Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ephemeral, forever

There was something very special about the corner of a river I visited today, by kayak. Although the scenery across the bay, on the approach to the river entrance, was of spectacularly rugged mountains, shrouded in various veils of rain, and was more dramatic than anything I had ever seen by kayak before, it was at the farthest reaches of a lovely but insignificant little river that I found what was to me the most beautiful spot on this amazing planet!

And now, some hours later, in a warm and dry lounge room by the sea, with a cup of coffee in my hand and kayaks safely stowed in the shed until another day, it still haunts my soul; not something I would normally say! If I were at all artistic I would sketch it so it does not slip from my memory. However, words are my only craft even though a poor writer I am indeed.

Majesty, beauty, light-defying reflections, hues of every shade of green, every shape and size of plant, massive fallen trees covered in moss and lichens and ferns disappearing into the depths of the river, the smells of the earth and a sense of wildness unique to remote corners of Tasmania have become my playground these last few months. It was natural to once again drift serenely through such scenery, in awe of nature exerting its dominance over a landscape starting only a few hundred meters from a camping ground full of Easter campers.

As I approached another bend I could hear the tinkling of the river rippling over a shallow bed of stones and soon the silver sparkle of the moving water drew my eye to the nearby bank in search of a place to stop and enjoy the play of light and sound on this day of dark, rolling clouds. Up until now the banks had been either of huge, steep, moss covered boulders which had managed to resist the raging winter flows of thousands of years, or were of densely matted vegetation and tangled tree roots, intertwined with fallen giants of tree trunks often spanning the entire width of the river.

Here, however, was a triangle edged on the long side by an old, sunken log, the whole being filled with worn, round rocks from fist to football size. One short side was formed by the river bank where the tree had fallen from some long time ago. The rocks were smooth and washed clean by the river but, as the water level is low at this time of year, they were exposed. The other short side was of shingles and sloped gently to the water’s edge. Into those shingles had fallen seeds from the plants of the surrounding forest and a little, summer garden had sprung up, sure to be soon ripped out and washed away with the first big rains of winter. Ephemeral, fleeting as a butterfly, nature’s garden was perfectly designed.

Then a light breeze caused movement above the little garden and I noticed that a tree had once upon a time fallen but been suspended by the river bank, its gnarled and splintered end hanging out above the river. Growing in the crevices at the end of that beautiful old trunk, directly above the summer garden in the shingles, was another, almost identical garden. My heart skipped a beat.

The high banks of a beautiful Tasmanian forest, the sound of the water rippling over the shallow river bed, combined with the rocky beach formed by an old log and the double gardens, one hanging above the other, together with the still water cocoon I managed to nestle my kayak into, totally enveloped my senses.

As we left, the rain began to fall in earnest and soon the river will begin to rise once more. It won’t be there when next I paddle that river; this fleeting picture of perfection.

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