Here on the Sunshine Coast life is… Sunny and coastal. What else would it be? Actually, more often these days, the clouds hang low and heavy and grey, wind shakes the shrubs and small trees, and rain hurls it’s self against the tall sliding glass doors of my Aunt and Uncle’s house. A cold summer has turned into a very rainy autumn. In nearby towns, rivers rise and creep over banks, flooding roads and causing many problems.
Here, I know nothing of this. For me there is the house, a small strip of lawn, and then a thicket of scrubby tea-trees that leads down to the ocean. I can’t see the ocean, but can hear it constantly, a churning white noise in the background. On sunny days, I try to get out of the house, which is much easier here where the land is flat, the streets wide, the amenities accessible. I glide out of the garage on my scooter, along the path to the boardwalk that goes through the swamp.
Once inside the swamp, it’s a different world. Leaves close over my head, creating a dark, green, dripping, space. There are mini-lakes of tea-coloured water between the trees. Bush turkeys dart across the path and disappear into the scrub, muttering to themselves. Willy-wagtails hop cheerfully in the wiry branches of the trees, open their beaks and warble sweet high-pitched notes at each other. One can smell growth, life, decay; all of it contained in this tiny strip of ecosystem.
Down the track a little ways, there is a wheel-chair ramp of sorts up a short slope to a ‘look-out point’ over the beach. Once I’ve navigated the twists and turns on the mobility scooter, there it is: the sea. This prized view that everyone seems to want to live so close to. I gaze out at it’s endlessness, stunned, as I always am, by this glimpse at infinity. Or I look down at the waves; roaring onto and crunching up the remaining strip of sand. The dunes, I’m told, have almost entirely disappeared. Now the ocean chomps at the coastline, eating out great chunks and leaving little behind.
The first time I went to the lookout point, a family was down there. Two small children ran into the water, giggling as it swished around their feet and curled at their legs, tugging them further in. It made me wish I could run down the short steep hill and plunge into the surf, feel the salt spray on my face. I wanted to be cleansed by the ocean, scrubbed as clean as the bleached, bland, daylight.
During childhood, my sister and I would stay at my grandparent’s house nearby for summer holidays. We would often go to the beach; a different one to this one, but similar in many ways.
I was terrified of the surf, but loved paddling in the shallows, where the water was as clear as glass, sucking me out, then pushing me back in to shore on it’s foam-curled tide. I would find white shells, tiny and delicate as babies’ fingernails, or flamingo-pink spiral shells, or pale grey stones worn smooth in the sand. I loved exploring rock pools, poking at sea anemones, running my fingers through long strands of Neptune’s necklace. There were little crabs that scuttled sideways under rocks or dug little tunnels in the sand and there were schools of tiny little fish, swimming first one way then the other; seemingly for no reason at all.
Watching the kids play in the waves the other day made me think of those times and miss them. I thought; never again will I be able to enjoy such things with quite the same youthful vigour and innocence. Everyone has a moment like that, of-course. It’s part of growing older, part of dying. It’s just not supposed to happen to me just yet.
But why not? People die every day; many of them younger than me. Millions of people live out existences full of harsh deprivation, sorrow, and loss. Why should I be any different?
I can report however, that since I’ve been up here, my health has improved in many ways. On most days I feel stronger, and breathe easier. The house is large, so I walk a lot, and this helps my muscles rehabilitate. The sea-air suits me, and I have far less air-starved, oxygen gasping nights.
I’ve just had a new fluid-drain system fitted and although the recovery was far more painful than any of the doctors and nurses who talked me into it let on, I can already see that it will be a good thing. It is easier to access, and only takes forty-five minutes or an hour, as opposed to three days. The first two times the pain of having fluid drained from my abdomen was incredibly sharp and intense, but today it hurt a lot less. Each time will be less painful as I recover from the surgery- something that makes me very cheerful, as I am a total wimp about pain, and have no tolerance. The new system will mean I can drink a bit more, eat a bit more salt, and be less obsessive (and, let’s be honest, utterly neurotic) about keeping my fluid at a ridiculously low level.
Most exciting of all, there is the possibility of a stem cell trial. If I qualify. But I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much about that one.
So, here I am, on the Sunshine Coast. I’m very grateful for the welcome we have received here, but I’m looking forward to finding our own place. I’ve become a bit of a hermit here; I need to reach out to my friends again, check on how people are doing out there, in their various parts of the world. I’ll feel more myself with all of my things around me again, and my cacti to look after, with various art/craft projects on the go. My mum will plant a beautiful garden, and we might even get some chooks.
And perhaps somewhere I’ll find one of those ocean-side pools where I can at least dip my legs in; feel the salty breeze in my hair. Those old-fashioned lap pools with barnacled concrete sides and corroded metal steps to climb down with. Seaweed will sway in long strands; tiny fish will dart through the water brought in by the waves that so often surge up and wash over the sides, blurring the boundary between pool and sea.