Postcards from Byron: James Bradley on the beauty of dusk

As we settle into winter and the shorter days that come with it, we welcome this week’s Postcard from Byron, a timely reminder from author James Bradley to soak up the beauty of dusk and the feelings of reverence this time of day can bring.

The Cooks River on dusk

In recent weeks I’ve taken to walking at dusk, partly for exercise, partly as an excuse to get out of the house. The route I take varies, but most days I walk from my home in Marrickville to the Cooks River and follow the river path east toward Hurlstone Park.

The Cooks River runs through Sydney’s inner west, dividing suburbs like Campsie and Marrickville from Ashbury and Undercliffe. Despite its name it is really an estuary, a winding finger of salty water lined with mangroves.

Before the European invasion, this part of the river was Cadigal and Bediagal country, and although we do not know for certain what they called it, some believe its name was Goolay’yari, or “pelican”. These days there aren’t many pelicans, at least not in the section that flows through Marrickville; instead there are swamphens and ibises. But at dusk it has a special beauty. For as the sun sets, the still water reflects its colours, together with the twisting trunks and massing canopies of the mangroves, their outlines disturbed by the occasional ripples as a fish breaks the surface. Meanwhile, other things reveal themselves: the sagging fences of the houses that back onto the paths, with their confusion of white-shrouded fruit trees and overgrown bushes, the mynahs gathering noisily in the trees along the Golf Course, the pale belly of a pied cormorant perched ghostly and silent on a branch just above the water.

The past few weeks have not been easy – my mother died two days before New South Wales went into lockdown, an event that has imbued the weirdness of this moment with an even deeper sense of loss and dislocation. But in the dusk by the river it often seems possible to let go of all that and lose myself in the quiet, the feeling this place and its inhabitants are part of a larger cycle, a movement from day to day, season to season, that continues on irrespective of human concerns.

About James Bradley

James Bradley is a writer and critic. His books include the novels WrackThe Deep FieldThe ResurrectionistClade and, most recently, Ghost Species, which available to purchase here from The Book Room at Byron (free same-day delivery within the Byron Shire). Read more from Bradley here.

Conversations from Byron podcast

This week we are also excited to announce the first podcast in our Conversations from Byron series, featuring fresh conversations with writers from the 2020 Festival line-up. In this first episode, James Bradley talks with Sophie Cunningham about his newly released novel Ghost Species.

With thanks

These projects are supported by our friends at the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, who are generously funding participation fees for Australian authors, allowing us to re-imagine the 2020 Festival program. Please stay tuned for further news. Thanks also to our long-term funding partner, Create NSW.

Byron Writers Festival