Thursday, April 02, 2009

Awaroa Inlet at dusk

The tide has evacuated the mudflats again, leaving it pocked and strewn with bivalve tombstones. They crunch underfoot as I follow the empty bed of a stream, where once it supplied the bay, before the bay ebbed away back to the ocean past the sand-dunes.

The sky darkens, smudging the definition between the mountains and hills, transforming them into a unified black frame for the navy blue sky. Without any planets in the early evening, Sirius is the first to make itself seen; the Pointers and Betelgeuse follow: The night scene is forming again. The moon is far from rising and this Summer night sky would be a rich one.

After midnight, the tide would be back here, and if I were to remain, where would the water be up to? How far across the half-tide bay did the afternoon trampers get before they had to turn back? Was I there now? Had I gone already further than they had dared, all without challenging the water?

As I approached the remnant estuary, the mud sucks in my jandals, soiling the corners of my socks. The viscous mud pops, releasing my soles as I backstep to higher ground. My path intersects with past-laid footprints; they are deeper than mine, laid at a time moister than now.

A small strain of chatter is all that can be heard from the din of the hut; the glimmer of the candles and torches are weaker than the light of the Pleiades. Around the celestial south, does the sky spin in the wise of a clock, or against it? The mind wants the wideness of the sky; the mind wants the chatter to end.

Awaroa Inlet at sunrise

It is really something to fiddle with wet and sandy shoelaces with your dry, well-slept hands; at one moment repelling; at one moment sensual. The sun is up already, we know, behind the ridge, struggling to rise in a sky only marked by a few filaments of cloud.

Packs on, we stride onto the flats, to warm ourselves before the crisp air shivers us. There is no sparing the cockle shells, their transformation into sand and soil hastened by our transit. The evening’s footprints have been swept clean by an unseen tide, new prints laid by the early birds.

All that’s left of the expansive bay is a delta of small estuaries for us to cross. The water enters the top of the shoes and down to the toes; the water crosses the threshold of the knee and the knee-jerk shudder that brings. But that is as deep as it goes, and we linger in the flow.

Out of the stream and onto the mudflat, we see the crabs are out, and the oystercatchers are joined by a solitary grey heron in breaking their fast.

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