We're in the thickest part of summer and I’m wearing a layer of discomfort that only immersion in sea and nighttime breeze can relieve. We are at the end of the season of Birak, the time traditional owners of these lands used to spend by the sea. It is also the season when they burned the bush to drive game into the open. Increasingly dense housing combined with fire bans have led to limited burning bringing the fuel load to dangerous levels. Fire is inevitable here, but in modern years has become increasingly destructive to property as a result of this way of treating country.
The vineyard shimmers in the heat, wind a vague recollection. Only the grasshoppers are moving, smashing into the nets like moths pinging against a lightbulb. They rise with a desiccated clatter and Houdini sidewise through the nets. Meanwhile the marris at vineyard edge are beginning to bloom, but in this intense heat, the nectar volatizes. The bees, normally in high-pitched chorale, are toiling elsewhere. The silvereyes are down by the seashore - there’s nothing to eat or drink here. The sky is a washed out version of lavender, a cloud would die of loneliness.
I head down to the surf, the sea a drowsy grayish blue wearing a holy white halo of haze. No one is about, repelled by sun and the latest shark scare. I gallop towards the blue place, wincing as I sink into the firewalk of baking sands. I have to stagger step my way down into the relieving swirls.
I visualize a mushroom cloud of steam rising off of me as I knife into the swell. I remain in the waves, bringing my core temperature down, looking across the undulating mercury. I cover my head with rubber tentacles of kelp and wrack, improvising a soothing salty sun shield. My breathing slows, I allow the coolness of sea to penetrate deeper and will it inward. I relax into the cold and feel a deeper movement and the sea’s grace.
With closed eyes I attempt to float, but I'm wave battered and take too much water on board. I dive and touch craggy limestone reef scattering silver shiver of herring in my tumbling wake.
I stay semi submerged for a long time. My fingers prunify and a salt taste sets up in my nose and back of throat and along my lips. My eyes are red and stingy. I'm getting that blurry wide horizon stare and am starting to feel cleansed.
Standing with feet digging through sand, activating deadened toes, stretching ached out muscles, breathing salt, getting goosebumps in the miniscule breeze.
Virtually all thought has been burnt and washed away. I'm cooled down and getting ideas about those herring and icy beer.
The trek back up to the truck dries me out some more, and I gobble a liter of water in one breath, my salty throat aflame. I drive over the ridge to the vineyard, hot wind blowing across bare chest. The vines have taken it on the chin - the heat has been overwhelming and the leaves are facing away from the sun. They have shut down to reduce transpiration loss. Everything is suspended in a holding pattern, waiting for the sun to take a vacation.
One beer later I’m back at the shore casting into the surf and a velvet lavender sky with watermelon rind horizon. Old Sol takes a deep breath before sounding into a silvered pool, and in a moment the light goes dull. The breeze comes up and with it the fish are on the bite.
I reel iridescence upon iridescence out of the shimmer and soon have filled the dinner pail. I clean the catch in a purple gloaming. Stars wink as the surf cracks and foams before me. The softest of breeze is beginning to tickle into shore and I am a green plant again. I stretch my leaves and drink it in and head home to the fry pan