Pish

2019-01-03 09.29.23.jpgMax is gazing through the eye of a squid. It is bright and soft with sea and also, now dead.  Max breathes in and treads through the smell and says: smell.  Then he says Pish. On the warm, white track through the sand dunes, he says: smell.  There is no breeze there, he holds both hands out in front of him as though touching a delicate curtain of salt, seaweed and heat.

Noah and Max stand at knee height and note details from complex hectares of information. There is nothing that does not add value to the hour and a caravan park yields an astonishing harvest. Once, a boat engine, unseen, coughed seawater from its throat. Once, a small girl rinsed a set of textas at the rain water tank, the cement turned briefly purple. There is a strange bird that bites the air sharply, causing a brief pause in life everywhere.  Once a monarch butterfly came into the tent and provoked anxiety. The air is full of taps and sunlight, hoses, glass bottles rattling empty melody in crates, tent pegs, buckets, low voices humming and humming, on the grass a lost child’s sandal with green tinsel tied to it. Max wanted the tinsel.

Each infant begins on a startled intake of breath, a raised hand pointing to eternity and an eye contact with anyone to ensure collaboration. It is possible sometimes to pull out a word. Once, a baby cried somewhere and Max said: cup. When their own baby (Finn) cried, Noah said: no.

But when sea water churns coldly through sand barriers and chokes up small legs and moves the entire surface of the earth sideways without stopping there are no words yet to fit over the blend of terror and radiance and hold it still.  They can only look at each other’s faces and read its diabolical intensity there.

Doggen

Max and Noah are on the edge of the sea and playing in that slice of joy that lies directly where the sea meets the sand. Here they can trot about with competent feet, carry sand in grainy wet loads and roar bravely at the sea. They can enter the water and become caught in the muscular pull of cold weight around their hearts and quickly stop still.  Max sniffs the surface and is shocked with salt. They both make  squinting eyes. The bay is a lagoon nursing heat and light and small children, beyond them, a dog swims patiently in and out, enclosing his owners in soft ripples, there is no noise, Noah says: doggen. 

And they keep playing on, smudged and warm and covered in beach and the dog swims silently by. 

 

Love looking at everything

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There is a caravan across the road from me, it has parked across the entrance to the council toilets and Yvonne tells me that people are unhappy because they can’t access the toilets. There are arguments and a stack of buckets is flung from the caravan, there is also a broom, a hose and a basket of clothes pegs on the ground. People are standing around in an annoyed kind of way and Yvonne says there are two children in bare feet sitting on the bonnet of the car in the warm sun, waiting for their dad to get the caravan going again, they are going to the beach, a new beach they have never been to and they like the beach and dogs, especially her little dog. Yvonne, who likes dogs and people more than anything else, said it is good to see the young families out and about and doing things together. When she and her sister were young they were always out and about, they looked at everything. That was back in the good old days.

Artwork by Sarah Eisenlohr

Sadness on Goolwa beach last night

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On Goolwa beach the evening was in waves. Down the twelve steps we went and across the fine, clean sand that is still releasing generously the day’s heat and the ocean is kind and my family are in it and to one side the beach is cool slate and to the other a dazzling promotion of silver and lemon, olive and gold, all in waves.
The beach breathes in waves. There is no wind, there is one lone fisherman, standing, gazing out into his life, there is a family running in circles, running in spirals, the sand coughing around their feet, it is so quiet I can hear them urging fair play of the rules, Dylan!
There are three seagulls, sitting on the wind even though there is no wind. I wonder what they are waiting for.
There is no space between the sea and the sky.
There is no space between the sea and the sand.
The light moderates all the colours and they weave together, except for the tiles of orange on the horizon, everything else is stitched together, like fair play, like gladness and grief, unable to get at one without the interference of the other and everything in waves.
The tide moves in pursuit and retreat, around and past me, unmoved by me.
The fisherman is wading out into deeper water, my family are finishing, the hilarious family are making for their car, the last child trailing a blue towel across the blue evening and being told to hurry, and then we too, going home.

Noah and Max play in the sand

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And they cannot dig fast enough to satisfy the urge to dig. And they cannot move around enough to satisfy the need to move around. For the entire time that we are there they do not halt – it is warm and bright, and the sea is glass green and close by and noisy and the sand is endless in all directions.
The sand is also warm and pouringly beautiful and then it is chilled and firm and buildingly lovely. The babies cannot be still. They turn and twist and bend about, they drink the sea and eat the sand and frown around the seaweed that laces their lives and they mislay their balance and their knees move faster than their hands and they are nosing in surf, kissing sand, shoulder down and roaring rage. But there is no time to scan for family rescue, it is too slow, instead there is a shell, an exceptional pile of new sand, a pool of water with further possibility.
In fact, each time they turn around the landscape has refreshed itself, what was once travelled must be repeated, the new results are just as spectacular.
But then, suddenly, they are hungry. Everything dulls, the sand is now slightly irrelevant, they are deaf to the sea, gaze at faces, focus only on hunger and they move toward another recovery, each layering down already, a baby bedrock of experience and memory.

We’re going off the jetty..

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There is a family here and they are on their way to the beach. To Second Valley because their Grandpa and Nan live there. The boy has a yellow bucket, a bright pineapple yellow bucket with a crack in the side. He brings me the bucket so we can both examine the crack.

His parents are looking through the cooking books. His younger brother is swinging on a table leg and slowly eating a stick of pink liquorice. Outside the shop there is a service van with a phone ringing loudly into the warm air. The smaller boy nods his head twice to each ring.

The older child is asked if he has found a book. He answers that he doesn’t want one, he wants a starfish. For his bucket.

His mother asks him if perhaps he isn’t being sensible.

He tells me that at Second Valley there is a jetty and they will go under it and find stuff. And then they will go up on it. And then bomb off of it.

His mother asks him if he would like Magpie Island by Colin Thiele.

He tells me that he doesn’t need to even bring a towel because his Nan said not to. Because she already has one there for him that’s orange.

His Nan makes tomato sauce.

When is he on the beach he is going to get a starfish.

An the best thing about this beach is the jetty, underneath is cold, on the top is hot.

His parents call him to come and find a book, but he still doesn’t want one.

They are apologetic; they tell me that all he wants to do is go to the beach. But I remember living by the sea and near a jetty. When I lived across the road from the sea that jetty was miles away. I was five. It took ages to walk there. But last year when I went back the jetty was actually very close to where I lived. It had moved.

I remember the jetty, underneath it was cold, on the top it was hot. The hot planks smelled like fish all the time. There were always sand dunes smoking in the distance. Underneath the jetty, the hot sun came through in gold bars that broke everywhere, the water was deep, it was green glass and all the sounds were deep sounds; even the wood had a deep sound. When it got too cold you could climb up on the steps and sit on the wood that was now too hot. You could shut your eyes and see the heat in gold flecks on your eyelids. And hear the water and the salt and other kids and seagulls, and very faintly you could just hear Christmas. Then we would get up and walk back to the sand and go to the deli on the foreshore for mixed lollies.

The child is still telling me that he will get a starfish off of the jetty. His dad says maybe not and they needed to go now. And then they all left, with some books, the pineapple bucket and an anxious plan for a starfish.

Artwork by Debbie Mackinnon