A beach is not a beach, 4 Nov

Each day I am being overwhelmed by what I photograph, by what I want to write about, and what I want to investigate.

I have numerous projects in various states of progression, the most recent ‘A Radiation Suite’, is a daily commonplace book account of cancer treatment. Today is a rest day from radiation The forecast of heavy rain failed, we woke to sunshine, took advantage and went down to the beach before breakfast.

Yesterday, on the way in to the Cancer Institute, I listened to the podcast of an early morning for Ian Sansom near Belfast:

‘. . . past the crazy golf place to the closest beach to where we live. The beach by the old bandstand. The reason why we came here. The sea, the beach. I say beach, I mean a five foot spit of sand, but sand is sand and a beach is a beach is a beach. So down the stone steps and across the grey shingle and finally breathe.’[i]

First view of the sea
Women’s Beach with Pandanus, looking north

A beach is not a beach, a beach is a rich ecological environment and not usually thought of as a place, a site with a history and cultural / social environment that people belong to. This beach is in Gumbaynggirr Country.

The beauty of beaches lures us into a false sense that everything is fine. The world’s beaches are shrinking dramatically. Half of all sandy beaches will have vanished by the end of this century from global warming and rising sea levels. And by now, we should all be aware of ocean warming, acidification, plastic pollution, overfishing, chemical run off and more.

First time I have seen an octopus washed up on this coastline

The Mulberry Whelk, Morula marginalba, uses a radula (rasping tongue) and sulphuric acid to bore a hole in the shell of prey. It can take days.
Mulberry Whelks on this beach. 14 Sept, 2023

This beach is a favourite with always so much to experience. Every day offers surprises here.

The simplicity of a dead leaf’s radiance
Pair of scooting of Red-capped Plovers
Unknown cavities

Disappointed not to see any Sooty Oystercatchers then as we were leaving, we hear a piping and one flies in.

I show two young women visiting from Sydney, the dead octopus. I explain that the cave they noticed is a Women’s cave, which I cannot enter. I tell them about today’s ‘Festival for Forests, Maagunda Muruygu’, with Bob Brown and Uncle Micklo in Nambucca. And I want to tell them so much more – share so much more.

The view north

How can I complete anything when each day is chockful of wonders. Kind Parrots are whistling in the garden, and I discover a masked band from Melbourne, ‘Glass Beams’, and it’s not yet 8:30am.


[i] Ian Sansom, The Essay, Dawn walks BBC 3, 19 Aug 2021. ‘Daybreak… and five writers set off on foot – and report back: This time, the novelist Ian Sansom starts out, using as inspiration ideas of Benjamin Franklin and his faith in ‘powerful goodness’. Powerful goodness will power him along, towards the sea at the edge of his town.’


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