Wednesday, 25 March 2015
Our lonely beach
The booming surf had resonated through the river valley all night, so I knew the breakers would be crashing on to the shore. But the sun was shining and we had nowhere else to be, so we jumped into the car and headed west. It is a bit of drive, but the reward is usually an empty expanse of sand and waves rolling in from eternity. Except the carpark was strangely crowded. We followed the boardwalk through the dunes and around the fresh water spring which spills across the sand, pulling off our sandals to wade through the cold, clear water. And there was not a soul to be seen on the beach. Black suited surfers bobbed in the waves in the bay's eastern corner and grey nomads clustered at the lookout high above the sand. Thea pulled off her clothes, grabbed her bucket and spade and ran into the water while I eyed off the surf, trying to decide whether getting wet was going to be a possibility.
The surfers made their way back around the bay in pairs, stopping to wash their boards and take a drink from the spring. One greying board rider wandered down to say hello.
"Is she about two?" he asked.
"In a few weeks."
"There used to be a little girl who played in the water there. She would be three now - her family moved back to the Czech Republic a year ago today. I got the hugest sense of deju vu seeing your little girl on the beach. She is even wearing the same pink hat."
I tried to picture that little girl and what her life must look like in Central Europe. Perhaps she has a stream to play in; cold water rushing over the pebbles as she steps over the slippery rocks. Her mother would read her fairy tales from old Europe when she tucked her in to bed each night. I wonder if she remembers the smell of the sea, the crash of the waves and the cry of the gulls on her lonely beach on the other side of the world. I wonder if her mama is homesick for the sand and the sun and the empty horizons.
I hoisted Thea onto my hip and we walked around the shoreline, stopping to dig in the sand and let the waves wash over our feet. She snuggled in to my chest while sea lice crawled around in the coarse sand, tickling my bare legs as the waves dug hollows around them. We wandered back to the stream and I left Thea with her bucket and a clear line of sight to the waves and walked backwards into the breakers, ducking my head and body under the whitewash. One day, perhaps, I will be able to walk around to the headland and take my place on the waves with a board beneath me. But for now I am mama first and foremost to that little girl in the pink hat, playing on the shore.
She slept in the car on the way home, beach sand clinging to her bare brown legs. I wonder how long they will have grown by next summer?