Politics, nature and jazz, 20 March

Assorted currents trample the membrane,
colours bending in and out of shape
into some green psychedelia projected
on a backdrop behind ‘the Pink Floyd’.

The river feeds an alternative civilisation,
with reflective, pinpoint eyes. Slivers hex
the commotion, waterproof and continuous,
limiting the sky, or do I really think unlimited?

Life is leaking from this planet, a steady drip
of habitat and species lots and abundance
is scarce, sometimes it’s just hard to see,
you need patience and luck.

Ducking out from the meeting at the café (before the meeting) to look for the family of Sooty Oystercatchers, again I can’t see the youngster on the sand island.First sunny day for so long, the river’s complexion has cleared.
The women’s sacred mountain watches me from across the two arms of the river, a shiny black figure surfaces, snorkel attached.

A stream of cars crosses bridge to the island and the golf club, where Caz Hesie (Caz4Cowper)
is holding a meeting to generate grass roots support for an independent candidate. Our federal politicians have nearly all been anti our living world. Free Pizza, plenty and more coming is the call.

Uncle Micklo gives welcome to country, always a delight, with language and a song and tailored to the place. This island was an Aboriginal Reserve. His grandfather was born just across the river. A local doctor is MC and starts off worried about climate change specifically for our health. It’s being filmed for the ABC, Caz is standing to the side watching and smiling and nodding. After a while, the director whispers to a runner who whispers to Caz who casually shuffles to her right, away from the sign to the toilets.

She is a nurse turned stand-up. The mother of two gives a polished energetic performance with all the usual rhetorical flourishes. I admire her energy and courage, she stresses trust and a voice for us – not a party. I usually vote Greens, but how to change things? The first MP in this electorate back in 1901 was from the Protectionist Party (the White Australia policy and tariff protection for industry) and apart from two years of Labor in the early sixties, nothing much has changed in 121 years. And change is so badly needed.

Caz4Cowpere website. I think she has a good chance.


At the café in Bello, we find Margaret a feisty, Scottish woman who lives in a van, long widowed. She was canoeing in the full moon down the Bellinger two days ago, finding the rising cost of living difficult. New staff, still a friendly place.

The quartet are young guys from the Sydney con, friendly. I buy their album in the break. Ask the leader, trumpeter and composer Tom Avgenicos if they listen to the British jazz I grew up on, Surman yes, Skidmore possibly, Osborne no, Carr unsure, Collier no. Their last set was the whole album and fantastic. Amazing trumpet playing, rigorous drumming, bass and keyboards all fine. Live music has been so rare these last two years, the ears are dancing.

They thanked a ‘wonderful audience’ the trumpeter said his grandmother said that Bellingen was wonderful and a real country town, and she was right. Though it hasn’t been for some time since the seventies and diminishing numbers of dairy farms. They tried to pitch sales without conviction, ‘Only 20 dollars’, I called out trying to help.

Driving home the moon, looking ripe as cheese, hangs straight ahead and guides us back to the coast. She illuminates everything, the silhouette of the mountains, a blank sly, the ruined cowshed leaning a little further, the cows fill the fields without their egret guards, the metal sped signs bright as bridesmaids, a lovely night for a wedding. I can hear a mellow sax loosening the air.

Not another car – is that a contemporary notion of paradise, a beautiful vacuum of twists and dips, motion happening inside us. The way lined by a guard of honour, meleucas, Tallowoods, Blackbutts Turpentines, Casuarinas and rogue pines,

Arriving on high beam looking for our Frogmouth, I brake, grab my camera, the bird is on its haunches crowning next door’s letterbox. I take a few hurried shots, no wish to blind the dumb bird, wonderful without, and successful without language, or tools, and without the lure of impatient screens.

Stars out, I am full of them, wonder when this business of writing everyday will become intrusive. Putin snatches my train, if only I could believe in Karma.

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