Apart from having wanted to write since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and being surrounded by a magnificent cheer squad of family and friends, what is it that inspires me to put fingers to keyboard? What gets my creative juices flowing? What fills my cup and makes it runneth over? Quite simply, where I live.
My home is in the beautiful seaside town of Narooma on the New South Wales South Coast. We are fortunately situated just far enough from Sydney and Canberra to put us outside the reach of sun and surf-seeking weekenders, but close enough to be able to access bright lights and busy streets if we want to. Narooma boasts a population of 8500 and we have one traffic light. It’s not even a proper traffic light – just a crossing so that grannies can get across the road at the shops.
To the east we have miles and miles of stunning coastline with literally dozens of pristine beaches. The sun rises behind Montague Island, a marine sanctuary which is home to fur seals and massive colonies of sea birds. At night the skies are lit by intermittent beams from the lighthouse. Between Montague Island and the coast, the whales migrate twice a year, heading north in the autumn and south in the spring. Dolphins frolic in the foam.
To the west we have the Wagonga Inlet, a fisherman’s paradise where rivers and creeks flow out of the mountains forming into sheltered bays before making their way to the sea. The inlet is a tidal estuary – complete with mangroves – which makes it the perfect habitat for oysters, a fact we celebrate each year at our Oyster Festival, an orgy of gorging on molluscs. And watching over us is Gulaga, the Mother Mountain, a sacred and special place for local Aboriginal women.
Narooma is a magnet for boaties. We have a small marina for yachts and BBQ boats, and a wharf where the big fishing boats and whale-watching vessels tie up. HWB is very excited this weekend because we have just become boaties! We are now the proud owners of a tinny in which we plan to go on picnic and fishing adventures up the inlet. NB: for foreign readers, a tinny is a small open aluminium boat with an outboard motor, but the term may also be used to refer to a can of beer.
I’ve always been a nature lover and have done a stack of bushwalking over the years. Australia is a stunning place but nowhere have I come across such an abundance of natural wonders as I’ve found on our Sapphire Coast. When I step out onto our back deck in the morning I’m greeted by a chorus of bird song featuring kookaburras, sulphur-crested cockatoos, wattle birds, superb blue fairy wrens, rosellas, rainbow lorikeets, king parrots, wonga pigeons and literally dozens of other species. Of all the birds though, my supreme favourite is the majestic white-bellied sea eagle.
This beautiful painting, by local artist Nicole Grimm-Hewitt, hangs in my study and never fails to lift me up. I am stilled into awe each time I see one of these imperial birds circling overhead or perched surveying their domain from the top of a spotted gum tree. Our coast has plenty of rocky outcrops and remote fastnesses where the sea eagles like to nest and rear their young. After becoming quite endangered they are now doing well in this part of the world and I am afforded regular opportunities to satisfy my eagle longing.
Not all the wonders fly. Our bush is teeming with kangaroos and wallabies, goannas and echidnas, tiny shy sugar gliders and rambunctious possums. And it wouldn’t be Australia if we didn’t have a suitable sprinkling of the more terrifying and venomous snakes and spiders. I don’t mess with them, and I find that they are quite happy not to mess with me.
I love it when visitors come to stay with us from interstate or overseas. I feel a delightful proprietary satisfaction when I see their eyes goggling at the gorgeousness of our seaside paradise. When I casually suggest a stroll along the headland at the bar, where the inlet meets the sea, I know I’m going to have the pleasure of wowing them with a sighting of one of our fur seals basking on the rocks. I can usually summon up a sea eagle fly by too.
I travel a lot for work, and over the past 10 years I’ve spend about an average of 12 weeks a year in far-flung locations. I’ve been to almost 70 countries, and while I’ve seen many beautiful and fascinating places there is never anything to match the satisfaction of driving over the Narooma bridge and coming home.
I know just how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place. It’s safe to say I don’t have any trouble meeting my daily gratitude quota 🙂 And when I’m looking for writing inspiration I need merely to step out of my front door and decide which glorious beach, sun-dappled forest or fern-clad mountain to explore.
So, when it came to selecting a location for my novel the answer was obvious. It will be set, primarily, in Narooma. Harking back to those writing advisers again, they all say that you should write about what you know. I know this coast, and my tale will unfold here. In these months before we leave for Carcassonne, I’m going to be soaking it all up and trying to capture something of the flavour of it in my writer’s note book (a gift from my editor/friend Rachel – thanks hon!).
When I walk in the bush, or along the coast, I never know what I will find around the corner. But I can be pretty sure it will be inspiring. And always through the trees, or around the next headland there will be glimpses promising further adventure. I hear there’s a river in Carcassonne …
PS: all the photos in today’s post were taken by me or HWB #nofilters