornington Peninsula on weekends.

So, one of the things I like most about the holidays is the chance to be in one place for a while, and re-connect with some of my favourite places like the Briars.

I’ve blogged about the Briars before (do a search if you like) but I never get sick of the place, and the way the creek defines it as well as its sense of history.

Today I did the longer 4k loop and also walked out via the new Harrap Creek track for the first time. I’ve captured some of the moments below, but one moment I didn’t capture was seeing a big red-bellied black snake asleep by the side of the track. The trouble is, once you’ve seen a snake on a walk, you see them everywhere, in every shadow, root, branch or piece of broken bark on the track or just off it. It tends to take the meditating mind off the poetry a bit. Though, it did make me think, ‘have I ever written a poem about a snake?’, like D.H. Lawrence did? Looking back, it seems I have only had one go at it, this poem that was published in *Eureka Street* in 2011. Maybe it’s time for another go?

Late Walk Along Jerusalem Inlet

Rows of trees knee-deep in bracken
trunks green with soft moss
all dead or dying
a shovel shaped pit
the sound of water
some Mirkwood path
to a wide green place
where a house was
all ruined
broken rocks and bricks,
beside the broken oak tree,
a non-allegorical snake.

Below: The view from the bird hide

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The prophetic sign: this was exactly the snake I saw half an hour after reading this sign.

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Signs of former use; old fence posts from when this was farmland.

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Common farmland birds poster in the bird hide

 

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The boardwalk

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Spring Paddock Dam

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Balcombe Creek

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Below: Balcombe Creek
Nice to see it flowing after a bit of rain this week.

Below: Spring Paddock Dam
Listen carefully for the frogs.

A Place in the Country

sebald-place-in-the-country-walser-color-spread

So, it was back to WG Sebald this week and another book, A Place in the Country. You don’t have to have read this blog the very long to know that I’m a big fan of Sebald, so anything new, after his tragic early demise, is a bonus.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a new novel, the but does Sebald even write novels anyway? They describe this book as ‘fusing biography essay, and finding, as ever, inspiration in place.’ In this text Seebaldt reflects on six of the figures who shaped him as a person and as a writer, including Rousseau, Robert Walser and Jan Peter Tripp

Like all good books, this one had me scurrying to the internet to find more about the people I was reading about, and sent me to some bookstores to order more books. I known about Rosseau and his terrible exible, but much of this text especially around Keller and Robert Walser was new to me.

But just as important for me was the way this text opened up new windows and new insight into Sebald’s own work. When talking about Robert Walsler Sebald writes: ‘I slowly learned to grasp how everything is connected across space and time … Walsler’s long walks with my own travels, dates of birth with dates of death, happiness with misfortune, natural history and history about industries…’ Sebald depicts artists, like himself, who have an interest in locality and exile. Sebald is fascinated by those who, like himself, devote their lives to literature, ‘the hapless writers trapped in a web of words’ who, in spite of everything, nevertheless ‘sometime succeed an opening up vistas of such beauty and intensity a life itself is scarcely able to provide’.

Place matters intensely for me too, but also very the ordinary detail of life that appeals to Sebald: the mundane, minute details of beauty and sadness are also here.