Living on Lord Howe Island


Clarity at Clear Place

Posted by Pinetrees Lodge – Saturday, February 10, 2018

Contributed by Denis Corcoran: I’m on my way to Clear Place and the clarity of my expectations are nebulous at best. Rounding the precipitous cliffs overlooking the majestic Middle Beach, it’s clear that this place is pretty special. Up ahead a huge imposing Banyan tree splinters the track. This powerful beast of a tree has imposed its reach far and wide. Its limbs strangle all other neighboring trees in the process and send roots to the forest floor, creating another trunk, and another stake in its territorial claim. Its divide and conquer, Banyan style.

This seems like the unofficial gateway to Clear Place. This formidable tree has stopped me in my tracks, with its multiplying arms and legs creating a wooden door frame of sorts. This Banyan is the guardian to this little nook tucked away on the eastern side of Lord Howe Island.

Weaving through these dangling root-laden ribbons, the soil is a mixture of sand and basalt, host to an array of Palm, Blackbutt and Sallywood trees. Although the undergrowth is sparse, the canopy is wedged tight with verdure.

Continuing on, it’s apparent to anyone who doesn't have their hearing aid turned off, that the place is buzzing wildly with cicadas. That distinct chirping screechy drill of a sound that unequivocally resonates with the sound of summer. The ‘summer of love’ if you’re a cicada (having spent several years underground they’re now ‘out’ and performing their shrills to attract a partner before they die).
I’m only a few meters into this walk and the serenity is burst open with the choir like chorus from the loudest insect on the planet. This collective drone of noise helps deter predators (birds) and they’re doing a good job, I haven’t heard or spotted a single bird yet.

The well-trodden path rises and falls, dips and weaves, and with the undergrowth so sparse it’s impossible not to notice all the sandy plucked holes, homes to the infamous Muttonbird. However during the day is never a good time to spot them - they won’t be back until after dusk, returning to their nests after a day’s foraging at sea.

Another 150-200 meters along the track and we pass a signpost leading off the to adeptly named Valley of the Shadows. The sun is shining this morning and I can see what they did there when handing out place names.

With that thought still bouncing around my head, I start to think about what I’m going to encounter at the end of this trail? Noticing the colour and texture of the soil change beneath my feet I know I must be drawing close to this place which I have built up in my mind along the way, to be some sort of hidden Aztec-esque jungle-like clearing.

I’m wrong. It’s a small and naked clearing with a solitary park bench staring vacantly south. I shuffle my imaginary friend over and take a seat. Torn between a state of mild confusion whilst catching my breath, I’m left juggling the mental ‘is this it?’ conundrum.

My mind re-focuses as my gaze hardens on the horizon. And then it appears from the haze. The tallest sea stack in the world. Balls Pyramid. Lying dormant on the end of my squinty eye gaze.
It dawns on me in that moment, that this is a place to come and clear your mind, to achieve the mental clarity that continually evades us.

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About Dani Rourke

HELP! I have 2 children, 25 staff and up to 75 guests. I was a lawyer for 10 years, but escaped. My husband and I moved from Sydney to beautiful Lord Howe Island to run Pinetrees Lodge, which has been in my family for 6 generations. I'm writing about family business, island life and the whole work/family disaster. Did someone say balance? When I'm not writing, my lovely staff do it for me - they see more of the island than I do.

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