Houseboat Ecstasy…

February 16 2016
Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney, Australia, heading downstream via Wiseman’s Ferry.




Pneumatic drill of kookaburra chorus.  Calm and stillness in cool air until sun heats up the day.  The bush reaches temperature and seethes, fizzing, buzzing, boiling insects.

Passing sandstone flaking bluffs pocked with sun-blisters, ash-grey to burnt-umber. Towering gums, flowering with cream and white powder.


Snake in water.

Mobile grey-green quick lean blue-green steel.  Pin-prick glint eye, whip-smart, arrow strung, flint-sharp, whip-lash, mean, seen me, snap-snip, wave stitch, sharp snap.  Lands quick, slip way, off land, on land, gone.


I am alone on the houseboat, the men are gone to re-provision in the tinny tender.  I sit lengthways on a sofa, the oh-so-kind cool, southerly breeze mopping my brow as sun cracks sandstone, peeling grey skin to expose raw orange rock.  Eucalypts’ adolescent stubble strides, top bowed and shaking in heat and air, to root in old stone fractures.

We coursed today along the tidal Hawkesbury River through National Parks to constant, double-banked applause, cicada-rich, our houseboat a homecoming river queen.  As the tide now turns, so wheels our boat in curtsey on her mooring.

I have green tea, shade, words and Vaughan Williams’ ‘Fantasy on a Theme of Thomas Tallis’ playing on mi phone.  It makes me smile.  I feel like I’m in a version of that scene in ‘Out of Africa’ where the Streep/Redford couple camp in the bush for the first time together and he plays Mozart to the monkeys on a portable record player.  Flowering gums, I serenade you.  Cicadas – here’s Tallis for your constant background clapping.  Even the flies have buzzed off and are quiet.

A moment of pure, distilled ME.  Green sarong and loose, long-sleeved white cotton tunic, bra-less, hair tied back in a bright scarf – I feel free and comfy as clouds make shadow play with orange cliffs shattered into shaded blocks… are they eye sockets?  A frowning giant?  Ruins of a fabled, ancient city?  A strange, old script?  Seats of prehistoric amphitheatre?

I love that I am far from daily routine, free to let my mind wander, explore yet comforted and uplifted by old voicemail messages, happy family and friends wishing me Bon Voyage. Space to consider my needs for an hour or so.  To stop travelling and moor, let tide and time cradle me…

imageAnd the words come…

Bursting deco trees shape tulips with bony, white hands, arachnid skeletal fingers…  Such bright shadows…  Chalk sketches on green vellum canvas.  Cheerleader trees, arms outstretched, shake long-leaved pom-poms….

And now to Thomas Tallis pure…  ‘Spem in Alium’…  A motet for forty voices. Medieval Tamla Motown wall of sound…

A scorpion cloud arches its tessellated back, stings the cliff’s tree crown into quivering life as Tallis voices soar, wedge-tailed eagles now, soar over  sandstone blocks and stack ten, twenty, thirty, forty voices…  Dissolving grey, freeing light, peeling umber, startling and bleaching the staring soul…

Now I see…

The sandstone shadow play is really music, is notes…  Quaver caves, a semibreve of shade, a colorato cliff…  My music is sandstone rock, it rings and settles, reverberates and echoes, drills into being, and quivers, quivers in the air as cicada half life.  I am alive and living, rocked riverly, sung into spirit, soul-sanded, grey-gone, sanded-soul bright and orange, crust cracked off.  New skin, new skin as Tallis voices puncture me in purity, a scorpion note cloud, combined and arched for one long, slow moment of utter harmony.

… … …

I could cry with joy – senses, words, words like no other, each a step in virgin soil.  I am the first footprint in sand, preserved by careful land and layers.  Shown when time, when nature, when wind and water, sound and stillness, say and sing me into being, into new becoming.

I pull my skin around me, I hear the men returning.  I must find shape, unstick my soul from ecstasy.



Christine Cooke

Copyright February 2016