Our Redlands Story Competition winning entry: Dancing Mangroves (Jo Dickson)

I had a charmed childhood, growing up by Biggera Creek on the Gold Coast. My family frequently went by boat to Karragarra Island, where we owned Noyes Farmhouse, one of the earliest on the island. It was a little high-set cottage with a verandah overlooking the passage. The still original kitchen was connected by a walkway, presumably to prevent spread of a fire to the rest of the house. Situated on 3/4 acres, it was surrounded by neglected fruit trees. A large fig was surrounded by monstera deliciosa and crucifix orchids.

There was a old wood stove in the rambling garden, which was the first port of call every visit, to see if the carpet snake was still hibernating in there. Eventually we stopped seeing the snake, or any snakes, as the human population increased.

Under the house were an ancient tractor and plough, and a store room full of mysterious farm-related treasures, unfamiliar to a city kid and sparking the imagination of what life was like in the past.

There was no electricity in the house, only a noisy generator, so we cooked over an outdoor fire and often slept in the boat. We had to walk over a long low path of oyster-covered rocks through the mangroves to the moored dinghy. At night the water seemed full of fairy lights as the phosphorescence was disturbed by the oars.

Down on the rocky shore among the mangroves was the remnant of a dump site full of vintage bottles. I still have a large collection of these. Two decades later, long after my parents sold the place, I revisited it with a friend and was amazed to find one last nearly-intact vintage bottle of aqua glass, embossed with the words “Enos Fruit Salt”, giving a clue to a past industry.

I have traveled to twenty countries and lived in five, but when I finally decided to put down roots, it was Moreton Bay that called me home. I explored all the islands in Southern Moreton Bay and settled on Russell Island. Although I think Karragarra is the prettiest, I thought I might go stir crazy on such a small island I already knew intimately. I often kayak across the channel to the swimming enclosure and immediately feel like I’m on holiday.

There are few places in Australia you can go home by boat, enjoy the community spirit of a small country town with public transport access to the cultural benefits of a major city. It is not for everyone, but the inconveniences are far outweighed by the convenience of friends, clubs, facilities and activities all 5-15 minutes away. So blessed!

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