View of the Wilson inlet sheltered behind the sandbar from the wild ocean.
Last week we used the excuse of a wedding anniversary to take a week away in Denmark on the South coast of Western Australia—a restful pause before the headlong dash into the second half of the year. From Perth, the drive takes about 5 hours. At this time of year the scenery is green, wide stretches of open farmland, dotted with cows and sheep. We always stop in Kojonup at the Black cockatoo cafe for a coffee and a bite to eat. It’s more than half way but there are few places to stop and the coffee is great.
We were staying in a cabin high up on Mount Shadforth, with a glimpse of the Wilson inlet through tall karri trees. The inlet is a shallow basin, fed by the Hay and Denmark rivers. There is a sandbar cutting it off from the Southern ocean at its neck between the Nullaki peninsula and Ocean Beach. It is the perfect sheltered spot for canoeing or sailing, though in winter this didn’t appeal. It was tempting to sit by the wood burning stove and read but the natural beauty of the area drew us out on the days when the rain held off.
The first day we went to our favourite photography spot, Green Pool in Williams Bay, west of Denmark. This coastline is old. Granite boulders worn smooth over time create a reef that encloses a calm pool of turquoise tinged water. We have swum there in calm (cold) water when a violent ocean beyond battered ineffectually against the rocky fringe that protected it.
On the other side of the headland you will find ‘Elephant Rocks’, named for the mammoth granite boulders that squat immovable in the surging sea.
One day we took ourselves to Ocean Beach to watch a massive swell rolling in. The offshore breeze knocked spume backward as each wave crested, throwing up a flurry of white foam. The deep roar of it resonated deep within me and as ever, I was transfixed by the elemental power of the sea.
Another day, although we had been there before, we went again to the tree top walk near Walpole to marvel at the majesty of the tall timber. The walk is located west of Denmark in a valley, appropriately named the ‘Valley of the giants’. This valley is special as it is home to the giant tingle trees, the red tingle (eucalyptus jacksonii) and the yellow tingle (eucalyptus guilfoylei) that only grow in this area of Western Australia. The red tingles can grow to 70m and some in the valley are believed to be 400 hundred years old. The walk has been built to allow the visitor to walk up as high as 40 meters above the ground, viewing the canopy all around. There is a walk through the ancient trees, some of which have been burnt out in their centres, yet still continue to grow.
Time slows in the utter peace of the forest—pure deep silence save for multi-layered birdsong and the wind in the canopy. My breathing slowed and my shoulders dropped. The plants and birds around me came into sharp focus and I lost myself in contemplation. Back home in Perth, on an early morning walk in the suburbs, bird song is overlaid with the hum of traffic. Our senses are overwhelmed. The noise of a city distracts—my mind flitting from one sound to the next, each one obscured by the others.
Among the trees was not the only place I encountered such serenity. On a walk down by the shoreline on the inlet, we came across a small beach. The air was still and pelicans bobbed on the shallow waters. Tiny wrens hopped about on the sand and gulls wheeled overhead cawing joyously. The rain began as I stopped to take this shot. It pattered lightly on the water creating tiny short-lived circular ripples. For some reason, possibly the stillness of the water, it reminded me of Wendell Berry’s beautiful poem The Peace of Wild Things.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
(Wendell Berry, 1968).
It seems to me that our ability to connect on a deep level with our environment depends on moments of quiet. Then our minds are open to the beauty that surrounds us.
The guide books to the Denmark -Walpole area offer myriad experiences for the visitor, vineyards, hiking trails, amazing beaches. To my way of thinking the greatest offering is the silence, the opportunity to step off the hamster wheel of modern living and take some time to appreciate the glories of the world in which we live.