Saturday, 4 January 2014

Trash and treasure……

Today I did something that I haven’t done for a long time….I visited the ocean.  Not very exciting you may comment, but for me it was an exceptional visit. 

It was two days ago when I shockingly realised that I had not been to the beach, not even sighted the ocean for over a year.  Something that is very unusual for me.  I grew up in a seaside town and so was constantly surrounded by the ocean and ocean activities.  Summers were spent on the seaweed strewn beach getting increasingly browned by the summer sun.  We also had a shack about 45 minutes’ drive away and many weekends, both summer and winter, were spent here….swimming, fishing, crabbing, catching worms, watching out for snakes and just being free to be kids immersed in nature.

As I grew older and moved to the city, which was still situated on the coast, my seaside visits became less and less as other mundane and necessary events of life filled my hours.  We still visited the beach during summer, mostly on hot balmy nights to gain some relief from the relentless heat waves and more often drove the seaside route from where we lived to Glenelg and back, the equivalent of a “Mainy” back home where cars filled with teenagers would drive from the round-a-bout at one end of town, down the “main” street…often admiring the reflection of their cars in shop windows…. along the beach, and then back to the round-a-bout…over and over……sometimes parking along the beach car park to catch up with friends, or have quiet time with girlfriends….and often honking and beeping to other friends in cars as they passed along the Mainy going in different directions.

Once children arrived, visits to the beach were still enjoyed but there wasn’t much time for peaceful solitude as I constantly counted heads, made sure sunscreen was topped up, struggled to keep sand out of food and drinks and always seeming to carry half the beach back in the car, boot and bathers.

I love visiting the beach by myself.  The first deep breath as the pungent smell of sea salt assaults my nose and I breathe deeply, closing my eyes…face to the wind as it whips my hair back and flattens my clothes against my body.  I walk eagerly down to the sand, slipping my shoes off, and stand on the wet sand as the waves roll in and the sound of the ocean breathing shuts out all other sounds and intrusions.  I breathe deeply and feel the waves rolling backwards and forwards.  Their salty brine washing out any negative feelings and the fresh, salty air carries away all my worries and troubles.  My toes work with a mind of their own as they dig down into the soft sand, anchoring me against the tides pull.

As I walk slowly along the beach, I can’t help but look for rubbish.  Growing up on the beach my mother passed on to me her passion of keeping beaches clean.  I have always had a love of beachcombing because as you look for trash…..papers, fishing line, broken bottles, you can also find the most amazing treasures…..beautiful shells, faded pieces of driftwood, not to mention man made treasures….I once found $10, wet and soggy as it was paper money then, but $10 none the less. 

My walk along the beach today yielded only a little trash, a lolly wrapper, a McDonalds straw and two beer bottle bottoms which pleased me immensely.  It was wonderful not to be confronted with a beach littered with rubbish or debris.  I reflected on what a wonderful country I lived in, and how grateful I was for the opportunities and choices I was free to make. 

The night before had been a high tide and there were not too many treasures to be found.  The sand was washed smooth and yielded only what I could fathom to be pieces of seaweed but more pod like and bright green.  They covered the beach in looping patterns like Christmas lights where the tide had risen up and left them.  There weren’t too many shells to be found….this particular beach was usually a popular one and treasures such as shells are always coveted by the chubby fingers of young children and invariably taken home to be proudly displayed.  I did manage to find one shell, half buried in the sand and a small feather, plucked from a seabird of which I had no idea what kind.

There were few people on the beach as I slowly strolled, lost in my thoughts but it was a wonderful time to be on the sand.   It wasn’t hot, but neither was it cool. The water was warm, but the pull of the waves was strong…I only witnessed one person brave enough to venture out…but only to his waist before he returned.  The wind was strong but I embraced it….almost challenging….to blow out my cobwebs, renew my verve and ready me for the year ahead.  The visit to the sea was a gift to myself to help me embrace the year that was beginning to unfold, and to strengthen me to face whatever it holds.  I promised myself I would not let another year go by before I returned…perhaps to a different beach…but I promised myself I would because the calm and serenity I feel when I leave, is always well worth the trip…..and I even managed to leave the sand where it was supposed to be…and not in my car.


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