It was a grey and rainy day as I began my explorations around Kangaroo Island; my first trip to this wonderful place. I had just gone for a tour at Cape Borda Lightstation, located on the north-west tip of the island and one of the few square lighthouses in Australia. There, my guide had casually mentioned that Harveys Return was a geological site that I should visit on the way back. The beach, surrounded by tall cliffs, was the site chosen to unload all the materials and equipment necessary for the construction of the lighthouse in 1958, despite the logistical constraints posed by the steepness of the terrain.
I followed the steep path to Harveys Return and listened intently. Not hearing any bird songs, my expectations were set pretty low as I realised that I maybe wasn’t going to see much wildlife. Looking up, I noticed the eucalypts – their bends, nodes, vibrant colours, and stillness despite the few occasional branches swaying in the wind. Despite everything life throws at them and their inability to escape the elements, these trees are still standing, tall, tortured, yet unique and beautiful.
As the path got steeper, I had to pay attention to where I was putting my feet and began to notice the rocks that paved the way. I was starting to understand and appreciate why this area was classified as a geological site. My mind was blown. The zebra schists and surrounding rocks looked as though they’d been painted by the hands of patient artists over time, and then dropped in random places. Every rock had different colours, patterns, sizes and shapes, and yet their coexistence was harmonious. I was finding them all as beautiful as each other.
I wanted to photograph every psychedelic line on the surface of every stone. While looking for a heart-shaped rock to contrast with the zebra schists’ lines, I started noticing other elements of the landscape: twisted roots at the interface between rock and tree, shiny shells here and there, a few colourful algae and a handful of washed-up sponges. Each of these objects began to take life in my photographs. I could have spent hours – and I probably did, I lost track of time – capturing every one of them in a different composition, although I was never completely happy with the results as my artificial creations failed to accurately portray nature’s perfection.
As my creativity increased by the minute, there were mixed feelings fighting inside of me. Nostalgia – because life usually passes me by as I’m caught up in routine and trying to make it in the busy and competitive field of academia, where work always seems to take priority over being in the environment I claim to study. Sadness – of being alone with no one else to witness the magic I felt surrounded by. Anger – at feeling like no matter how hard I tried, even with a well-composed photograph or a carefully crafted story, I’d never quite be able to convey the perfection of it all. Fear – of blinking and having this moment disappear forever. Pride – for finally allowing myself to take some time off work to be in nature, even if it meant doing it alone. Thankful – for being the one, that day, who got to be here and wander amongst these pieces of art, formed by natural forces so strong and so immense my mind could not even begin to envision them. Inspiration – the urge to write about this moment in the hope that people would want to seek similar experiences and take a moment of their busy lives to spend more time in nature, and notice the beautiful inanimate elements surrounding them. Peace – as everything seemed perfectly in balance, and as though nothing could disrupt nature’s law and order. These emotions came crashing in, bubbling, breaking, mixing and receding, just like the waves I was barely paying attention to in the background.
It was getting quite late and so I had to extract myself with difficulty from my deep state of contemplation and fascination. I hiked back to my car, sat down for a moment to catch my breath and drove off. Beautiful Yellow-tailed Cockatoos, Common Brushtail Possums, Tammar Wallabies and kangaroos shifted my attention back to the living things that I usually only have eyes for and accompanied me as I carefully navigated the gravel roads back to town. I reached for the console, and turned the radio off; I didn’t need music anymore – my heart was already full.
Banner image courtesy of Elodie Camprasse.