STORIES - The Beach
F25 The Beach 2016 spice jars, shells, glass, plastic et al
When I was growing up in a small seaside town in Queensland, quite a number of activities involved acquiring food, some were tasks like maintaining plots of pineapples and bananas, raising ducklings and chickens, gathering mushrooms in the neighbour’s cow paddock ( that farmer also introduced me to molasses which he kept to feed his poddy-calves, I adored it). Other neighbours had mango trees, mulberries and guavas. I remember eating parrot pie, my elder brother had shot the birds. We only had it the once though, they were so small, all bones and no meat, it was not worth the effort. But the sea and its bounty was a different matter, we fished, for yabbies and eels in waterholes, oysters and mud crabs in the mangroves and row boats out to the whiting grounds or to the reef. My dad and his mates netted Australian Salmon and Mullet from the beach, the women scaled and cleaned the catch, the men cooked on a wood fire, leftovers were made into fishcakes, taken home in the esky on the remains of the block of ice that had cooled the beer.
This sculpture embodies the wealth of our seas today through materials collected on walks along my local beach; crustacea, cuttlefish, molluscs, pippi shells, glass, plastic......
The morning beach walk takes about 30 minutes from the headland to rocky headland, an hour all up. When I first started almost no plastic was in evidence, or did I just not notice? Now I collect any plastic found, most mornings the beach is relatively clean. On others 3 or 4 pieces are found, the most common are fishermen's bait bags and bits of helium balloons, followed by water bottles and small food wrappers but once or twice a year, after rough seas, it can be one to two kilos of plastic usually one or two large plastic containers or bags and lots of small pieces. In a world context I suppose this local beach is probably almost pristine.
But the worthless detritus discarded by an unthinking humanity is not all that is found on the beach, on this bright December morning, Pig-face, that sprawling seaside succulent flashing purple flowers at the sun is covered in ripe red fruit. Soft and sweet salty spheres of white flesh squeezed into the mouth is the perfect way to finish a walk, just a few, leave some for the other animals that patrol the beaches and dunes, leave enough for re-generation. Besides, I grow it in my garden, though my fruit is not ripe as yet.
Fruit of Pig-face, Carpobrotus glaucescens, which grows on Australia’s eastern seaboard