Our farm landscape is becoming parched. The long, hot summer days have bleached the grass, turning it to shades of soft gold. The sheep spend their days camped under the shade of gum trees, made restless only by their alarm at the presence of a small boy riding his motorbike, or a truck with small passengers who gleefully insist on tooting the horn.
Life has resumed its usual rhythm of school and work commitments, but still we steal away for weekends at the beach to capture the magic of blue skies and swimming for as long as we can manage. We swim in the largest southern-facing coastline in the world, where warm currents from the Timor Sea meet the cold waters of the arctic Leeuwin Current. At this time of year, this can mean swimming in relative comfort one day to needing a full wetsuit the next as the sea temperature drops: a process known as the Bonney Upwelling.
In Melbourne (for a catch-up with Dr. Chris and Dr. Xand, for those in the know!), I witnessed the "Super" blue moon - two full moons in one month, unusually close to earth. The brilliance of the moon couldn't be obscured, even in the middle of the brightly lit city. It came as little surprise, then, to see that the tides on our beloved beach have been, first, unusually high and, this week, the lowest we've ever witnessed. We discovered rocky pathways to hidden beaches, and majestic sandstone cliffs transformed into magical shapes by the power of the ocean.
What a privilege it is to find that the tides conceal a magical world, safe beneath the strong currents and the churning waves. A range of colours and shapes the most gifted artist would struggle to conjure up; a diversity and resilience the most sophisticated human population might only dream of emulating.
One day the sun admitted,
I am just a shadow.
I wish I could show you the infinite incandescence
That has cast my brilliant image!
I wish I could show you,
When you are lonely or in darkness,
The astonishing Light
Of your own Being!
Hafiz - My Brilliant Image
Because of the intersection of these warm and cold currents, and our stable geology, many of these species are genetically unique, and have adapted to our environment over millions of years. While seaweed is a centrally important source of nutrients for many cultures, these local species are increasingly being investigated for their protective and functional properties. Protocols around use of compounds in medicine are necessarily rigorous, but it will be an exciting challenge to discover possibilities from basic harvesting and processing of the seaweed into palatable foods and seasonings.