“This vast real,interior one in which we remain linked to the dead (because the dream inside us ignores trivialities like breath or absence ) this vast life is not under our control .Everything we have seen and everyone we have known goes into us and constitutes us ,whether we like it or not .We are linked together in a pattern we cannot see and whose effects we cannot know. “(Anne Funder All that I Am ”(pg. 127)

Its a glorious winter day and I”m running along the coast from the main settlement,Thomson Bay,towards Geordie Bay.No-one else around .Through the small path past the old campsite under the trees. The grass is green this time of year ,the sun creating shadows between the trees which are moving in the early morning breeze .Theres the Basin looking icy cold with waves rushing in .

Today the Basin is  not too rough,but its still chilly and pretty churned up

Remember the time mum swum here and got too far out .We pulled each other back to the beach laughing so much we scarcely made it ,flailing arms and legs as the strong current tugged us back towards the rocks .Meanwhile dad sat under the overhanging rocks smoking his pipe ,oblivious.

Mum and dad with me and a toddler In the sand at the Basin and they’re building sandcastles Their first time out here ,so happy to be with us and staying in the little huts over the rise .The huts are gone .

I climb the small hill after the Basin and I’m really powering along this morning
Down the hill into Fays,and there is a guy taking photos of the Bay .He smiles :“Where on earth would you rather be ?’ And I realise that this day ,this time,there is nowhere else.
I have run,walked,biked,staggered along this path many times over the last 40 or so years.Today I run happily.

Looking back to the curve of Geordie Bay

Past the Geordie Bay store on my right and a loop back to the main path .I pause at the top looking down at Parakeet Bay and back at the curve of Geordie.I think I can pick out the unit we stayed in one summer holiday.Many hours spent on the beach below,escaping when we could to the balcony above.There we sat drinking and chatting while checking on the kids beneath :
“stop drowning him””don’t throw sand”,”pick him up’,’it’s his turn now ‘’and the final threat ‘you’ll have to come inside “

I look towards Parakeet ,and decide not to go down that hill we trudged up at the end of a day;The sun extra hot as it hit the bitumen and kids whining and crying as their feet burnt (told them to wear shoes !)and legs tired,Us grumpy adults pushing a younger child while balancing all the beach paraphernalia.

I turn to my left to the tarred road winding between the salt lakes back to Thomson .Down the slope I glide and the lake to my right,usually pink, is an indeterminate blue-grey with the while fairy floss foam moving softly on its surface,The water is low for this time of year ,but the ducks and other birds don’t seem to mind


Then I reach the bottom of the hill and turn left again to see the back of the Lodge and the lake in front of it.Theres the bush,strange non native palm trees,and fig trees that have assumed a variety of odd shapes through the years.If I squint I can just see the birds flying out from the wet surrounds over the other side .I close my eyes to see my father in his winter garb of brown jacket pulled up around his ears,corduroy cap on head .A younger me walks along beside him and we are with a group of birdwatchers so we are very quiet .Its very early ,just dawn and the lake is still obscured in a silvery mist .The ground is muddy and all the shrubs and plants are covered in a film of tiny stars .

looking from the  road over the lake to Rottnest Lodge ,and to where dad and I  went birdwatching

Opposite the lake is the Island Cemetery -13 identified graves ,4 of them babies.When I’m not running I always come and read the gravestones that are still legible Wonder about the lives of these people.There are sad stories here .The cemetery is overgrown and the stones are in need of repair, but directly under the hill protected by the sturdy Rottnest pines they have become a part of the landscape

The few remaining intact gravestones just outside Thomson

Now back at the settlement ,so I slow down and jog/shuffle past the lodge to the Aboriginal Burial ground .The ground is now marked out and the old houses that were built on top of the bones of the dead have been pulled down.Finally the men and their history is being recognised and honoured.



Double back to Vincent Way and past the large Thomson heritage house on the corner ,where a long time ago it seems ,the whole family celebrated Christmas. Lots of special food ,drink ,stories and talk .Inevitably there were also arguments .But this was Rottnest after all …
The little kids swung on the tree alongside the wall that now has a warning sign about the long drop .Teenagers disappeared all day to surf ,swim,or meet at the amusement park and bakery ,and at night to Pinkies beach

A little boy peddling on the other side of the island,on a bike too large for him ,surfboard held to his side ,up the hill towards Strickland bay .It’s stinking hot and he’s red in the face.the second time he’s cycled that way today.12 years old about .He’s so little and so full of intent ,so resolved to get a surf .He’s already been out early and come back for breakfast ,now he’s out again while surf is good .Will be back at dusk.

Dad in his bathers and sunburned ,mum in flowery bathers worrying about him wearing his hat and putting on suncream (“Be brown tomorrow “he says )Memories of dad everywhere .We stayed in a lot of houses over the years .He is off to the beach,shirt peeled off the old shorts mum hated pulled up to the waist ,cloth sun hat too small for his head ,beloved sandals on his feet.And there is mum pursuing him with the suncream
He spent whole mornings with the little ones making sandcastles and taking them into the water.He was often joined by mum who collected shells and helped decorate the sand mermaids .
Food was mums speciality and we had some good Christmas cake here ,and roast dinners with all the trimmings .Afternoon teas with jam donuts from the bakery ,white bread cheese and tomato sandwiches for lunch followed by the iced fruit loaf with loads of butter .Always a desert ,like apple pie with lashings of full fat cream .

The house facing Thomson bay ,and the trees the kids swung on alongside the sea wall

My morning run ends back at Thomson.Today I turn 70 ,and I buy a cake from the bakery for tonight’s celebration No chunky homemade fruit cake now mum is not here to do the cooking.Much less alcohol and fewer stories and songs ,or arguments. But I had a run this morning on one of the loveliest places on earth,and the family gathers around to sing Happy Birthday .

This is Rottnest after all.

(Rottnest Island, off the coast of Western Australia ,20 minutes by boat from Perth .It was once place where Aboriginal Prisoners were sent.Many died in this harsh and foreign envirionment.Later it housed prisoners of war .It then became a holiday destination for Western Australians ,and now international tourists )