Winter Ambience

Keppel Sands beach, winter 2019

This is the view I get typically in the winter months looking east from my front verandah. The tide is out. The sky is clear. The sun is setting. The pastel swathes of iridescent sea in shades of blue and pink is a sight to take the breath away. These are winter colours.

The islands, of which eighteen or nineteen can be seen if you choose the right vantage point, are like candles, first lit up, and then snuffed out, as the sun sinks in the western sky. Under certain conditions, some of the islands can appear to float above the horizon, an effect caused by refraction of light through atmospheric layers of differing density. It is magical to see.

Sometimes, I spot a group of pelicans cavorting on the shoreline, or an elegant long-necked white bird – an egret I think – stalking its prey in the sand there. More often than not, there will be a family of shy oystercatchers, black with bright red bills, doing likewise. Sea eagles soar overhead, the adults teaching their young how to fly, and how to plunge to sea level when a meal is in the offing. The wonderful birds here know me. They have seen me before as I have seen them.

Walking or gentle jogging on the soft sand is something I try to do every day. At a certain point, I sit down on an obliging rock and engage my senses. I identify the four buoys that guide tinnies through the safe channel between sandbars. Sometimes, I watch as one such tinny, just a white dot at first, comes over the horizon, taking the path suggested by these buoys until, adjacent to me, its occupant cuts the motor and throws a line over the side.

I haven’t the patience to be a fisher. But, on one occasion, my partner, Janet, waded into the sea toting nothing more than a hand-line with some prawns for bait, and came out within thirty minutes holding up three winter whiting. Delicious for breakfast.

Sitting on my verandah, or on my obliging rock, I strain my ears. Sometimes, I hear human voices from a prodigious distance away. It is like being in one of those ancient Greek amphitheatres where you can whisper and yet be heard over the other side of the enclosure. Privacy can be impossible on the beach here on a clear still winter’s day.

When there are no people or tinnies about, I hear something folk in cities never get to hear. Silence. It is a rare and special music conducive to a miraculous calm and to a life-affirming peace. If there is a breeze, I may get to hear the rustle of broad flat leaves or, best of all, the mysterious murmuring that happens when wind passes through the fine tendrils of a casuarina tree. There are plenty of casuarinas along the beach. The photo above has some good specimens in its foreground.

The temperature was 5 C at 6 a.m. this morning. It can be difficult sometimes rousing oneself from a warm and cozy bed at this time of year. But the temperature rose to 22 C by 2 p.m. and now, at 3 p.m., it is a fine sunny day. When it gets to 4 p.m. or soon after, the view from my verandah will start, should nature oblige, to look something like the photo above.

But it’s time now for me to get on with my gentle jog.