Big Swamp, Bunbury, Western Australia


How often has one heard someone suggest, “You should …” and never follow up on the suggestion?  Of course, when the place being suggested is called, quite simply, “Big Swamp” and does not even have ‘The’ to distinguish it, one can be fooled into thinking it is an ordinary place.

With an early start back to Perth I knew I had a full day’s work ahead of me.  Decision making has been weighing me down lately.  Even the several hours of solitary driving, on other trips, would have been a welcomed space to reflect and plan.  But, not this morning.  I felt swamped.  Utterly swamped.

I drove out of the hotel at 4.30 am to clear my head.  A lone dolphin broke the surface intermittently at Koombana Bay.  Two fishermen, launching their boat at Leschenault Inlet, were surprised to see me up so early and in typically Australian vernacular, say, “You’re up early mate!”  “I keep fishermen and farmers’ hours”, I tell them.  Their laughter rises above the throttle of the engine.

Still restless, and with the sun now fully crested, I drove down Ocean Drive looking for coffee.  Then I remembered ‘Big Swamp’.  I turned left and found it with ease.  I circuited Prince Philip Drive and Tuart Street a couple of times.  My attempt at recon, this being unfamiliar territory.

I park my car and watch a man with a boxer and a smaller dog stop and let a duck and six ducklings cross in front of them.  Within striking distance, the dogs are still and silent. People and animals live in harmony here.  I step out of my car to air that is alive with the sound of birds and “Good morning”.  I am home.

The peppermint gum tree, an ordinary looking tree, has tendrils of beautiful delicate flowers.  The grove of paperbark trees is an enchanted forest.  The honeyeaters, loud.  The bottlebrush, much like me, is bursting to bloom.  The New Holland honeyeater is bold, flies past my nose and clutches a flower less than six inches away from me, tilting his head with curiosity.  So close, my camera is difficult to focus, so I move away.  He stays.  This is his territory.  I see native wildflowers entwined in embrace.

By now, like a wild child, I know no boundaries because none were imposed.  I stop for a moment, confused, and try to find my bearings, when suddenly, and perfectly, the Splendid Blue Wren, dropped from the tree on the ground before me, like a bright blue leaf.

I left Big Swamp reluctantly, making a silent promise.  I will return.  It is no longer unfamiliar territory.

Until next time,

As always,

a dawn bird

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