We were at the water’s edge, I, further away, she about to cross over. We saw it. A fin! I walked up to her. We asked the other, “Did you see that?” then laughed, definitely a dolphin! The water safe again she told me she had always wanted to visit this beach. She dreamed it would be the honeymoon that brought them here. This year she was done kissing frogs. She decided, she could wait no longer, the beach was hers, for now this weekend.
Unlike her, I had visited the beach many times. This time, I came seeking simplicity in things discarded.
And to find intent in every footprint.
I walked away from the water. It was 6:30 am. The sun had crept higher in the sky. The walk back was slower. The sea had left pearls at my feet. Distracted, I didn’t notice her.
About my age, but younger than me, she was seated on the concrete steps near the cafe. We exchanged a polite smile, the kind you exchange between strangers. “Beautiful morning”, she greeted, then lifted one thigh slightly, brushed the sand off the step and created an obvious space for me. I sat down. She had been watching me, thinking I was a tourist, the camera adding to her perception. I told her, despite my numerous visits, this beach is as beguiling as the first time I stepped foot on it. Lean and with a tan of wide open spaces, I thought she was a local. It opened a dialogue between us.
She was from the Eastern States. She was going to avoid this town, known for the beach and little else. She had made a last minute decision to spend the weekend here, the next stop being too far away to drive in a day.
Together we watched the young woman in the surf while enjoying a few minutes of comfortable silence. The woman beside me exhaled deeply, and, still staring out to sea began to talk, for the first time in months and didn’t know why she was sharing with me. She told me travelling around Australia in a campervan was a retirement dream for her and her husband. After a marriage of 35 years he walked away. To start a new life, in a new home was futile at her age. The finances did not add up. Once the shock and distress had subsided, something else kicked in. She completed a short mechanics course at TAFE, bought a campervan and had travelled the Top End on her own. She was going to complete the trip. If she had nothing left, she still had the dream. In the deepest creases of her face and in the blue of her eyes, I found mine.
My goals this year include travelling to those places I thought I would only go accompanied. The women taught me I could do it on my own. So I will. The regret of not doing it would be harder to live with, than not having someone to do it with.
I don’t believe in chance encounters. At times people inspire us to be stronger and at other times, we are stronger and more powerful for walking away. Our journey may be solitary but we are not alone.
I had returned to this beach one weekend to reclaim meaning in all that I do and found a beautiful truth.
All paths taken are meant to be.
May our paths cross again. Until then,
a dawn bird