Tuesday, December 15, 2015
THE BEACH REPORT
Silver-gulls & terns, some standing, some pecking, in & amongst the mat of seaweed strung along shoreline ebb & flow. I'm old man today, sat on bench absorbing late morning sun & warmth, collar up against breeze, picking in & amongst the map that living's made, this life's final lap. Almost fifty years ago I'm hereabouts too, writing in exercise book my Song of the Sea. For all they called me prolific I confess not much of it published. No regrets, certainly since publishing's yen dissolved. Compelled, though, to write, en plain air. Dinghies out to sea. Three kids in black swim-suits splashing in the warmest part, incubator pool of seaweed & old jetty, like the Russians I think whose great-grandchildren these could be, the old St Kilda Russians of fifty years ago, and all through the recent decades, bending the compass to accommodate the Caspian in this Port Phillip Bay. Room too for Hemingway, that is me as Hemingway, looking out at the sea from the beach, bathed in sun & warmth, dreaming up his old man story. I'd like him to have been in Miami but fact is he's on that beach in the Bahamas : Miami'd have been David's sling-shot to the Cuba of his good times and where his last great tale is set.
After swimming, one stands on the sand, age dripping off like the water. Conventionally, youthfulness the only reference, present moment's bare skin defeating history. The weight of years evaporates in the sun. But today, I havent swum. I'm snug on the bench, and age is the sea-shell I'm curled inside. Sea-shell my house, without even the weight a tortoise naturally bears. The tortoise metaphor's been mine for yonks : history inextricably ours, carried wherever we go. Perhaps the tortoise's shell was a deflection of the definitive burden accompanying my saint's name awarded by Aunt Lydia, dislodged when I exchanged nomme de plume for given name, age 16.
"Ageing gracefully" manifestly not the point : age is the grace. Instead of frustration, anxiety, unrequited ambition there's --almost embarrassed to say it, as though pompous & vain --contentment.
Like Hemingway's old fisherman, who knew how not to be angry… He no longer let anger get to him, get the better of him. He was over it, had out-gunned it, oh a long time before. Gift, like peaceful sea is, watcher's sea... dreaming the fishing only ever once experienced (this is me now, Kris Hemensley!) three days on the water around Port Arlington, 1966, two nights dropping the dredge, sorting the coagulated catch… The overcoming deep in him & upon him, on the bench, in the sun, facing the sea…