Wednesday 3 February 2016

Come Away With Me: Beach musings.

[Image: A woman walks barefoot along the beach with her walking stick. Her head is down and she is wearing a large blue hat, pink floral dress and green cardigan.]

The parade of children on new bikes begins. Pink is a favourite. Closely followed by silver. A line of training wheels clack
ing along the slightly melted bitumen. The more experienced zoom past their brothers and sisters to do an effortless 180 where Beachcomber meets Meridian. Zooming back again to see if their younger kin had worked out the wobbling combination of trepidation and exhilaration. The populace, both holiday fly-ins and locals, walk by trailing towels and dogs. Brown and black, big and small, hairy and sleek. The more exuberant leading their walk-enablers. The rest walking contentedly next to their owners. I look for the rotund charcoal staffy we met on Christmas day. His body wriggling with excitement as he tried to squeeze under the gate to meet our very confused Great Dane. His gyrations made the Christmas bell on his collar jingle and gold tinsel glitter in the sun. And brought a smile to our faces. Boxing day has arrived and so has the procession past the window.

I watch them file past slowly, backed by azure skies and the green-grey tea tree and bottle brush. Their languid pace courtesy of the magic that is holiday time and the weight of Christmas overindulgence. My feet hang over the arm of the soft blue recliner. To tired to bother with the mechanism to raise the footrest. The blinds clatter in the breeze but I hardly notice. Closed eyes and muscles turned to putty over proceeding days my main focus. The sea breeze blows through the open door and flows through the house carrying salty notes and the sound of the waves.

We’re back at the beach. A friend has loaned us his house again. We were here for Christmas last year. For much needed respite and healing after a really rough year. And now we're back for a booster shot. The beach less than a 100m from the front gate means even a quick trip to watch the waves or drink a glass of wine as the full moon rises and the sun sets, is easy. We've transitioned smoothly from suburbia to beach life as if this has always been our norm.

Vera has traversed the path from beach house to dunes numerous times. Both packhorse and mode of transport. The crunch as she rolls testament to her time on the foreshore. She and I have bounced down steps and up to sink in deep soft sand. Husband and offspring content to drag and push at need. Or when it was all to hard I was carried or supported with a now oxidised and unfoldable Francesca. She too carries a new tone in her black tubing as we walk slowly down the driveway. A rush of sand and the tinkle of small bits of shell and larger granules with every movement. Lift, crunch and rustle. The sands of time falling in step with my dragging feet. Slowed and liquid the time of the sand and sea. Wild salt on southern winds preserving time for later need.

There's an ease in my heart that I haven't felt in a long while. Something about the salty sea air draws the ache from my soul. Pulls it like salt does the bitter water from cut eggplant. Draws the pain and fear, the exhaustion and melancholy. The, enough. Pulls it slow and sure as I am hypnotised into quiescence. The call of the gull overhead, or twitter of the blue headed wrens flitting on the grass just outside the window, whisper soothing words. The wind carries the bitterness from my skin. And I am refreshed once more.

Beach time is thinking time. It's easy to process the world while I'm there. Clarity is mine in a way it hasn't been for a lot of the proceeding year.

And now we are home.

Three articles have appeared in my timeline since I returned. And each seem to have arrived at the right time. They talk of ease, a move from well to powerful and authenticity. 

Ease is something I rediscovered on the sands. It’s something that I have on and off though I've never really named it before. Yet name aside I have been striving for it everyday. My body continues to be obstreperous. I sit here today sporting a hand brace after a fall. Everything I eat hurts and makes me want to vomit. The bone pain in my legs is back. And my bowels have closed for business. The list continues. And yet I'm at ease. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually I am at ease. For the first time in a long time.

“…when I repeat the phrase, ‘may I live with ease’ during meditation, to me it also has another meaning – may I be at ease with my life, regardless of the circumstances. May I be at ease with the inevitable ups and downs of my existence, instead of constantly struggling against ‘what is’. This is not passive, or resigned – in fact, being at ease with our lives involves a very active engagement with reality, as opposed to clinging onto some idealised fantasy of how life should be…” (Anja Tanhane, Holiday Favourites - Living with Ease)

This is how I've been trying to live. My trek to the beach involved being wheeled from the house, down the road to the top of the dunes. My legs too weak to make the distance and my body unable to tolerate the expenditure of energy or time upright. I was unceremoniously carried up and down dunes and over soft sand. The only person on the beach with walking stick and wheelchair. Held in waves by my husband so I could feel the pull of the water and taste the spray on my lips. I could do nothing alone. Independence long gone. Such forays were curtailed by my recalcitrant body. I was nauseous and exhausted. In pain and unsteady. But the ease persisted. The weight of the last few months on it’s way out to the cold reaches of Bass Straight. Drawn as my body tumbled in the waves and taken by the undertow, to menace me no more.

O'Dwyer talks about ageing powerfully rather than well or gracefully. Her points regard choice and control, and much can be transferred to a life with chronic illness. 

"....there are no guarantees in life. Ageing is a crapshoot...But you can load the dice in your favour." (Dr Siobhan O'Dwyer, How to age powerfully - and what that means?)

[Image: A woman in red and white bathers and a large blue hat lies on a blue and white floral throw on a beach. Her trusty wheelchair sits behind her a clear blue sky overhead.]

I may be ill. But I can control many aspects of my life through the choices I make. We can have health and life in the context of illness. I can choose to be powerful by looking at all aspects of my life. I have gone back to Pilates. I can do very minimal exercises and only when lying down. My muscles refuse to coordinate and I have trouble initiating movements. Much of my energy expenditure is in trying to rope them in to complete a movement. But I'm there and I'm
doing it all the same. I'm trying to be better with my diet. Following the guidelines from my dietician to manage my defunct digestive system. I am making sure I do the little things that bring me joy, like chatting to my chickens or preparing my succulent pups for planting. I am back to scheduling mindfulness and simple yoga. There is a powerfulness in that. I will never have health as most know it, but I can maximise what I do have. 

I found my power again at the beach. I managed the basics of my yoga routine on a towel in the front room of the house. I watched the families walking buy and the yukkas rattling in the wind while I melted down into my savasana. My gaze soft and my breaths long and deep. The clean smell of salt on the wind through the flyscreens. Swirling overhead dispensing calm and clarity. I sat on the front porch and completed my mindfulness exercises. And I allowed myself to breath in my surrounds, while sipping on a forbidden wine or two, free of self-recriminations.

“…Knowing what those fears are, being vulnerable and facing them head on with your authenticity, will enable you to stand up and go in the direction that you desire…” (Helen Edwards, Why Authenticity is Vital to Your Happiness)

Being authentic doesn't please everyone and it shouldn't. I know some see me as a little eccentric. But there is something freeing in simply being yourself. There were stares at the beach. Our daily familial procession of wheelchairs and lifting, and unenthused Great Dane. As I walked on the soft sand at the waters edge cane at hand I received the double takes and whispers. Good or bad I don’t know. I was too busy having fun. When I wore bright red bathers with my pasty white body I didn't care. When I received a comment on Instagram “You look so stunning with a cane” I did a double take. What does that mean? That I shouldn't? That it's a surprise that someone may look okay and be disabled. That I don’t look disabled and ill? That in being myself I don’t fit in the established ‘look of disability/illness’ criteria? It was strange to think that my authentic self was somehow a surprise. Being ill has stripped away a lot of the shoulds. I don’t have time for that malarky. I do have time for me. And in making that time I have more to give. I’ll wear a mini in my wheelchair, I’ll sport blue hair and wear red high heels. I’ll watch scifi and horror movies and run far from rom coms. I’ll belt out Nina Simone's I want a little Sugar in my Bowl, and sing Prodigy’s Firestarter at the top of my lungs. I’ll put a disco ball in my bright red chook house and have a FUBAR sign on my desk. I’ll be “one of those lefty feminists” as I was called last year. I’ll simply be me.

[Image: A wheelchair with an eldest son's legs sits on the beach at sunset. The sand is golden and a blue and white floral throw sits in front of the chair.]

I’ll embrace me and my ease. I’ll be powerful and authentic. I’ll sit on an empty beach at sunset and watch the light fade and the moon rise with a glass of cheap sav blanc in a squat glass tumbler from a Belgian airline. I’ll collect more shells and pale drift wood. I’ll watch the sand swirl in the bottom of the glass and breathe it all in. I’ll breathe in me for the first time in a long time. And I’ll feel the lightness of being that comes from time away and the magic of sand, sea and wind.


Not exactly a beach song, but Norah's languid style feels perfect. My family call her Boring Jones and always paid me out for listening to her. When the boys were little I if they saw me running a bath and putting my candles up, clear indicator I was about to shut the door and relax for an hour, I'd get the chorus of "Are you going to listen to Boring Jones, Mum?" followed by great guffaws of laughter because they thought they were so so funny.


  1. This is such great writing and each word resonates with me! I have CFS and the beach is my haven too. I also love that Helen Edwards quote! Look forward to reading more! Xx

    1. Thanks Suze. The beach is magical. I've always been a forest person, but since our move that's not as much of an option and it's been hard. But I'm finding the beach to be an equally good balm when times get tough. :)

  2. Oh this is absolutely beautiful. Made me feel so many things. I am honoured to have my words on among all the woven threads of your story, thank you xx

    1. Thanks Helen. I love you work be it piece like this or your recycling/repurposing work. Funny how pieces pop up just when you need them xx

  3. So glad that you have the beach to escape to. Sounds completely blissful. And you are a powerful woman... I look to you as my inspiration.

    And you completely rock that cane my friend. BTW I saw some GORGEOUS ones on Peters of Kensingtons website and immediately thought of you, as I do whenever I see MOR marshmallow products.

    1. It was so good down there Kelley. And so close which is even better. Don't know how inspirational I am, more just winging it every day with intermittant face-planting, and frequent cock ups. ;)

      Runs off to look at Peters of Kensingtons! And MOR. I've run out of the marshmellow stuff which is disappointing. xx


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