On Sunday as I cycled along the bike path between the horse stables and the creek, I was still oblivious to the fact that the banner I'd failed to read on several other passes was promoting something that I was actually interested in....
However when I rolled toward the 'Red Footbridge' near the freshwater barrage I realized my foolishness for not having read the sign!
As the bridge came into focus, so too did a pile of white and yellow bags filled to the brim with rubbish, discarded bottles, cans and those inflatable foil wine bladders!
(Rapid Creek Landcare Member - with bags - Name omitted due to my shocking memory)
The sign was promoting the Rapid Creek Clean-up Day and I had made other arrangements! I remember saying on previous years that I would definitely help...
I rode past under a cloud of shame as others were dutifully collecting all the trash bottles and debris produced by the abundance of human apathy. (hey I really love the creek OK!) Most of the stuff had been left there by local drinkers, too pissed, ignorant or just plain sick to clean up after themselves. (A complicated series of problems that we could probably find strong correlations between the health of the people and the state of our natural environment but let's not go there now)
I had a brief chat with a couple of the people there but had to keep on moving, promising I'd lend a hand if they were still going when I returned.
By the time I got back to the Clean-up Base Camp most of the volunteers had gone home, but a huge pile of bags filled with trash remained leaning against a tree. Tara the organizer of the clean-up event was still there. I apologized for not paying attention to the sign and missing out on the clean-up to which she replied, "There's still plenty of rubbish lying around" Then I was asked which colour bag I'd prefer to use... Lucky for me I wasn't looking for excuses!
They'd already cleaned away a massive amount of trash but with so much there is always some remaining. I was pointed in the direction of a patch that may have been missed and off I went, bag in hand.
I have to say walking along the banks of Rapid Creek on my own and collecting rubbish turned out to be quite a special experience. I was only out there for about an hour but in that time I removed a huge variety of plastic bags, bottles, a bicycle wheel and even a blanket. I also got to explore parts of the creek that I don't usually see. As I walked I began to slow down and listen to the environment around me. Even though I wasn't very far from the road, I could still hear the traffic, but there was a serene quietness around me that I found quite soothing. I saw several species of birds and sat in the shade of a majestic Milkwood tree. Once my bag was full and I'd cleared, what was a reasonable amount of junk away from the creek, I headed home feeling somehow more content and happy, more centered than I recall feeling for a while.
(Sample of what can be found along Rapid Creek before the Land Care Group does it's thing)
Over the years my relationship with Rapid Creek has swung from being particularly concerned with the future of the creek and it's amazing riparian habitats, to one of detachment as I felt my concerns for environmental degradation tearing me up inside until I had to step back. I have always enjoyed the creek, riding along the cycle paths, paddling on the ocean side of Trower Rd, the unusual fermenting smell of the mangroves even the hoards of fruit bats that rise from their roosts in the evening. Somehow though after having collected rubbish on Sunday my concern and desire for a connection with the creek have once again grown into a need to actively love and care for this very special space. I love the paperbark swamps that drain a pure cool and clean water, filled with small fish, crustaceans and all kinds of micro and macro invertebrates. I love the shady banks, the gnarled roots and the delicate ferns they support. I love the deep straight channels of fresh water flowing strongly through swamp box and the cool dark riparian undergrowth full of frogs and forest birds. I love the wide inlet where fresh and salt waters mingle and I love the abundance of life that flourishes around the mouth of the creek as it releases it's fresh water into the open sea.
I have shared all these things with my children who have come to know this water too. For them it is normal to watch egrets wander between the horses and cows at Rapid Creek Stables, or look down from the bridge to see garfish swimming against the tide. They know to expect a kingfisher or two on their way to the park at Jingli and that if they're lucky maybe a tree snake or the occasional Shell Duck on the footbridge. These are all part of life when you live near Rapid Creek.
It's time to commit to the glorious Rapid Creek while it still possesses all those magical qualities that other urban creeks and rivers have been robbed of! It's time to make a firm commitment to care more deeply and intentionally for a creek that has already given so much to me!