Today our Australia: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow series takes us to a place dear to most Aussies' hearts. A place where first steps are taken, classic catches caught, champions forged, bodies bronzed and souls recharged: to the beach.
To The Beach
To The Beach
Lathered in 50+, wearing an old cloth hat and various togs from cheap chain stores, this summer has been an unexpected season of swims, of dips of daily ocean bathing. I have trekked from suburbia to the sea nearly every morning, with the zeal of one who has discovered the latest elixir of life pyramid-selling scheme. I am a beach person once more.
Friends admire my tan, and (reluctantly, I imagine) like my daily Instagram post of my swimming spots. In the water, we beach people smile knowingly at each other as we float on our backs, toes turned up to the sun, looking across the glittering water to the horizon. The dream of the Australian summer shimmers through us and is made real.
As I have rinsed the salt from my skin and seen long dormant freckles emerging on my nose, memories of past beach encounters have wriggled up into my consciousness. I have berated myself. How could I have forgotten the beach of my childhood? Of the weeks of summer camping on the water’s edge, immersing ourselves daily into the Pacific. How could I have ignored the allure of the beach for so many years?
Then, as now, the sea glistened in the summer sun as we spent long mornings conquering the surf with boogie boards. Although layered in zinc cream and sunscreen, somehow we still managed to turn dark pink. A few days later we would snake out of our skins. In the afternoons we played for hours in the rippling shade of the she-oaks while the grown ups dozed in the hammocks strung between the trees.
On dusk we descended to the beach again for endless rounds of French cricket, frisbee and kite-flying. I scoured the sands for the elusive, and much prized cowrie shells. In the evening the beach was cool and soft under our feet as the shadows lengthened.
As night fell, the hiss of the gas lamp was the soundtrack to dinner, boardgames, cards and conversation. Sometimes the cry would ring around the camp ground: “There’s a turtle!”. Grabbing our torches we wandered up to the beach to watch the ancient sea creatures drag themselves up to the dunes to nest. And we would wait, and watch, as, once finished, they slowly turned and headed back out to the dark ocean.
My arrival back to the beach may have taken some years, but my embrace of its highs, lows, ebbs and flows has been swift. Yet as I wade through the shallows to sink into the deeper water, I’m more cautious than the child I used to be. Where I once skipped blithely over hot sand to dive through the froth and foam of the waves, now I tread carefully, avoiding rocks and pebbles, keeping an eagle eye out for fish or stingers, appreciating the dangers that come with the beach’s tranquil offerings.
Out of the water, I sit again in the dappled light of the she-oaks and look at the crowds. We are there still. Chattering in the shallows, sifting through shells and making the memories of Australian summers that sooner or later will draw us back. To the beach.
Our Australia: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow series concludes tomorrow.