Camping at Carnaby's - Lake Grace
It’s almost a decade since I spent any time in Lake Grace, a wheatbelt town with just 507 people. I was here for a project called North of Us with nine other creatives from Denmark (WA) - multi-media artists, musicians, wordsmiths…and me, the photographer. We spent a week getting to know the surrounding landscape and community, each responding through art. By day, we based ourselves at the town’s incredible Multi-Use Art Space. When the supermarket shut its doors years ago, the building was bought by talented and respected Lake Grace artists Tania Spencer and Kerrie Argent, both veteran exhibitors at Sculptures by the Sea, both at Cottesloe WA and Bondi NSW.
As the sun set we’d meet back at camp, and over dinner and a couple of drinks we’d share our experiences of the day, a poem might be read and become a song, and new ideas would flow. It was a really special time and strong, lasting friendships were formed between us, and with Tania and Kerrie.
Someone else we met back then was Jill Duckworth. With her husband Jeff, she took us to a magic spot at the back of their farm. Most of their land is flat (most of the wheatbelt is flat!), dedicated to growing various grains, and very, very dry. But there’s a little corner that’s a sanctuary of vibrant coloured salmon gums, gimlets, and mallees at the base of a large granite outcrop, and Jill invited us to camp there anytime.
I’d never forgotten how special it was at Carnaby’s Rock. It’s where old Cecil Carnaby had built his home which can still be found - now years past being a handyman’s dream or renovator’s delight, its walls are almost at the crucial angle where the lean could end in total collapse with the help of a strong breeze. Beyond the old house, there’s plenty of other evidence of Cecil’s time there. He had a fine collection of old cars some of which are still dotted amongst the bush, alongside long-dead farm equipment. Their colours have changed over the years to match the rusty reds, browns and greens of the trees. Incidentally the Carnaby cockatoo is named after Cecil - a pretty neat claim to fame.
So when we’ve not been out and about exploring, that is where we’ve been for the last week - living in our camper parked up on the granite rock. As coast huggers used to the background white noise of the ocean, we’ve been acutely aware of the silence and any sound that breaks it. At sunrise it’s the rowdy galahs perched in the salmon gums, shouting at each other and the world, and at sunset as the wind picks up it’s the rustling of great strips of peeling bark and leaves of the trees around us. I’m reminded constantly of a song that musicians Jude Iddison and Tony King wrote during North of Us, singing of the native local trees that “Dance like a mad woman shedding her clothes.”