Academic journal article Hecate

Elephant Rock

Academic journal article Hecate

Elephant Rock

Article excerpt

It is 1997. The voice of the piece is Claire's voice. Claire, Gerda and Bryce are housemates in Carlton, an inner suburb of Melbourne.

Rose is daughter of sole parent Gerda. Her boyfriend Beanstalk is not well liked by Gerda.

Elephant Rock is a natural for at Bushrangers' Bay in the Cape Schanck National Park near Melbourne.

**********

We start out at a brisk clip so as to be ahead of a party of religious children being shepherded in prayer. Clumps of bush and broad strips of banksia forest surround the blazed trail to Elephant Rock, with velvet folds of baldy pasture forming a background of open farmland beyond the park reserve. We are making our way along a ridge, staying just below its crest.

The seriously fit Bryce sets a cracking pace which it is soon clear we shall not maintain. He slows for us, then resorts to streaking ahead and returning, back and forth, so as to ward off dawdler's itch in his muscles. He wears light clothes and sophisticated walkers--just the thing for pressing ahead with the largest backpack.

Stavros is wearing unsprung sneakers, baggy old trousers and a windcheater. A little of the bulk round his middle would have to count as superfluous and he soon shows signs of being out of condition--signs he tries first to ignore, then to conceal. But soon enough he has to fall back with us.

'Bryce is always full of beans,' I say. My lame effort to include Stavros. He plods on.

We come to a more expansive area of banksia forest with strident resident birds. A few banksia flowers sit stiffly around on their trees like short fat candles. The leaves are leathery dark on the upside, but powdery silver on the downside, reflecting light downwards to create distinctive faerie light.

The banksia cones on trees and underfoot are dressed in tan velveteen penetrated here and there by woody beaks and open lips which are the casing for the actual seeds, gentle papery things suited to wind travel.

   'You have to take it slowly to see this properly.' I wave
   around.

   'I can't keep up with him,' says Stavros.

   I hunt and find an unflown banksia seed. 'Look, this
   miserable little thing is the seed after all that fuss.' I
   show him.

   He makes an effort to concentrate on the seed. 'I haven't
   been in a banksia forest before.'

The cones break apart on handling. Stavros crumbles one and broadcasts it without emerging from his brown study.

Beanstalk finds a way to hang a resplendent banksia cone with the mini Buddha on the thong round Rose's neck. I try to get Gerda to look, but Gerda does not, clearly will not look at Beanstalk's antics. She eyeballs me, casts eyes to heaven and exhales sharply, breathing out all thoughts of Beanstalk.

Nearly all the birds hereabouts are vociferous wattle birds, with their two voices. They vary their main language of harsh declamation (worse than chooks) with sweet light warbling.

Bryce completely disappears while we potter. Coming out of the banksias, we speed up in hopes of sighting him. But as we reach a place where for the first time we can see the water and the Elephant, Rose and Beanstalk sit down, saying they will catch us up. Keeping out of Gerda's way?

The humping for that is Elephant Rock is much bigger than an elephant more the size of an aircraft hangar for a Brobdingnagian jumbo jet. It is separated by beach from its headland. With generous imaginative help, in profile from up here, it can be seen as an elephant up to its belly in water, head lowered and trunk plunged deep in the surf. Shadow gives illusion of an elephant ear. No visible tail.

It can be seen as an elephant, that is to say, if elephants have a place in your bestiary.

As we reach the descent to the beach, Bryce drops to the path behind us. 'I left the track,' he says. Still affrontingly fresh, he bounds past and down the shelving sandy steps. …

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