It’s time to straighten the pictures on the wall, sweep up Winter’s dust and degrease the kitchen and bicycle. The little boy won’t need baths every day because he’s got the sea and nobody to answer to. Summer shine is coming and with it we’ll lay even further back into days of cheeseburger lethargy and ice cream siestas.
Over the Winter, Noodle and I started a tradition of Tuesday car picnics, where we would get cheeseburgers and sit in the mist and rain overlooking the Harbour Bridge at Bayswater Marina. At first, he’d eat the top of the bun and hand me the pickles if my palm was at the ready, or toss them to stick to the roof otherwise.
After a growth spurt, he started gobbling down the whole sandwich and asking for part of mine. Time for a more efficient plan, I figured, and a good old fashioned sit on the porch with tea and cola and hand-pressed cast-iron fried cheeseburgers decorated with ketchup and mustard smiley faces sounded downright idyllic. Ice cream to follow. A nap punctuates the afternoon.
The beaches around here ban liquor after ten at night and before six in the morning. I take the converse to heart and sometimes head down with lunchtime cheeseburgers and chips and lager and set out on a small blanket we keep in the boot in case of emergency leisure situations. I’ve also got spades and buckets and water cannons and frisbees and even a kite for when the wind drives us off the sand. All fits neatly in a canvas bag with a duck screen printed on the side advertising a rescue charity six thousand miles east and north of here.
Beach towns teach their own version of being prepared. Never get caught out without sunscreen and a hat whose brim covers your nose; carry fresh water because the stuff past the sand is saturated with salt and sailors and fish, and that only quenches metaphorical thirsts.
Lounging on a beach is its own art, and one must strike a balance between over-preparation and ill-planned burning-to-a-crisp. One trip from the car or bicycle or what-have-you is all you need to tote the necessary gear to shore, otherwise you’re trying to fill gaps that water and sunshine fill just fine. If you’ve got a tent and a chair and an umbrella and a cooler and scuba gear and a small boat and the full ensemble of last Spring’s linen collection, then you’ve crossed the line between going-to-the-beach and emigrating.
If you’re put out by the sensation of sand between your toes and behind your ears, then I can recommend a lovely café just up the hill, delightfully unadorned by dirt of any sort, and except for the view, utterly bereft of beachiness. You get used to sand everywhere all the time. Dig your damp toes into the cakey shore of a receding tide, warm from the same sun that rises and sets the whole world over, and feel this world work its way under your skin where it belongs. Holds us all together.
If you ask me whether I meditate, the answer is yes, but it probably doesn’t look as you’d expect.
The morning mist is lifting and the tide is out far enough that the shore smells of salt and fish. The gulf sounds quiet compared to the whooshing crashing of the west coast sea, and it’s a quiet morning in the harbour. One small fishing boat is about to descend below the horizon past the lighthouse, and one large container ship lumbers through the channel past the volcano.
Hipsters and parents and retirees walk the sands. We are not tourists, this time of year; this is our life.
Our lives roll slow and easy as the tide, but we are nothing special. One needn’t live by the sea to slow down; one needs to simply slow down. By now, I can be this man anywhere.
A black dog fetches rocks and sticks that his walker tosses casually across the sand. His cares are mine. We give ourselves things to do more than we really need to do. And that’s fine as long as we keep in mind that we can take back our troubles as easily as we hand them out. I’m taking back my life right here, this morning at the beach, even with rain clouds rolling in since I sat down to record this moment. The worst I’ll get is wet. The breeze picked up and I pulled my sleeves back down. I can see the storm forming on the peninsula south. It’s coming. I suppose it’s time I sat back at the cafe and savoured a coffee anyway, back up the green hill and into town. I’ll fold closed my notebook and slip my pen into the spiral after another line or two.
This right here — on this bench at this beach at this hour of the morning – this is why I stop to write – to meditate as it were. It’s nothing fancy. No Lycra jumpsuit or linen tie pants or two hundred dollar sneakers. No teachers no fees no start and no end. Just me and the beach in my ragged favourite hoodie and ragged jeans and ragged brown shoes, gathering salt from the air and cigarette dust from the discarded sticks of meditators past ground into the leaves and grass. I’m inhaling my world, un-separate from its parts, and that’s all I wanted to remind myself before this afternoon’s cheeseburger and siesta, equally as meditative in their peculiar ways.
You just can’t get this feeling from pictures.