Thirroul. Saturday, 2pm
Love will break your heart.
It may not be the fault of the object of your love, but love brings disappointment – time and again. And after constant battering, love becomes bruised and sore, retreating into its shell like a sick turtle’s head.
A salty zephyr that was flitting about the beach has whipped itself into a wind and is playing havoc with one of the latest trends in beach accessories, the shade tent. There are plastic shade tents littered all over this beach, which was already strewn with the plastic detritus of modern living. It’s like a rainbow-coloured refuse tip – with surf.
Many of the tents are blown out of shape, billowing like sails; some have weighed anchor and are heading north up the crowded beach, rolling over burning bodies, plastic eskies and untidy piles of towels, until coming to rest against the lifesavers’ car.
The tents, my friend, are blowing in the wind.
Men with board shorts, tatts and gym-bloated muscles wrestle with these bits of naughty plastic, much to the delight of the plastic-coated kids.
My greatest love is the natural world. I have loved her since she birthed me. But it’s a difficult relationship now.
The ocean stretches away to the horizon. Riding that curved horizon are half a dozen huge ships sailing south towards Port Kembla, rusty scratches against the blue. One white cloud pushes against the traffic, an empty thought bubble.
How can you watch something you love spiral into a painful decline? Do you keep watching, a chair pulled close to the deathbed, or do you pull your head into a comfortable denial?
A thousand people swim between the flags. Waves swell under a bobbing humanity and then push a plastic-wrapped jetsam of bodies and boogie boards into the shallows.
Behind me, the Illawarra escarpment rises up, as brooding as when D. H. Lawrence visited Thirroul in 1922 and contemplated its majesty. But this’great black wall of mountain’ is humbled now by clearings, communication towers and buildings. The cedar is gone, the original people banished, the creek tainted, and our love is compromised.
Before the great decline, the Wodi Wodi people had a healthy relationship with the escarpment, the swampy coast and the sea. But something has gone terribly wrong.
I love the natural world, but now that she’s sick, victim of a cruel betrayal, I’m devastated.
I used to love humanity too, until I saw it brainwashed and corporatised into something less than human, turning like a rabid dog against the very systems that created it – and still (generously) nurtures it. The business plan is ravaging the four great lands, fouling air and water, turning a planet’s natural history into plastic and blowing it into the sea, causing lovers to despair and turtles to gag.
A gust of wind sets a beach ball free from its chair. It sprints away, bouncing over bodies like a karaoke ball over words. It sings past a shade tent where, inside, an older woman sits, reading a book.
Sand blasts the plastic walls, pressing them against her. The tent is enveloping her, wrapping her in plastic like broccoli in shrink wrap. The walls are thin; the sun shines right through them (defeating the purpose), bathing the woman in a sickly hue. With the sticky heat and plastic slaps it must be hell in there, but having escaped into the fantasy of her book, she seems oblivious to the awful reality around her.
I wish I could do that, be oblivious to the awful reality. Maybe I’d be happier. But I can’t.
My love is choking like a turtle. She is burning with a fossil-fuelled fever. She coughs contagion.
But I cannot abandon her. She is my mother.