They say that a walk along a beachfront is a kind of meditation. Well, I cannot clear my mind in the way I have been told I should when meditating, for it gets hijacked by many delights along the way. The thing about such a stroll is that it is never the same twice. Each time the tide goes out it creates a different landscape, like an artist at work in a vast, yet intimate, Japanese garden.
This morning, for instance, I was walking along Flinders Parade, “The Front,” which is the edge of Sandgate, Brighton and Moreton Bay. I saw a young ibis standing at the far end of a lone wall—part of an ancient swimming pool, perhaps, that has since mostly crumbled away and been reclaimed by the sea—with its wings outstretched. It stood there, motionless, for quite a long time, as long as it took me to walk way past it and then some. It was either drying its wings in the sun or merely enjoying the warmth of a day the weather bureau forecasts will reach 25 degrees. A pleasant temperature by most standards, including, apparently, those of the ibis.
At approximately 11th Avenue, I came across another pleasant surprise. Firstly, I saw an Australian flag atop a pole—which had also lost its context many years ago and is standing in the water. Now I am always wary of flags. Certainly the Australian flag has some spectacular connotations for me: my adored grandfather, “Ba,” fought at Gallipoli in WWI, and my father in Tobruk and Greece and Kokoda in the Second World War. The flag denoting the presence of Australian soldiers in those wars has always been an honourable marker, regardless of the petty politics which may have put them there. They were fighting as representatives of a whole nation of people—us, we Australians. But unfortunately flags can be appropriated by all sorts of ratbags, and when someone starts waving a flag in my face, I am looking for the nearest exit. Look at the political parties which have usurped the Australian flag for their own tawdry uses. No doubt Mr Clive Palmer will be standing on many rostrums across the country with an Australian flag behind him. Yet he represents only a very small number of Australians, the excessively—even obscenely— wealthy, not you and I. So why should he have access to a flag which represents all of us?
These were the thoughts I had when I stared out over the water at the flag this morning. But then I looked at what was closer, right in front of me, in fact.
The sea wall along Flinders Parade has been reinforced with concrete blocks several times since I have been living in the area, because from time to time it cops a battering from the sea in flood. We’ve had a few floods in the last couple of years and currently there is a gap at approximately where 11th Avenue starts. Beneath this part of the missing wall, there is also a flight of small concrete stairs going down into the water when the tide is in, or to the sand and mud flats when it is out. A local artist who calls himself Sandgate Rick, has placed a small table and a blue canvas director’s chair by this gap after filling it in—though still allowing people access to the stairs—with sand and seashells. He has created a map of Australia, with seaweed, from memory, and has edged the sand and seashell construction with cone shells, all pointing their tips to the sea, like the fringe of a sea shawl. All around the map of Australia he has placed little cairns of smooth stones, indicating peace, and there is a single poppy on the installation as a reminder of ANZAC Day which we commemorated just over a week ago. On the table there is a scattering of tiny shells which hold the pages of a small notebook open. Two or three pens have been left there for people to write their comments. Of course I wrote something, but I have since also checked Rick’s Facebook page to see if he is associated with some razor-toting political group. Happily I couldn’t see any evidence of this, so the next time I take my morning walk along the seafront, I will add more, if it is still there. In the meantime, I would like to thank Sandgate Rick for offering our community such charming ephemera which becomes part of the treasure we store in our minds, our reflections and the stories we tell to each other. Art begets art.