As an English girl born in December, one thing I never expected to experience was walking home along a damp, deserted beach on my birthday, with a warm, gentle ocean lapping at my knees.
It’s funny how I never really paid much thought, when I was moving to Australia, to the fact that I would no longer have a winter birthday. It wasn’t until a week or two before that one of my friends remarked that I was now a summer birthday, that I suddenly realised it.
My date of birth is one thing I could never change, and many years ago I stopped bothering to envy my August-born brother for having a birthday in the middle of the summer holidays, guaranteed never to be at school and to be warmer than mine. Thank God school finished a long time ago.
Apparently, though: I can change the seasons in which I live – and in Australia, December 19th falls in the summer.
My birthday was wet and rainy, but not cold. After a night out near the wharf, I walked home, crossing the road at South Steyne, and descended the stone steps. With the storms and heavy rain, the sand was damp and cool, and the tide was low across the shore.
I walked diagonally to the water until I met it, foaming over my feet and ankles, deepening quickly until the back of my silk skirt was salty and wet. Viv gave me a crystal for my birthday with instructions to wash it in salt water, so I leaned forward to dunk it (carefully holding my handbag back).
The waves were crossing each other: towards and from behind me as I walked along the shore through the breaking white water.
I love the ocean. It never stops: it doesn’t matter what’s going on in my life or anybody else’s; the waves just keep on coming. Small and foamy, big enough to knock me off my feet, sucking me back into the ocean or gently lapping over my toes, always changing, but never ever stopping. I looked out across the dark sky as it meets the sea, all I can see is the white foam forming regularly to separate them.
Late at night the beach is usually deserted. It’s the most restful place I know, and the most complete I think I feel. Several times, I’ve walked home this way or stopped and locked my bike up just to wander along the beach. If it’s clear, I can watch the stars, while the sound of the ocean drowns out any other noise. I stare at the stars, or out over the water, and let my worries drift away with the wind. Occasionally if I’m feeling sad, I’ve cried on the beach until the ocean calms the tears.
Sometimes I think: this is how I will know my soulmate … he’ll love the beach and the ocean as well. Not just on sunny days, but at night and when it’s stormy and empty too.
The surf club isn’t far along the beach, so when I reached it, I made my way back across the beach and back home in sandy thongs (sorry, flip flops!). It’s not a major birthday (thank god) – but it was a pleasant, quiet one; a nice celebration with my closest friends in Manly, and a very different experience from the last thirty two cold ones