Denmark Diaries: An ode to the Great Southern

Jayden Oneil Writer freelance

At the shore of the Denmark Estuary, a man threw a line. The strong south westerly had abated and the blinding sun set. The light dimmed and the spectrum of hues saturated the river. He stood still, pensively staring onto the horizon like a supplicant of the southwest. I noticed he didn’t have a bucket for the fish.

I felt beckoned to return to Denmark, my childhood home, an old milling town, which still holds a few old growths, towering as guardians of the Great Southern. I remember marveling at their majestic size, imagining the trunks as repositories of ancient knowledge now forgot. On arrival, I drove past the town, the old familiar streets, to the coast where the limestone escarpments line the untamed, turgid Indian. I paddled out, watching the waves crack ferociously on the shallow bank, and wished for once that another surfer would paddle out, too. I took big breaths to try and relax in nature’s unsettling dominion, the choppy surface, the fierce winds. The comfort of land and the solace of a hot drink coaxed. I stopped off at a farmhouse café. The 19th century limestone building with earthen floors and jarrah decking looked out to the rolling foothills. I observed a man with an old rotary tend to a small veggie patch on the prairie, a shout out to the lives of our forebears, a stripped back simplicity. He hoed to the rhythms of the countryside. I bumped into the parents of a childhood friend and learnt he was married with a child on the way. He’d settled down after completing an apprenticeship and built a house with the help of his family on the in-law’s property. From all accounts, he was happy. An elemental man content with life’s humble offerings.

The man at the Estuary, after the moon all elliptical and luminous had risen, rolled up the hand line. I watched him walked past. He held the reel, his fingers counting the jigs like prayer beads, an emblem to nature’s cathedral, and he left, slowly walking along the road, a vagrant pilgrim of the country, and he was gone.