On Saturday (20th March, 2010 to ground this temporally), we went down to the Gold Coast. This was prompted by the forecasts of unusually (indeed, spectacularly) high seas because Tropical Cyclone Ului was buzzing around in the Coral Sea, about a thousand kilometers to the north.
The swell was a tad disappointing, although it got better in the afternoon as it swung more nor-easterly. I even got a couple of reasonable photos of significantly more athletic people than me taking advantage of it. They're on flickr (the photos, not the people as far as I know).
But what was much more interesting to me was how being by the ocean made me feel. It was an almost primal connectedness. So much more than I feel "at home", in the city - or the 'burbs, to be more precise. And so much more than in the bush, or rainforest, or pretty much anywhere else.
There's something visceral about the sound and feel of the ocean beating itself to death against the shore, the sight of waves breaking in green crystal tubes, the smell of the water and the taste of salt spray on my lips.
It's that way for me at least - I dunno about anyone else. It's probably because when I was a kid we had all our holidays (and/or vacations, depending on where you're reading this) at the beach. My parents owned a house at the Gold Coast (which would now be worth a fortune - damn them for being selfish and selling it to house us and things *sheesh* :)), and we packed up everything (including a quite large TV - black and white of course) every Christmas and headed down there for a few weeks of carefree bliss. Or, at least, so it seemed to me at the time. I remember, with some irony now, watching the breaking story of Harold Holt, then Prime Minister of Australia, disappearing in the surf in Victoria. I was wearing swimmers and a towel and it was background noise for me and had my Mum and Dad glued to the screen. I just wanted to go to the beach.
I'm old now (dammit), and know that there were cares and concerns that I knew nothing about, but they don't matter now. We all had a wonderful time and Santa invariably worked out where we were. Once he paid a visit in person - unfortunately my Grandfather had been urgently called back to work so he missed it, but we told him about it when he came back just after Santa left. Amazingly bad timing.
But he (Santa) gave me a camera. My first camera. It was a cheap 120 plastic thing and it was magic. We couldn't afford to buys gobs of film so I didn't get to use it much. But I loved it, and it mixed in with the goodness of the holidays.
And then we went to the beach. The sand was white and clean and pure and just right for digging holes, building cities then playing Godzilla. And when it got hot, the surf was there. Crashing up the beach, calling us to come play. We got to know what a rip looked like, we got to know what happened when you tried to body-surf on a dumper (and managed not to drown or break anything more important than pride) and laughed a lot.
So good times and the beach got inextricably linked in my mind, and in my soul. There's nowhere like the beach and, sadly, the Gold Coast. I feel at home there like nowhere else - even now, 40-ish years later, and with the tackiness that has evolved on so much of the tourist strip.
Because the ocean's still there, the sand's still there and the sun's still there. And for a while on Saturday, I could pretend that that's all the matters and be a li'l kid again. Now I've got a not inexpensive digital camera setup and can shoot like there's no tomorrow - and I did on the weekend. But that didn't matter. I was a kid again, and the sun was on my face and the salt was on my lips and life was good.
And it took a cyclone to show that to me. Life's weird sometimes.