Just as that shopper in front of you is oddly surprised when the supermarket cashier asks them to pay, and they go, “Oh,” spend an epoch finding their purse, and then finally pay the $42.75 with only ten-cent coins, I find it equally bewildering that folk in South Australia are astonished annually that autumn is our best season. Although TS Eliot was considering the northern hemisphere in The Waste Land when he wrote, “April is the cruelest month” down here I reckon it’s the best time of the year.
On the border of Innes National Park, Marion Bay is a new favourite. Thursday was a gold medal day with the sun lower in the sky, but still deliciously warm, and the fierce, forbidding wind gone.
Our party of eight kids and eight adults assembled early at the Stenhouse Bay jetty. We had it to ourselves and one of the dads, Andy, suitably wet-suited, jumped in and then one of the mums, Karla, bravely sans wetsuit, followed to greet and safe-guard.
The water was a fetching Greek island-blue, flat as the Adelaide Oval pitch and as clear as a Paul Keating insult.
Meanwhile, Benny cast a line and jagged a squid within moments. Landing it on the jetty’s warm timbers, our circle of kids closed and peered on, as bewitched and curious as you’d hope, given that many of their parents are science teachers.
Of course, I observed from a distance, trying to compose a haiku about squid on a jetty but failed, instead barking brashly about there being more ink than at a Port Power home game.
Our brave warrior Alex was first to leap into the Antarctic aqua. He splashed and yelped about and then hauled himself up the metal ladder. He’d go again half a dozen times.
With their eternal sibling rivalry sparking, Max was next in our family. Bravely, he went over the edge, and in, but paddled quickly back to the pylons, singular urgency on his damp dial. There’d be no treading water for him, but as is his compulsion he interrogated his world with physical and emotional strength. I beamed at both of the boys, and silently thanked their mother for this genetic detail.
In her shorts and Spiderbait t-shirt Kerry was up next, fiercely determined and commentating in her funny way. The boys looked upon their mum with awe and the frequent, inner confirmation that she’s cool. Once in the drink she laughed constantly, adrenalin and biting cold motoring her across the bay.
Other kids and their parents were casting fishing lines, and these whirled out into the tiny inlet, but the squids wouldn’t be dead for quids.
I’m not especially happy about heights, but if there’s water beneath me I’m less worried. If you tumble off the Eiffel Tower onto the Parisian plaza below you’ll splat like a bag of cat food, but have a marginally better chance tumbling and a-hollerin’ into the ocean. Or something like this.
So, in I went. And many of you will nod at the news that I was wearing cut-off jeans.
Yes, swimming jeans.
As I fell towards the icy-ness I remembered the sea-lions I’d seen at Pier 39 in San Francisco, but doubted, somehow, that I shared their sleek, natural entry.
Flopping off that pylon Benny yelled after me, in acknowledgement of my Whyalla Norrie-inspired swimming jeans, “You’ll need a XXXX when you come up.”
“Yeah, and a Winny Blue,” my voice ascended, as I descended.
I love a jetty. Strolling along one is good for the soul as there’s something nourishing in the relationship between water and land, people and nature, and the crisp breeze and your open face.
I think again of my old friend John Malone and his poetic ode to these beautiful structures
from jetties, dream from jetties
tranquillity. They are
walkways into and out of
the mind. Umbilical
chords attaching us to the sea.