Sandon

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

A Place Where I Can Breathe

Turning off the smooth tar of the main road and onto the wide dirt road, it wasn’t far now. Off in the distance, the blue ocean blended with the clear blue sky, making it hard to tell where one finished and the other started.

Over the past twenty years this road had become so familiar. Each hole and ditch still in the same place, though filled each year by rain, shifting sands or well-meaning council workers, they were always there waiting for us like old friends.
Knowing which side of the road to be on turned into a test every year, remember where the road was smooth and where it was rough. Dipping down into cause-ways and climbing up the other side was all part of the attraction. One of the many wonderful things that brought us back year, after year.

The road narrows. Kangaroos make brief appearances through the trees, emus run across the open paddocks. The trees on the side of the road become thicker and whip the side of the car. Rounding a bend, the car starts to rattle and shudder. “Corrugated Corner” we all laugh at the same time.
The water suddenly appears next to the car, so close, you’d think we were driving in it. Luckily it was low tide. High tide made the road almost impassable. If another car came towards us, it was a matter of who could move over or back up. Around another bend and the water started to move away. A few houses belonging to locals came into view. We were even closer.

Rain bought with it different troubles. Walking across sections of the road covered with water, deciding if the car would get through without being water logged or bogged. Cars stranded in the road, trapped in the soft sinking sand as they tried to avoid the deep potholes in the middle of the road were a common site during the wet season. Not now though. Dust filled the air behind us. We were all prepared to roll up our windows if a car came towards us.

The car slowed to take a tight bend near the old garbage tip which had long since grown over with weeds. I thought about the many times we had carried bins to the tip, holding our noses when we started smelling the rotting garbage. Far enough from the camping area that the smell wasn’t too bad, but close enough to walk to.
The car quickly accelerates to climb the short but steep hill into the reserve.

On the right four small sheds, long drop toilets. Another reason to hold your nose. On our left, the huge old trees we’d all play on while growing up. The thick, strong ropes once attached to old tyres were now frayed and hung lifelessly from the strongest branches. Four houses, all that were left now. Electricity lines the only sign of suburbia, No running water. Instead, small water tanks by the only three houses.  Rusted tanks half falling apart and a new white cement tank standing next to it.

Stopping the car and stepping out. Finally, here. Listening to the trees rustle in the cool breeze. Bell birds flying from tree to tree. Rosellas happily chirping to each other. Magpies not afraid of the strange humans that have entered their neighbourhood. The soft pounding of the waves against the sand, small rocks clinking together as the strong waves drag them beck out to sea. All this made the long eight-hour drive, the traffic, the car sickness and road works all worth it.

No-one wants to waste time unpacking the car. A walk to the beach was much more inviting. The narrow tracks to the beach had been worn into the long thick grass after years of trampling. Adults with fishing gear. Children with buckets, all using the same track.
A clear blue ocean greeted us. The warm sun like a happy hug. Bending to pick up the soft sand like a welcoming handshake from a much-loved friend. None speaks. Just happy to stand and take it all in. Scrunching our toes.

The island in the distance was an easy walk from the main beach. Perfect for fishing, rock climbing, exploring or just sitting to take in the beauty of the Pacific Ocean. At high tide the water covered the sand to the island and made walking there impossible but when the tide went out there were so many wonderful things to see. The once pounding waves slowly parted, barely touching, becoming further and further apart to the point where you think they will never meet again. Weekend fisherman walk out to their favourite fishing spot on the island, hoping for that one big catch they always seem to miss. Children rush to search the hundreds of small tide pools hoping to find a stranded fish, collecting shells, starfish, periwinkles and weed, excitedly running back to show unenthused parents, then returning a minute later to put their treasures back.

The beach looks like it goes on forever. Walking on this beach, all your troubles vanish into the clean white sand pressing softly between your toes. The ocean crashing against the shore. It’s so easy to lose hours just sitting and watching it. Dolphins play beyond the breaking waves. Seagulls fight over scraps on the waters edge. Children play happily, building sandcastles. Their parents sitting close by keeping an eye on them while talking to each other.

As the tide comes in and the water begins to cover the sand again, fisherman hurry back with their catch. Hardly ever “the big one” though. The tips of their rods bouncing as they walk. A wave catches them unawares and makes them stumble slightly, another wave from the right meets with one from the left manages to splash between their legs making them walk a little faster. Often the playful waves will knock the fisherman down, completely drenching them and seeming to laugh as he curses under his breath. The fisherman will go out again tomorrow and go through it all over again.

On the beach a small lean-too serves as a hut for the group of professional fisherman who work the beach. One man sits on top a ladder high above the sand, while the others sit on the beach and talk. Waiting…. Waiting… waiting for the call. The man on the ladder knows each rung well, after years of climbing. Looking out to sea for the school of fish to pass, he always sees them first. The perfect vantage point. He yells out and drops the 6 meters down into the soft sand, the lit cigarette not moving from his lips. The men waiting below spring into action. One in a small wooden boat weighed down at the stern by a large orange and white net, two pushing the boat out beyond the breaking waves. Others taking hold of the start of the net. The boat is rowed expertly over the waves, the old wooden vessel seems to know this routine as well as it’s captain. Quickly, it turns to row across the swell, the net slipping out of the boat and into the water around the back of the school. Another quick turn with the captain rowing hard and fast to get back to the shore. In one move he is out of the boat and in the line with the remaining men on the end of the net. The school has been circled.

Together two lines of men, twenty meters apart begin dragging the net back to the beach. One man yell instruction, although not really needed. They have been doing this for years, but they all know their roles. Some of the locals and holiday makers come to help. Most have helped many times before and all have learnt to listen to the man in charge. A wrong move could lose the entire catch. Step on the net, you’re in trouble. Tangle the net and you’re asked to leave. Not politely I might add. There was no filter here. Language flowed freely.
Thousands of fish jumping in the shallows, trying to get back to the water. Each fish removed from the net by hand and thrown into grey tubs sitting on the beach. If you get hit by a flying fish, don’t expect an apology. Small stingrays and sharks are released back into the ocean. Helpers are rewarded with a fresh fish or two. These would be cooked on open fires or bush stoves later that night. The catch loaded onto trailers and taken into town to the fisherman’s co-op market. Any holes in the net are repaired, the net is packed back into the boat. Then men return to their lean-too. One, with his lit cigarette, high on the ladder.

Waiting… Watching…


Submitted: January 25, 2023

© Copyright 2023 Rae York. All rights reserved.

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HOUDINI

In the scarcely endurable cold of a Pennsylvania, USA day mid winter, I have been treated to the most lovely walk, all too short, thru your most excellent descriptions, What a gift on this snowy, blowy day. Thank you! Very well written highly impressive!

Wed, January 25th, 2023 12:52pm

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