“Clouds come floating into my life,
no longer to carry rain or usher storm,
but to add colour to my sunset sky.”
-Rabindranath Tagore 1861 – 1941
Photo: Rowena Curtin: Sunset Pittwater
Photo: Rowena Curtin: Sunset Pittwater
Last Sunday, our family went on a history cruise along Sydney’s Hawkesbury River (Deerubbun) with the kids’ Scout troop.
However, before our journey proceeds any further, I thought I’d better provide you with a map of the Hawkesbury River. Not that I’m any good at reading maps, but I thought you might like to know where we are…especially if you’re not from around here. (By the way,as we live North of the Hawkesbury River, I really should be posting the map “upside down”…I mean, the right way up.
Our Hawkesbury River Cruise set out from Brooklyn, which is just above the M1 sign on the map. While I’ve previously posted about the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge and its role in defending Sydney during WWII, this is more of a pictorial overview of the trip.
From Brooklyn, we headed east towards Broken Bay and Palm Beach, which some of you might know as “Summer Bay” from Australian drama Home & Away.
As I said, I don’t have a great sense of direction. Yet, I do remember us chugging past the Sport & Recreation Camp at Milson Bay and round to Juno Point, where I photographed this very statuesque gum tree leaning out over the river.
Then, we made our way into Broken Bay via checking out the defenses at West Head, which is really known more as a scenic lookout than an army base.
We returned to Brooklyn, heading upstream towards Wiseman’s Ferry and Windsor. This meant going past what remains of the original Hawkesbury River Bridge, a hauntingly beautiful row of sandstone piers, an epitaph to engineering doom.
We also travelled underneath the replacement Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge, which seemed reminiscent of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and was also an engineering marvel back in its day.
The Bridge provided some outstanding photo opportunities, particularly as I love seeing the familiar through an unfamiliar lens or perspective. The local train from Woy Woy to Sydney passes over this bridge so we know it well from the train window. You also see the bridge in the distance driving to Sydney. So, the Hawkesbury River Bridge is a very familiar sight…just not looking up at it from the river. That was a buzz.
However, there’s much more to cruising along the Hawkesbury River than engineering structures.
There were clouds.
At least, there were clouds as we were cruising along last Saturday. Not just any ordinary clouds either.There was a sky full of photogenic clouds…fluffy tufts of pure white cotton wool pasted on a bright blue sky with perfect cloud outlines. I couldn’t have done a better job myself…not that I’m in the cloud-making business.
Do you like watching clouds?
While cloud gazing might be considered a little “fluffy”, I find it quite mesmerising and have gone to great lengths to photograph clouds in what could be described as suicidal weather conditions. Yet, in better weather, appreciating clouds reflects a joie de vivre...a soul committed to carpe diem seize the day. After all, the phrase is “seize the day” and NOT “seize the mobile phone”!!
Hey, you tell me? What isn’t there to love about this sky full of clouds?
Another highlight of the cruise was checking out the wreckage of the HMAS Parramatta.
Named after the Parramatta River, HMAS Parramatta, was a River-class torpedo-boat destroyer of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Ordered in 1909 for the Commonwealth Naval Forces (the predecessor of the RAN), Parramatta was the first ship launched for the Australian navy.
From 1914 to 1917, HMAS Parramatta was involved in wartime patrols in the Pacific and South East Asian regions, before she and her sister ships were transferred to the Mediterranean for anti-submarine operations. She returned to Australia in 1919, and was placed in reserve. Apart from a brief period of full commission during the visit of the Prince of Wales, Parramatta remained in reserve commission until 1928. She was fully decommissioned in 1928, stripped of parts, and sold for use as prisoner accommodation on the Hawkesbury River. After changing hands several times, the hull ran aground during gale conditions in 1933, and was left to rust. In 1973, the bow and stern sections were salvaged, and converted into memorials and the remainder can be seen here. Further information HMAS Parramatta.
Wow! As you can see, we had a wonderful time…although it really just felt like an entree and I really want to see more…especially the sunset. Sunsets viewed as the train crosses over the Hawkesbury Railway Bridge are a knockout but it would be even better viewed from the water. I can definitely feel a sunset trip along the Hawkesbury River coming up.
Bring it on!
Meanwhile, if you’d like to follow in our wake, you can reach Central Coast Ferries: here.
Utterly beautiful, I was quite mesmerized by these fluffy clouds scudding above the Hawkesbury River on Sydney’s Northern fringe.
A fabulous way to spend Fathers’ Day 2016.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Dear Mr Shelley,
I apologise for the late hour. Much to my horror, time has escaped its cage yet again and runaway. Since our children are away in Sydney at their grandparents, my husband and I went out for a Mexican feast. After locking myself away inside my cave for many weeks with so many engrossing poets, I needed to spent the night with him before he thought he no longer has a wife.
Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.
Shelley: To A Skylark
Coincidentally, as I thought about the To A Skylark, The Cloud and your sailing death at sea, my husband and I walked beside the beach. Voluminous clouds hovered like ghostly galleons out at sea. Serene and subdued, the ocean breathed in and out uneventfully. Indeed, I could almost forget the storm, which ravaged these shores, holding me hostage in my tin can, battered by the hail in the car park. Anyone else, would have known those menacing, dark purple clouds were trouble but I was only thinking with my lens. The storm engulfed me, before I could escape.
You were not so lucky. The storm consumed you, devouring the Don Juan and all onboard like a snack. Your watch stopped, along with your heart while a book of Keats’ poems was hastily shoved in your pocket. Your remains were swept up on the beach.
Somehow, you became larger in death than in life. As poet Matthew Arnold wrote: “a beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain.”
Fishing through the many myths and legends, I am struggling to find you… you the man. The man stripped bare. There are so many, many half-spun truths that I almost wonder if there was anyone there.
While the jury is out on whether your death was an accident or suicide, I wonder if you have regrets? As much as I have loved the thrill of being under sail as the whole yacht tilts in a strong wind, was it worth it? Is dying doing something you love, very much like having your heart broken and as Tennyson wrote:
Is it better to have adventures and push ourselves way beyond our capabilities to have fun, test our mettle and find out that we’re made of stronger stuff? Is that this thing I keep hearing about called “resilience” or did you take too many risks?
After all, you were only 29 years old.
I don’t know why I even ask. The jury’s been out on this case for a long time and how am I ever going to unearth the truth when I am only passing through.
So, instead I’ll return to the clouds. Or, to be precise, your poem: The Cloud. I decided to illustrate it with some of my own photos. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to see what is possible these days with colour photography.
I hope you enjoy it.
I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.
I sift the snow on the mountains below,
And their great pines groan aghast;
And all the night ’tis my pillow white,
While I sleep in the arms of the blast.
Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,
Lightning my pilot sits;
In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,
It struggles and howls at fits;
Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,
This pilot is guiding me,
Lured by the love of the genii that move
In the depths of the purple sea;
Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
Over the lakes and the plains,
Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,
The Spirit he loves remains;
And I all the while bask in Heaven’s blue smile,
Whilst he is dissolving in rains.
The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
And his burning plumes outspread,
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
When the morning star shines dead;
As on the jag of a mountain crag,
Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
An eagle alit one moment may sit
In the light of its golden wings.
And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,
Its ardours of rest and of love,
And the crimson pall of eve may fall
From the depth of Heaven above,
With wings folded I rest, on mine aëry nest,
As still as a brooding dove.
That orbèd maiden with white fire laden,
Whom mortals call the Moon,
Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor,
By the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof,
The stars peep behind her and peer;
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
Like a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
Till calm the rivers, lakes, and seas,
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
Are each paved with the moon and these.
I bind the Sun’s throne with a burning zone,
And the Moon’s with a girdle of pearl;
The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,
When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
Over a torrent sea,
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,
The mountains its columns be.
The triumphal arch through which I march
With hurricane, fire, and snow,
When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair,
Is the million-coloured bow;
The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove,
While the moist Earth was laughing below.
I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
Last stop…Scouts. Next stop…dinner?
Well, maybe not.
While Mum’s Taxi could’ve stayed parked in the driveway, instead it was reversing back out again and darting off to the beach. Never very good at sticking with routine, I was being led astray by forces beyond my control.
The clouds made me do it.
As I was driving home from dropping our daughter at Cub Scouts, I’d spotted massive clouds on the horizon and I just had to capture the magic. It was right on sun set and anticipating the magic, my imagination was already painting incredible pictures.
That morning, we’d had incredibly heavy rain and localised flooding. So, the clouds promised to be good.
I popped home to pick up my camera.
“No, Mummy! Don’t go!” My son pleaded. “The last time you went, it hailed.”
Hail? Why did he have to mention the hail?!!
Although I didn’t want to think about the hail storm, revisiting my past sins could well prevent me from repeating past mistakes.
You see, today wasn’t the first time I’d spotted superlative clouds while driving around in Mum’s Taxi.
Indeed, after spotting these clouds while picking the kids up from school, I just ducked down to the beach for a few minutes with the camera. These clouds were too good to miss and I really thought I had a chance at capturing the big one. That mighty shot which makes even your most incredible photos look ordinary. This is the photographer’s equivalent of catching that prized marlin as eulogized in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.
In other words, it was NOT to be missed!
Having been caught out in thunderstorms with my camera before, I was being careful. As soon as I felt a huge raindrop fall on my shoulder, I immediately headed for the car. However, I hadn’t banked on the speed of the storm. It was already too late. I’d only just made it to the car when the storm hit. Hauled up in my tin can, the windscreen bore the full force of the storm’s brutal full-frontal assault. Yet, somehow it withstood the incessant pounding and I survived. While the hail was still falling, I decided to make a run for it and drove gingerly home through an icy wonderland to reach the kids. Our entire town was blanketed in ice.
By the way, we live just North of Sydney where it’s hot and we don’t get ice and snow! So, this weather was exceptionally exceptional!
I couldn’t believe how a quick five minute photo shoot at the beach had turned into a near catastrophe. However, the worst was still to come. The hail had pelted straight through our back roof like machine gun fire and it was now leaking like a sieve. Of course, this had to be the roof to my office and my PC was swimming through the rain and hail with the mouse in hot pursuit. The kids were extremely stressed as well and I had to do some quick thinking to keep our son from heading up a ladder to “fix” the roof. Thank goodness volunteers from the State Emergency Service came to the rescue and put up a tarpaulin. Angels come in an amazing range of guises!
So, when Mr J had concerns about me bringing on another hail storm, there was motive to his madness. Indeed, I’d told the kids that if I ever tried going cloud chasing again, stop me. I was starting to appreciate that once I’d seen all those billowing clouds, all reason disappeared. Under their spell, all I could do was blindly follow.
So without any further ado, I was off. My entire gripped with potential! I could sense the magic in the air.
Clouds! Camera! Action!
The clouds didn’t disappoint. Huge, towering castles of whipping meringue, they floated majestically above the beach, staring at their glamorous reflections in the shallows. I wonder if they loved their own reflections as much as I did?
They were absolutely mesmerizing and I didn’t have to ask if you could fall in love with a cloud.
I already knew!
Of course, all too soon, the light was fading transforming their brilliance into a world of silvery shadows, infusing their night music with Neptune’s melodies.
I wondered if Endymion and Diana were about to embrace but it was time to go.
Just one minor detail…was our dinner burning?
PS I loved those clouds SO much, I couldn’t resist going back again this morning.The stream was produced by the storm, showing just how heavy the rain has been!