Moffat Beach, Caloundra, Qld. Tuesday, 1.30pm
He is still. This is unusual. People just aren’t still anymore. Like boiling water, we bubble and toil.
Everyone is engaged in activity. We fear the quiet; what we may hear. We are junkies for stimulation. Even when we relax, our fingers are restless, injecting distraction into our quietness, tapping away the stillness.
Nearby, a young woman is doing just that. Lying on her stomach on the manicured grass behind the beach, her Crocs crossed in the air behind her; she has white cords leading from ears exposed by a ponytail pulled tight. Her thumbs are dancing as she pours her life into her phone, her head nodding to mechanical rhythms as the waves break to a different beat.
Above her, a prematurely warm sun burns the body she has discarded and a glistening ocean rises towards her.
I can imagine a tsunami walling up on the eastern horizon and she wouldn’t notice until she was tumbling up the hill, flailing in its deadly churn. I can imagine a bomb dropping on the fancy apartments, funky coffee shops and swimwear stores behind her, blowing the whole lot to smithereens and she wouldn’t notice until body parts, coffee dust and bikini bottoms rained upon her.
I can imagine her planet dying around her and she wouldn’t notice until her phone’s battery went flat.
But he is still. A statue on the sand.
The young bloke gazes at the waves. They’re small and breaking close to shore. Apart from a wisp of his bleached hair flicking in the breeze, he is stationary against the rippling sea.
He is studying the wave patterns. No, not so much studying, as being aware. He is present, fearless in his inactivity. He breathes the subtle wind changes. He feels the sun massaging his bare shoulders. He hangs with the seagull, riding the onshore wind, reading the patterns.
A skim board rests against his hip. A black and white kelpie stands near him, fixedly regarding him, awaiting an expected action, flexing a leg muscle with each wind-induced movement of its master’s hair. The kelpie has its back to the sea, its attention solely on the young bloke, its tongue hanging out.
Beneath the surface ripples, there are deeper currents. Beneath the deeper currents, there are slower, grander movements. These grand movements create our world; form the future. Here is where we are born, where we die. To be still is to know these tides. To be still is to be what’s going on. To be alive.
Responding to a silent signal from the sea, the young bloke snatches up his board and sprints towards the water. The dog sprints too.
The pair doesn’t run directly to the waterline but rather runs diagonally towards it, angling left, which is the direction the waves break.
Reaching water’s edge at full speed, the young bloke throws his board down on barely a centimetre of water. He jumps on it and skims across a nearly depleted wave, sliding towards the next wave at a 45-degree angle. He carves across that wave’s face and then cuts back to complete his short ride to the beach.
Hitting the sand, he scoops up his board, tucks it under his arm and runs back to his spot on the beach.
There he stands again, waiting, his board resting against him. He settles into his stillness, bending the Norfolk pines with his breathing, the sun glistening from his wet skin, the waves texting him. Beneath the wave chatter, he hears the changing currents. Beneath the currents the planet talks to him. He listens.
His response is life.