Swan River, waterway at the heart of Perth

STEPHEN SCOURFIELD traces the 24-hour cycle of the Swan River


A bull shark bite in Blackwall Reach brought the Swan River into the news ... but it is always there, in our everyday awareness, theming the city and our history.


Listen to the sound of the river gently shushing, as it laps up on a small beach with tiny white shells. Listen to the river. See the Swan River.

In the golden light it is preparing for night ... the start of our 24-hour cycle, of watching and feeling and hearing the river whispering in all its moods.

The night comes with stealth. It falls gently, floats in like velvet smothering the day, softly shrouding the river in pink, purple, crimson, then gold, then a mantle dark, drifting in, descending soft, blanketing and hushing.

The simmering night reduces the meandering river into something more viscous — some syrup, some sort of comfort food for a secret part of the human soul.

Night herons manifest like ghosts along the shoreline, surreptitious in the muffled and muted night. Big beaked and solid bodied, lurking under piers and bridges, behind framework and girder, only vaguely in view. They seem to embody a night that is stalking nocturnal stories; pervading private thoughts. Obscure ornithological anecdote has it that night herons can throw out light from their chests. I’ve never seen this, although the herons regularly spy on me, along the Swan River — upright, but never alight.

Read the full story here.


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