The Seagull

We met each day at dawn and dusk, hauling ourselves and the boat down to the jetty. Sometimes The Seagull and its passengers wore burnished halos like something out of fourteenth-century Italy, other times, the silvery mist of classic fairytales. Sometimes we were baked by the heat, trailing hands and toes in the water, other times, zipped up, crisp and cool, grateful for extra layers. A sea eagle graced our first outing, black swans, pelicans, cormorants all called past, seagulls of course, the mullet were literally jumping, the daily garbage truck provided fine counterpoint, other boats came and went, children swam and squawked, dogs barked, the sea roared, everyone’s ears became softer, more attuned to the nuances around them as they sat and listened.

There were chairs on the jetty, waiting for the boat. The most beautiful foyer I’ve entered, with Wallaga Lake and Gulaga laid out before us, making it easy to understand that for centuries, Gulaga mountain has been a sacred place of teaching and healing for the Yuin people. Her presence shaped the rhythm and experience of our days.

Maddie and Tim, with Jamie, Prue and Robyn, turned a boat into an instrument. It was a skiff of stories, painted pacific blue and fleet red, with its whimsical megaphone ear cocked for listening. Jamie choreographed each journey not just after the tides, not just in beautifully sensitive response to the rhythms of Maddie and Tim’s piece, but also in response to his four passengers, whose stories and interests he inevitably knew. The water played its part too, and the density of the air, both changing the acoustics, determining which sounds carried furthest across the lake at which point on the journey.

There were land sessions too, the boat proud on its trailer, life jackets still part of the experience, and umbrellas for rain or sun, passengers sitting up tall on the headland in town, by Murrah Hall, and in the bush, listening.

Often, the work seemed to sneak up on people. They left it quiet, reflective. Especially in the mornings, there was a kind of still reverence about it. In the evenings, it was a way to unwind, to let the day float away, as people gave themselves over to the sounds.

At the picnic table by the lake, just along from the jetty, people sat for a while afterwards. Often the conversations about what it meant to them, or the memories and thoughts it spurred emerged slowly. Evenings, we gathered for BBQs and picnics, and it felt like a spontaneous, informal Seagull party. People came back for second sittings. The ripples spread further.

I’ve thought a lot about ripples since. About all the music in the world around us, and what it is to listen intently to a place and people. But more, I have been thinking about all the stories I’ll never know, all the ripples that silently and imperceptibly continue to multiply around The Seagull.

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