It is mid-summer here in Brisbane and last Sunday was the first sun-filled day we have seen for the past few weeks. Australia, ever the land of contrasts, is currently either flooding or burning, with half of the country being ravaged by floods and the other half battling high temperatures and raging bushfires.
Last Sunday at Broadbeach, close to Surfer’s Paradise on the beautiful Gold Coast of Queensland, it was a magnificent day, made all the more so by the preceding weeks of unrelenting rain!
The skies were a brilliant blue, the sun was shining, the temperature was up in the 30’s, the humidity was high and it seemed that everyone had headed for the beach!
Children frolicked in the shallows shouting and laughing, running from the waves, digging in the wet sand, their watchful parents within easy reach to pluck them out of the way of an errant wave or runaway surfboard.
Eager surfers hauled their boards through the crowd of swimmers into the deeper waters where the rip was fierce but the surf was good.
Seagulls flew overhead, backwards and forwards, adding their urgent voices to the wondrous symphony of the sea.
The iconic Surf Lifesavers were out in full force, their distinctive red and yellow flags, surfboards, buggies and rubber dinghys in pride of place all along the beachfront.
These trained volunteer lifesavers keep Australia’s many swimming and surfing beaches safe every summer by providing beach patrols and first aid services, and just the sight of their red caps and yellow shirts makes everyone feel a whole lot safer.
Later that afternoon the walkers arrived, seeming to emerge from the sea-mist that settled down over the ocean and diffused the late afternoon sun.
To say that we humans are obsessed by the sea and the beach is a gigantic understatement! We have had the sea in our blood forever and it is part of who we are.
Seen from above, the earth is almost totally blue – a vast world of oceans, seas, rivers, lakes and streams.
In Australia, most of our population lives close to the coasts and interaction with the three oceans on our borders has long occupied a special place in our identity.
It calms us, it relaxes us, it invigorates us, it inspires us. We feel the tug of the sea's power right from the moment we glimpse its blue edges from afar, making our hearts beat faster with the anticipation of breathing in the salty air and feeling the soft, white sand between our toes.
We want to hold on to the ocean in our hands and sink down into it, absorbing it into our souls.
We want to stroll along its edge and feel the warm breeze caressing our skin and breathing salt into our pores.
We want to feel the smooth, velvety, water-laden sand give way under our feet and the gentle waves lapping at our ankles as we walk in the shallows.
We want to experience over and over again the power of the waves as they bear us up onto the crest as if we were weightless, only to dump us over the other side to come up spluttering but deliriously happy and ready for the next one!
We want to breathe it in and keep it with us for the rest of the week ... or year, until we can get back again.
And we return to the ocean ... time and time again ... throughout our lives, never being able to get enough of it, and always dreaming of the time when we will be able to live right on its shores.
Until then, we live for the holidays, or for those of us who are lucky enough to live close by, for that next day trip to the beach when we can again spend time within the ocean’s mesmerizing embrace.