thomas m wilson

The Virtue of Being a Savage in the Blue

January 21st, 2010


I live in the south-west of the Australian continent. Although if you look at an ariel photograph of the city of Perth you won’t see much wilderness, you could be mistaken.  The eleven year old boy, marvelling at the living creation, lives on.  The blue on the map hides something.

The other morning I was on Rottnest Island with a group of friends.  I clambered over the rocks.  Alone for this experience.   It is good to be alone in nature – after being in the human realm so much one needs a shot of the primal elements straight, no chaser.  One needs a face to face sensual interaction with air, water on skin, rocks under feet, other species looking indignantly at one and then backing away, sounds sifting under one’s membrane of hearing.  I dived down, using my body, feeling my body moving, and at the depth of three or so metres I grabbed hold of some brown, green sea weed, sloughing in the wave motions of the sea, and watched a well camaflouged brown fish back in and out of its covey of weed.  All the domesticities of washing up, putting clothes away, are washed clean from one’s screen with a trip to the ocean.  Blown away with the trip out.  The fresh air of going forth, taking only one’s body and a towel, and slipping into a wild biota.  Going down, the warm salty water slipping over the body.  And it enlivens the system.  The doctor should surely prescribe a regular interaction with the more than human world once per week.  Jacque Cousteau stands for more than a faded seventies tv fashion.  He stands for the virtue of being a savage in the blue.

fishThese photos were taken on a $45 underwater camera.  Steve Andrews, a PhD student at Curtin University, was exploring the idea of bring out people’s appreciation of the marine environment through giving them cameras and sending them forth to take photos of things that mean something to them.  Steve’s project is called Show Us Your Ocean, and if you’re in the Yallingup/Margaret River area of south-west Australia, where he’s normally based, then I suggest you get involved.


A school of kingfish, or yellow-tailed amberjacks, cruised past me, rays of sunlight dappling their pelagic muscles.  These big, fast pelagic predators used to be sometimes found in the Swan estuary in the nineteenth century, but no longer.  Their power is humbling to be around.

The heat has been far too much this last weekend in Fremantle and Perth – so hot that every few hours I would wake at night, unable to sleep because of the temperature in my room, go take a cold shower, then go back to sleep for a while before involuntarily waking up again.  But apart from the ocean there is another thing I like doing in this weather.  Projecting old, rare footage from Jamaica and its musical heritage in my garden.  Good friends, hot nights, good music.  With a couple of cold beers, some uplifting well amplified island riddims, and a mist of water now then sprayed over the grooving crowd… moments like those when you loose yourself in the music and the motion and you feel your spirit rising up… make everything seem worthwhile.

NuggetIain McCloud of the band Nugget, spotted at a big, underground party this last weekend in Fremantle.

The elements are in place.  Summer has finally arrived.