Friday, September 21, 2012

What was he thinking?

The car with its hefty caravan pulls up in a flurry of dust and stones. She gets out and looks with wonder at the white, salt encrusted lake, camera clicking with rapid fire enthusiasm. He lumbers out, scowling with disgust. This does not bode well. I detect a lack of shared interest even before she approaches; friendly, curious, questioning.
How far to the lake? Can you get down to it? How long would it take? What is the surface like? Is there water? Can you fish? So many questions - so little time. He's already slammed the door and is revving the engine, impatient to leave. He taps his watch with meaningful, sour-faced irritation. With a last longing glance and final photo, she scurries to the passenger seat and clicks the seat belt to secure herself firmly next to Mr Grump.

Oh dear.  A holiday in the desert with long, long distances between habitation, is not the place to discover you have different needs and interests. Entwined in their dance of dissatisfaction and mutual frustration, this interlude highlights what can go wrong when the needs of one are dismissed with irritated indifference.

Lake Hart, whilst it may have been flooded earlier in the year has reverted to its more usual state - producing salt in abundance. It wouldn't rate on Great Fishing Destinations of the World. To turn up anticipating all the rigmarole of a fishing destination was either foolish or naive. The unhappy reality is that there are no cheerful jettys and boat-ramps crowded with like minded fisherfolk, casting lines into fresh, azure water, sharing information about bait and lures in a cheerful hubbub of camaraderie.

Lake Hart, is a salt lake, like most in central Australia. Flooding is rare, yet when it happens sea birds appear as if by magic to feed from the rich waters and breed in the surrounds. Even at its height, it's not the spot for a city fisherman, no matter how strongly he wishes.  

Cocooned close to a sour, pouting partner who is affronted that his plans have been stymied would be a challenge. He appears like the spoilt child who had been promised sweets but the bag broke and everyone around will pay with his sulking offended intolerance.
The gift of an hour or less is all that was needed. Hardly generous in the scheme of things. An hour out of a three week holiday. Evident only is snarling dismissiveness at her curiosity, at her pleasure in the stark beauty and surreal aspect of the unexpected treasure that is Lake Hart.
Much later, at the camp ground at Woomera, we overhear his surly tone bemoaning the lack of fishing. He's spent the long afternoon, sitting on his softly padded chair in the dust, scowling over the corrugated iron fence toward the far distant horizon.

Desperate to communicate, she has sought out female company, finds herself welcomed, nurtured and accepted.

Later, much later, after walking around the strange town that is Woomera, watching the sun set over the desert, we startle an emu spying for camp dinner leftovers, then see the tightly shuttered van, the flickering of the TV, holding two pinched, unhappy, shrivelled souls.

These long hours, sadly wasted in the choking dust of non-communication and unfulfilled needs. He won't be happy till he's home in his familiar fishing grounds, surrounded by the sameness and uneventful familiarity of knowing what to expect. It's going to be a long drive back if he chooses not to shake off his annoyance that the environment didn't submit to his expectations. The flimsy caravan walls can barely contain the discontent of their respective unmet needs.


I've been having a lot of trouble with Blogger lately. Posts won't save easily and photos can take ages to load. I'm giving Wordpress a trial and have repeated this post here ...


Liza said...

Oh my...great depth of feeling here. I caught myself sighing thinking of the long trip back.

sue said...

Thanks for the feedback Liza, that was the feeling I hoped to capture. I hope things are going well for you and your family.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. I never got to the salt flats in Botswana .. but I gather tiny shrimp like creatures appear whenever it rains ... the dormancy of some creatures is incredible.

Love the photos .. and can imagine your trip ... cheers Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. I tried the Wordpress link and it flunked - the header changed though .. I tried twice! H