The West

Looking towards the gulf from Five Rivers Lookout. Picture: Stephen Scourfield

Five Rivers Lookout at The Bastion, Wyndham

My eye loves the distance. It starts with the straight green stalks (as big as a pencil, nearly as strong) and rust-brown heads of the spear grass.

In the warm East Kimberley wind, those stalks jostle in vertical platoons as the seed heads drift lazily - or like girls dancing in silk when a zephyr comes.

And then my gaze cascades down the slope.

Today, in the monsoonal wet season, there is so much plump vegetation (leaves as thick as washcloths, trees looking drip-fed) that it all looks soft. But I know that under that short-lived foliage, fed by more than 1000mm of rain this year, there is a hard, rocky, ankle-twisting scree.

But, for now, at the bottom of this, the land is carpeted in green around the edge of the mudflats. On this harsh and mostly parched margin, now there is fresh, green, moist pick. And the mudflats themselves, so often crazed by the sun into an almost incomprehensibly large jigsaw, has become a softer- coloured sponge. It seems less threatening - it is less reflective of the sun, for a start, less like a desperate desert - but don't be fooled. It is glutinous and will suck you in, just like its appearance.

The edge of the water waivers off into the distance and this is where my eye really rejoices, for it follows on through channels and islands that I may never have seen this clearly before.

Facing the big, soupy, tidal gulf, some of the hills are in shadow, some fully lit, adding to the drama. And across the mudflats themselves - this tremendous floodplain - other clouds cast their big, solid shadows; blue-grey bruises on the land. They move slowly, change and shape and grow, patterning the landscape, giving it texture.

It is early afternoon and these clouds are part of the day's pattern. At dawn, the sky was delicate blue; and a deeper, unbroken blue by breakfast time. By midmorning it resonated - and then came the first one, two, three puffs of cloud, like pure white puffs of gun smoke, almost perfectly round, as if from nowhere.

Within an hour, cloud was bubbling up around the horizon and every time I glance up I notice more ice-cream serves of it moulded to the sky.

This busy sky seems to balance out the green bushes and the swaying grass. There is the dance of life on the surface and above. Activity in all dimensions.

Big insects fly past in straight lines, dragging their well-fed undercarriages through the hot air.

Whistling kites wheel overhead, as if for the pleasure of it; as if in the quest for fun.

A bird calls his seemingly random noted song as finches flit.

It always seems they are oblivious to climatic conditions - cool morning, hot day, humid evening, they are always the same, just as busy.

One lands on a vertical stalk of spear grass and, as it moves in the wind, the bird sways too. It is a pretty dance.

The West Australian

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