Oh yes, Seachange for Sure!
Emily reflects on the good fortune that she has had, to live out what many only ever dream of!.
By Emily Walter
Many people dream about moving home closer to the ocean and enjoying a seachange. I was fortunate to do just that when I took on a job at a delightful beachside holiday camp on the Mornington Peninsula. For six glorious years I lived a block away from a beautiful bay beach where I walked and watched the waters drift in and drift out, day in and day out.
When I first moved away I was asked if I would get lonely living so far from all my family and friends. I was never concerned about this being an issue though, because, for one thing, the sea really is such a fast and steady companion and, secondly, you are never too long without visitors when you have such a compelling habitat!
As a popular summer migration destination I thoroughly enjoyed witnessing the ebb and flow of human traffic, transforming my own personal sleepy beachside winter solitude into a bustling mini metropolis. I loved how the summer regulars would swarm in and lord over their temporary home, filling the car parks and populating lines at the supermarketThe knowing glances shared between locals during the busy summer really made me feel as though I was a part of a secret society of some sort, banding together to brave the bombardment. There was excitement in the air, though, and new, happy energy. The holiday makers brought with them a sense of joy and revelry that was missing in a way during those cold but cosy winter months.
Working at a youth camp, we had schools from all over Victoria coming for their retreats and camps. A lot of inner city school children had never seen the sea. It was a such a privilege being there and feeling their awe and wonder when they first walked cautiously towards the water along the sand. I wish I could have witnessed their thoughts at that moment – were they scared or confused, or was it just a completely natural, familiar experience? I like to think of them as amphibian creatures, walking towards their home, after years lost on the land.
One of my earliest memories of going to a beach as a youngster was of walking along the sand at Wilsons Prom, on Squeaky Beach. It felt like an eternity, traversing that giant beach with my tiny feet. I remember not knowing much about the plan, but just that my feet were bare, I was holding my mother’s hand and I felt a true sense of excitement preparing for the thrill of a swim to come.
I feel so grateful that my parents were able to take us on a beachside holiday each summer when we were growing up. Again, going away on those trips felt like an exotic dream – beach time meant no school and pure fun. Beach time meant staying up a little later as a treat to play cards with the adults. It meant eating fancy fruits and ice creams and fish and chips! Beach time meant going to Mass in a new and exotic church, with a range of new statues and new people to look at. Beach time meant building sandcastles and then destroying them, the summer sand mandala of sorts. It meant doing somersaults in the sea, swimming happily, weightless and free.
When working at the holiday camp, one of my favourite things to do was walk down to the beach and have a quick swim during my lunch break. Even though it was quite an inconvenience – getting changed, walking down the road, getting saturated and needing a shower – there was no question ever if it WASN’T worth it. The crisp, refreshing SPLASH I found always helped me to shake up my mental Etch A Sketch and reset. I particularly enjoyed watching dogs when they had a swim. I loved seeing them bounding towards the water and then frolicking around before excitedly running back to their owner, dripping, dopey and over the moon.
Now that I live back in the city, it seems like such an exotic idea that I could simply duck down during lunch and have a dip in the sea! While at the time I did not take it for granted, sometimes I wish that I could travel back in time and relive those halcyon days.
My grandfather passed away at a devastatingly young age, and following this tragedy, my Grandma took mum on ship across the Pacific to visit her sister who had met and married an American soldier. This was a massive undertaking, my mum was only two at the time, but my Grandma was longing to be in the comforting presence of her older sister.
I have a dream of going on a long journey across the seas. There is something quite romantic to me about months on a ship, looking out across the infinite blue and having nothing else to do except be there; present and peaceful. I know, though, that after a couple of weeks the novelty may wear off and “present and peaceful” could turn into “trapped and irritable”. When I was living in England, I nonetheless looked into getting on board a cargo ship for transportation home rather than an aeroplane. The journey well over a month though and I would have had to get an American visa. It would have been so slow and tedious but I like to think would inspire a lot of creativity and poetic imaginings - and probably a whole series of sea sicknesses!
What is it about the sea and making us feel peace? Is it its perpetual motion, its unknown depths, the sense of limitless space? Or is it is something deeper, a recognition of its power – a similar feeling that comes from looking out into a broad starry night sky; the infinite abyss. I have spent so many nights with friends, family or just alone, sitting on the shore looking out and up. The darkness of night gives the sea an impenetrable feel and a greater sense of mystery. We can’t help but feel small when contemplating the vast, inky depths of both the sky and the sea.
‘Think of me when you look at the sea.’ My mother says that to me every time I am visiting a seaside town. Sometimes I think of her as a two-year old with the seaspray in her face, looking over the infinite blue. Her love of the water has definitely been passed directly to me. Whether I am floating on my back, staring at the clouds with my mind switched off and my heart full; or splashing and giggling in the crashing waves with my nephews and nieces, I feel utterly alive when in water. I am so thankful that I had the fortune to be born into a country that is so handsomely girt by sea!