Saturday, December 17, 2011

Currents and tides: my sea spirit goes on a journey

It's not often that you find a piece of wood that looks like something from another world. In fact, in my lifetime, I've found only three. The first was perched in an ooline trunk at Mitchell, and I found it with my friend Heather Bowen. The second was found in flood debris in the bed of the Maranoa River at the Major Mitchell Campsite. My latest find was here on Phillip Island -- yesterday.

To trace this life-like piece of tree trunk to its beginnings you need to go back to a single seed. With moisture, soil and sunshine the seed bursts into life and becomes a tree that grows to maturity, dies and then falls to the ground alongside a river. Pieces of the trunk wash into the river and hence travel to the sea. Here the tree trunk is bashed on rocky reefs and preserved to a silvery grey by the combined action of sand and salt water. Over decades it becomes smaller and smaller; smoother and smoother -- takes on a life of its own.

Finally it's tossed up on to our beach at Phillip Island during a fierce storm, and this is where Doug and I found it, nestled in a soft bed of flotsam.

I find myself wondering: what species of tree? What river and where? How long was it in the ocean and what journey did the tides and currents take it on? How long between the seed germinating and the present time? So many questions: so few answers!

In the meantime though, Doug has mounted my sea spirit on a piece of beefwood that comes from outback Queensland. Sitting in pride of place on our living room table, my sea spirit watches over us; is a conversation piece; it's true history known only to itself.

This sea spirit is a priceless gift, given to me by the sea.

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