On Returning to Mallacoota from Abroad Mallacoota exists only because it is a beautiful place. Sometimes we who live here forget that extraordinary fact. Its one token justification to the industrial age is a small abalone canning factory at the edge of town which is owned by local divers and employs a handful of workers. The township lies along the southern edge of an inlet which has a narrow and uncertain outlet to the ocean opposite Gabo Island on the southeastern tip of the Australian continent. During the winter Mallacoota is most like itself. And what is that? This town is unique on our continent. It has always been a place that draws people because it is the furthest along the coast that one can travel away from either Sydney or Melbourne. It is so far from twentieth century fever that big developers have passed it by time and again. Its pristine beauty attracts thousands at holiday time who then return to their workaday lives to earn the privilege of viewing it for another year. When I am far away and think of Mallacoota, I think of beauty. I see in my mind's eye horizontal lines of calm, a town where one can still cross the road without looking and a wild duck waddles down the median strip looking for worms in the middle of the working day. On the roundabout at the entrance to the shopping centre a completely dysfunctional willy wagtail has lived for years cursing at cars and passers-by and, when the traffic stops, swinging its tail impatiently. The noise of bird traffic in the air is louder yet than car engines in my reverie, my crystallised image of Mallacoota that I take with me when I leave. Consider the raucous morning kookaburras and later the mew of seagulls and occasional deep throb of the wonga pigeon from the dark rainforests around and throughout the town. Now in winter the spurwinged plover is protesting and nesting along the cleared and mown foreshores. The resistance of the birds to our human presence is minimal and some even thrive on it. Parrots flutter like multi-coloured flags outside almost every home at mid-afternoon feeding time and on each lawn a magpie patrols its territory proudly. To my delight I sometimes glimpse the large-eyed shy thrush hopping thoughtfully in the shadows of my shrubbery. I know some people who have a bower bird mimicking the world from the bottom of their patch of bush. These avian noises are definitely Mallacoota but so is silence, a spreading silence. When I walk in the early morning towards the eastern horizon I see wide spaces of land and water and sky in ever-lightening monotones of silence. I breathe it in through my eyes and my body. At the same time that I expand outwards into this landscape it fills my inner self. The same silence is there at night under a complete hemisphere of blazing stars. One can swing along the town's empty roads in the late evening and walk into a noiseless splendour. How long is it since city folk have been able to see a star low on the horizon or walk down the middle of an empty high road? The Mallacoota silence is a coloured one, too. Colours are part of the Mallacoota crystal I touch in my mind's eye and of course blue dominates. Almost every hue of blue ranging from the black-green of the the forests, through the ever-changing mercury colours of the lake to the smoky layers of the distant ranges, and the egg-shell and mother of pearl of the skies above. Inseparable from these aspects of course are the people who live here without whom these qualities would not be expressed or admired or give nourishment. Mallacoota must always have had people coming here, using and celebrating its spiritual and natural resources of beauty. I do not only think of the people of today, its present custodians, but of the army throughout time who have pitched a camp by these shores and looked and listened as I do. Many of us in this town make a livelihood from what Mallacoota beauty means to others. Those of us who live here all share a custodianship of our town which entails a balance of both rights and responsibilities if we are to retain its uniqueness and its value to ourselves and to our visitors. A beautiful place does something good to the human spirit. No one person can put that meaning into words although generations of Mallacoota poets and writers and song-makers and artists have tried. Perhaps we do not need to make it explicit but merely to acknowledge, honour and respect its value to the sense of well-being and to the wallets of all of us.Long may Mallacoota give its beauty to the world. Wide sky wide And wide the lake Low the hills and spreading High clouds high And high the light Where my steps are heading. In beauty in Into the heart Out on each beat breathe new life. Give world give Give to open spirit Wash from the soul all strife. Sit being sit Sit and be Still, open, free and me.
© Copyright 2000 by Maria Brandl
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