Saturday, July 21, 2007


Sometimes at early morn and late evening a golden light spreads across the river valley. A shining luxurious glow hangs among the trees, gilding the branches, the leaves, and the watery avenue that is the Brisbane River. The mangrove leaves turn a bright lime green, the dew sparkles up the spiders' webs and the tree trunks gleam. It has hardly rained for months here, yet the sight of the glowing light reminds me of the light shed by the rainbow. I miss that. In the golden (de)light there is also a hint of that multi-coloured ribbon that spans the sky and a memory of the 'pot of gold' I once saw when the rainbow dropped straight into the forest of Mt Cootha. What a magical place. Sometimes the light comes just before it rains, but now, although there is the touch of light, no grey clouds form and no rain appears.

Parched. The land. The water seems to play tricks and gives the impression that there is no drought. The river rises and falls with the tides, and today, you can see that the tide is way way out. The banks of Sandy Creek are wide viscous chocolate filled with the breathing holes from crustaceans or other water creatures, and the upsidedown rootlets of the mangroves. Ducks waddle in the creek's brown water, stirring up the mud. The yellow light catches the swirling earth as it spirals beneath the ducks' feet, while the people walking their dogs and jogging are captured - and held - within the glow.

This is what you see when you go riverwalking in Brisbane. Riverwalking is also the title of the nature writer and philosopher, Kathleen Dean Moore. She is a marvellous writer. Her books Riverwalking and Pine Island Paradox are wonderfully evocative texts. They reveal her love of flowing places and her sensitivity and care for the land and her family. She is one of a handful of my favourite nature writers - Terry Tempest Williams, Richard Nelson, Barry Lopez, Scott Russell Sanders, Linda Hogan, as well as the writings reflected in the gorgeous journal Orion. I relish their words and their ability to harness the feelings exhibited by the natural world as if you, the reader, are also walking in their footsteps.

The other writer who has the same effect on me is the glorious poet Mary Oliver. The tapestry of her words stir the heart and compel the reader, me, to tell others of the generosity of her thread. Here is The Swan by Mary Oliver.

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

If you would like to make a comment or add your own wonderful poem, click on Comments below.