Yesterday, with no classes to teach, I caught up with friends and walked on the beach. In the morning, at Edithvale, in the evening at Mordialloc.
My friends, Chris and Jillian, both agreeing how lucky we are to live so close to the sea, and to have a community and council that values, cares, and conserves the wonderful foreshore.
Lying on the beach
waves roll over me,
the warm waves
caress and massage
until colder waves
carve and chip,
with each sharp
intake of breath
a new shape emerges
I am reborn.
Chris met me at Edithvale Station and we walked to the Seabreeze Cafe, our usual coffee place that has reopened at the request of Kingston Council, albeit briefly because plans to build a new surf lifesaving clubhouse are delayed and forcing the cafe to close at the end of last year was premature.
Thank goodness the proprietor who is opting to retire, is good-natured enough to take the upheaval in his stride. He had let staff go but hadn’t sold off all the equipment and can still serve his loyal customers and occasional passersby, like me!
I couldn’t resist a delicious savoury scone – spinach and cheese – and succumbed to the begging of little sparrows who sat on the sea wall beside our table.
I know there will be intakes of breath and frowns of disapproval from friends, “You don’t feed birds crumbs,” and even Chris said, ‘Oh, no, you’ve done it now!’ as a watchful seagull swooped closer.
However, the sparrows were there because it was their ‘hunting ground’ and were not going to be intimidated, understood tactics, and gathered with the bravado of safety in numbers!
I was so focused on trying to just scatter a few crumbs at my feet for the sparrows while excluding the bullying seagulls that my scone crumbled. A larger piece than intended fell to the ground.
The sparrows multiplied and so did the seagulls.
Some may say… ‘Poetic justice’, ‘Serves you right’, ‘That should teach you not to interfere with nature’ ‘Don’t do it again’…
But, sorry, can’t promise, I won’t…
In recent times, the birds I come into contact with on a daily basis are coping with the loss of their habitat due to increasing property development and people. I have installed a bird feeder with wild birdseed at home because several large gums and other trees have disappeared from the neighbourhood.
I haven’t felt so concerned for the birdlife since the extended drought years ago.
For better or worse these sparrows (and the seagulls) are probably still adjusting to the removal and then reopening of Seabreeze Cafe too. They’ve probably had to go further afield or do without as beach traffic fluctuates.
Yesterday, they shared the spoils – what little there was – before Chris and I went for a walk to share the matters causing dislocation or joy in our lives.
We spotted a pair of birds uninterested in hanging around the cafe for crumbs, preferring to enjoy the spirited breeze by the water’s edge. They were not seagulls or sparrows often considered scavengers and pests at the seaside but terns.
Terns are long-lived birds and are relatively free from natural predators and parasites; most species are declining in numbers due directly or indirectly to human activities, including habitat loss, pollution, disturbance, and predation by introduced mammals.
The Wild Sea
The sea is wild today
the wind robust and strong
blowing water onto land
and pushing me along.
Bruised and grey it mirrors
the storm clouds above
I’m buffeted and battered
by the huge waves, I love.
I’m awed at its power
the force of the sea
Like flotsam it tosses
Flying high as a bird I glide
swirl, splash in downward slide
arriving breathlessly ashore
Invigorated to run
freely seaward for more.
In the shallows with
white foam bubbling
a gentler touch craved
to stormy sea pummelling.
Each wave demands a dance
sudsy fingers snatch and lift
with energetic sighs
atop tickling, teasing rollers
where saltwater stings eyes.
The surf’s determined to perform
and deposit me ashore
but the wind suddenly drops…
The wild sea is no more.
Chris is sole carer for her 91-year-old mother and I confided that another dear friend was enduring the bedside vigil of an elderly uncle farewelling this world.
We agreed that we’ve reached ‘that age’ where Advanced Care Planning is important as well as acknowledging that we don’t live forever, no matter how healthy our lifestyle is!
I’ve survived the final hours of my beloved husband John, my Mum and Dad and appreciate every death is different and life is indeed fleeting. My brush with aggressive breast cancer showed me how we can be buffeted by changes that come too fast.
It’s not surprising conversations with close friends are often philosophical and always meaningful. We discuss the ‘big stuff’ laugh over the ‘small stuff’ and share information if we think it is of value.
Yesterday was no exception.
Chris recommended a book she has finished reading: Letting Go: How to Plan for a Good Death by Charlie Corke and as the sun played hide and seek with thickening clouds, and the wind and waves harmonised, I recalled how comforting the sea had been to me the day John died.
We both loved Mordialloc and John’s years in the Royal Navy meant he had a special affinity with the sea. I was born in a ship-building town, felt the sea was in my blood.
John died early in the morning and that evening a dear friend asked was there anything I wanted, anything she could do…
“I saw the sunrise with John, I’d like to see the sunset on our favourite spot at the beach.”
“I’ll pick you up in five minutes.”
In the last few months of John’s life, we would take a glass of chardonnay or a cup of tea into the conservatory to catch the last of the sun and together sit in harmony with ourselves, each other, and our world. The girls engrossed in teenage activity, the dog curled at our feet, and the familiar soothing sounds of the sea in the distance, the occasional rumbling train, and birds nesting in the trees.
John always believed that death was a matter of going to sleep as if a dark velvet rug had been placed over you. There is no more pain – a nothingness. He was undecided about the Hereafter and like many others Faith eluded him – and me…
But sitting with my back to the bluestone sea wall, sipping from the bottle of champagne my friend had brought, I watched the sunset on Mordialloc foreshore.
Enthralled by Mother nature’s beauty, I listened to the gentle lapping of the evening sea caressing the sand. As the water sparkled before darkening, I felt immense peace. I felt the pressure of John’s arms around me and the weight of his last gesture of tenderness…and knew he was at peace too.
The day is calm. Tranquil. A great-to-be-alive day. Eucalypts and pine compete with salty air and the whiff of abandoned seaweed. The blue-green sea a mirror for fluffy whipped cream clouds. Dainty dollops on a pale blue plate. Gulls sit or glide atop a sea bathed in white sunlight.
I too drift and dream.
In the distance, palm tree fronds tremble casting lacy shadows on the hot sand. The clink of moorings and masts floats from the creek and a sudden gust of wind whips sand to sting legs and faces. Airborne the seagulls transform to screeching origami kites.
A dark veil unfurls from the horizon shattering the grey-green mirror and peaceful contemplation. Waves lap and soap around feet and as I retreat to the shelter of eucalypts and pine, the taste of salt bittersweet.
Metaphorically speaking …
Ideas are fleeting like a butterfly
my mind flits from one thought to another,
but occasionally focuses to write
or to finish a project.
Life is the sea, stormy or smooth
I roll with the waves
prepare for a tsunami
but pray for calm waters.
Happiness is a kite, elation as
the wind blows steadily
until the unexpected breeze
brings me crashing
to the ground.
Hope is a candle flame
showing the way
from the darkness
can be smothered
but always relit
John was my rock,
Mum, a safe harbour,
Dad, a shield
Education, a panacea,
but also a lantern
shining on the path
as I stumble through life.
Life is a speeding train
sometimes out of control,
but heading straight
until I reach a destination
a little late
perhaps too soon…
Death is a sunset
inevitable but beautiful
if I die of old age –
the closing of my day.