A few days ago I returned to a beautiful bay beach that has always had a little magic for me. It is in a National Park and is accessed by walking in several kilometres though bush full of wildflowers, tall gnarled eucalyptus gums with dusty deep pink bark, sandstone cliffs and vibrant green ferns. When you arrive there are a few if any people, magnificent views and the opportunity to swim and snorkel.
I used to visit it mostly in summer holidays as a child and then young woman. It has been more than ten years since my last visit.
A lot has happened to me in that time – the past decade. The last quarter of my life.
- I became a mother of two children. (My firstborn will turn ten this year).
- I became a carer when my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2009.
- I became a widow and single mother when I lost my husband to brain cancer in 2012.
- My father’s valued loving and intelligent presence in my life began to fade year by year. He was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers in 2013. Last year we transitioned my father into a care facility because my family and I can no longer support and care for him at home. I miss his wit, his insight, his wise and caring counsel.
- I resigned from my successful corporate commercial career that I spent almost two decades striving to build. I resigned so that I could prioritise my mental, physical and spiritual health and consequently provide the best possible care and love for my children and my parents.
- I forged new friendships and have a lovely new man in my life who is now my boyfriend.
When I was a young child my father would carry me in to the beach riding high on his shoulders. Then as I grew too big to be carried, my parents would cajole and bribe me to walk in and out on the tracks. My father was passionate about bush walking. It was infectious and these first adventures instilled in me a great love for the bush, bushwalking and in particular this National Park.
Once I became a young independent woman I continued to return the beach in holiday periods. Sometimes I camped nearby with university friends. Other times I visited as a young earnest career woman accompanied by my husband. Our visits were carefree. I sunbaked with my mind full of dreams and plans for the future.
The bay is usually calm with clear water and excellent visibility for swimming. However when I visited it a few days ago, the water was rough and water visibility was poor. Swimming was not an option. It had rained heavily the day before due to a residual weather front passing through – leftover winds and rain from a cyclone that had wreaked havoc in Northern Australia. The track in was muddy. The bush was glistening with rain drops – freshly washed.
I was visiting the beach with my boyfriend. I had hoped to show off the bay to him in the perfect conditions. We were taking a short break together nearby and a visit to this beach from my past was a priority.
Although the conditions were different to previous visits – the bay still sparkled and the sun was shining. The sky was still an incredible endless blue, the bush felt timeless, the headland and surrounding cliffs were still majestic. The raw energy of the waves as they crashed on the beach was soothing. They reminded me of the mixture of emotions that I now seem to experience each day.
I shared stories with my boyfriend about my past and smiled as I remembered fun times with my Dad, with my late husband and as a young woman.
As we chatted I felt happy and sad. I reflected on the challenges of life. I was grateful for all the magical memories. I was grateful that I had someone new and special who I could share this beach with – someone who was happy to listen my memories. We hope to return to the beach another day to snorkel and swim.
One day I will also take my kids to the beach for a bush walk, for a splash and some stories.
As I sat upon the beach, gazing at the view – I realised that I was like the beach. I have been through several storms but I am still sparkling.
One of my favourite quotes came to mind:
I love who I’ve been, but I really love who I’m becoming.