The water in my stainless steel pot began to bubble and pop, the liquid making intricate shapes as it rose. I reached into a bag of pasta, its plastic edges crackling, and grabbed a fist full of shells. I dropped them into the rolling boil and watched as the water settled down. I added two more fists (it had been a big day of surfing) then swirled them in a circle with the end of my knife.
I adjusted the knob on the single burner camp stove, increasing the heat until the water began to bubble once more. I chopped zucchini, sliced off a hearty chunk of salted butter, then poured a glass of Barossa Valley Shiraz. I sat in the back of my van, atop the cosy bed I’d already made up for later, and listened to the ocean roar.
No doubt, the waves were still cranking, though the last surfer had left this parking lot some time ago. Now it was just my little white van, my giant yellow Labrador Bobo, and that one kangaroo munching on a patch of grass further up the street.
I petted Bobo’s ears softly while I sipped on my wine and heaved a huge happy sigh. I tried to think of the last time we had gone away on a road trip like this, but my memory came up blank. This was our third night of camping in a row, and I felt a joy that in my heart (that I had forgotten I could feel) for the first time in over a year.
I drained the water from my pasta and added the butter, the chopped zucchini and a healthy dose of salt. Like most things out here on the road, dinner was a simple fare.
“C’mon Bobo,” I said, nudging his warm body with my toes. He looked at me, his eyelids drooping, and began the slow process of getting up. He was growing old now, but he still knew what to do. We’d spent most of the twelve years of his life out in the wilderness, camping and adventuring, and he dragged his failing hips behind him now with as much enthusiasm as ever.
With the whole saucepan in one hand and my wine in the other, we took the steps down to the beach. I sat in the cool sand, Bobo sniffing the nearby seagrass, and let the spray fill my lungs. I ate one slow spoonful at a time. When the pot was empty and my belly full, I looked down both ends of the long beach.
When I was sure that no one was watching, I got up and danced in the sand. My arms wide, my chin lifted skyward, I moved to the tune of the ocean and the beat of my heart. I began to sing, softly at first, and then gaining courage, I let my vocal cords be free to the wind. Eventually, the euphoria passing, I sat back down to watch the first few stars appear.
As my mind quieted, I looked back over the last year and acknowledged how difficult it had been. Filled with grief from the ending of my paramedic career, with re-education, and with all of the isolation, striving and financial stress that comes from living the new entrepreneur’s life.
Then came the injury I sustained mid-year while surfing in Indonesia, the wave so powerful it tore my MCL near off the bone. At first, I was glad to have more time to spend in my little studio writing and working, but somewhere along the way, even once my knee healed, I’d lost the part of myself that knew what it loved.
For reasons I still don’t fully understand, last year was determined to be about grieving, difficulty and loss. I couldn’t find that happy, bubbly version of me. I searched as best I could: looking for her in meditation, in life coaches, in a psychologist, and in the words of many supportive family and friends. When nothing worked, I reasoned that perhaps all processes (even ones that feel unpleasant and uncomfortable) are meant to be honoured.
But by the end of the year, I had grown tired. “Something’s not right,” I found myself saying to my sister, “something has to give”. And give it did, in the form of one last straw to break the camels back: a relationship break up.
Which, to my good fortune, inspired the first solo surf trip I had taken in almost a year.
There I was, dancing on the beach, remembering my love for life and the earth, with such intensity that tears ran down my cheeks. In one trip away, everything I thought I’d lost had been returned: my joy, my lightness, my gratitude for life.
Bobo nudged the side of my body and began to bark, something he always did if I sat too long. I realised it was almost dark, and time to head back to our makeshift camp. I wiped the last few tears from my face and stood up. I took my hands to my heart and bowed toward the ocean. I whispered, as if it were our little secret “Thank you, I love you, thank you”.
Bobo’s heavy breathing followed me up the stairs. The dusk air was chilly, but I was warm all over, my face a giant grin of thankfulness. I somehow knew the darkness had passed, that I was ready to embrace the adventure again.
Nothing is ever lost, only forgotten.
The earth, and all her beauty waits for our return.