ON THE BEACH TODAY
I just came back from an hour on the beach and have had such a wonderful time!
As Cino and I arrived, there was a group of about ten nuns wearing traditional 'nun's clothing' standing in a circle and I could see they were listening to an Aboriginal man who was talking animatedly and using his music sticks. Traditional music poured out the open back window of his four wheel drive parked next to me. I was entranced, as were others who were gathered to listen to what he had to say. I asked one of the nuns, who stood apart from the group, what was going on, and she told me they had just come down for the day to the beach and had started speaking to this man, who was now explaining his music and culture to the nuns. Beautiful. I listened a while, but felt I was intruding, I had not been invited, and anyway, Cino had not been at the beach for three days (she had her hair done and this was an attempt to keep the 'do' on the first day, and the second two days I have been ill with vertigo and nausea) and she was busting to get down there, yanking my arm out of the socket as she dragged on the leash.
The beach was glorious at low tide, long, wide, flat, white, hard sand, and hardly a cloud in a Turkish blue sky, with a ball of warm sun, not the harsh sun of summer but the organ warming sun of autumn. Cino took off like an athlete on steroids, as if it was her first ever time at the beach, running in circles, doing joyful baby goat jumps, diving into the ocean for a paddle, performing a sandy rap dance, sniffing out crabs, chasing seagulls and wagging her tail nearly off in delight when we met one of her favourite doggie friends; (a far more sedate dog, whose parents prefer to keep her and Cino at a distance.) There were kids building sand castles, Mums and Dads with toddlers splashing in the shallows, people swimming and sunning themselves, a score of running dogs with their owners, and a handful of local fishermen casting lines and a couple worming, two activities always of interest to Cino, for whom the possibility of a piece of rotting meat is a certain attraction. Peter, on of these men, says to me in his Aussie Chinese accent "Cino is a happy dog. She a very, very happy dog. She always smiling! She have too much coffee in the morning!" The freedom and joy of Cino on the beach is makes my heart sing, is the best meditation ever, and we get to do it together every day, neither of us ever lose our enthusiasm for our daily walk.
We walked to our normal 'turning point' about half an hour north and Cino chased the ball, bounded after sticks and ran to give a personal greeting to everyone, her new best friends, racing a couple of hundred metres ahead to say hello, then charging back to me to make sure I was still there.
And then I was face to face with the Aboriginal man I saw earlier talking to the nuns. "Hello" I said, "I'm Sandra. I saw what you were doing with the nuns and was intrigued!" I showed him the photos I took and he asked if I would send them to him, so I took another of him and Lockii on the beach. He stretched out his hand and took mine in a firm grip, his eyes were startling blue, and he introduced himself and his dog. They are Budabii and Lockii, from Boorowa, "And where are you from?" Cino leapt up and he patted her "We live around the corner, but I come from Zambia." He welcomed me to country, and took my hand again, in a traditional hand shake, fist to fist, but I forget the words of greeting. I showed him the way Zambians take leave, with a handshake, a thumb grip and another handshake, and the words "Hamba Gashle" (Go Safely). I put the bag of Cino poop on the ground to retrieve a tissue from my bag, and his gaze went to it immediately "Don't forget that!" I reassured him that I am very serious about taking our poop off the beach, and that I pick up the garbage others leave behind too. We talked for a few minutes, I told him my husband and I had worked in the outback and he told me he is now living with his sister in Bommo. He is going to Cape York next week for a ceremony, and had thought to go to Alice Springs for the Reconciliation gathering last week, but had many things to do, and could not make it. We farewelled.
We walked back to our starting point, I washed the sand off my feet and watched Cino do her habitual 'dragging my body slowly across the lawn' number (it gets the sand off her tummy I think ....) and as we walked to the car, and I saw a couple with a boy of about eight, with two twelve week old tiny adorable puppies, one back and one gold, who looked JUST LIKE CINO at that age. Once again, I was entranced. They have recently moved from Sydney, and are so loving the Shoalhaven, every weekend she says she is so delighted to discover more of the beauty of our environment. These pups came from a breeder in Brisbane, and this is their first day at the beach, as their vaccinations are all up to date. Cino and I oohed and aaahed at these gorgeous wee things, and she said with a laugh that their son was a 'bit of a ratbag' and these pups have had the most amazing effect on his behaviour. I talked about how our young friend Zac becomes a totally different young boy around animals, and the power of puppy therapy. They made a great fuss of Cino, and then we introduced ourselves, they live in North Nowra, their names are Liz, Paul and Tom, and I felt a real attachment to them. I shall see them again, I am sure. Feeling happy, I said goodbye.
Then as I was putting Cino into the car, there was Budabii and Lockii again, in their car, parked next to ours. He wound the window down and told me he had come back to the car as he realised he hadn't locked it, I told him it would probably have a been OK. So we talked again, I told him of Joshua's editing of the film "Zac's Ceremony" about a young indigenous man growing up and preparing for his manhood ceremony, and he listened carefully, asking questions. I showed him the bag I carry to the beach every day which holds our beach balls, "North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency" (Aboriginal Aid in the Top End) - and explained that Gerald and I had worked in the Outback with indigenous youth and in training programmes, and that it was at the end of one of those programmes, it was crowning moment in my life to be acknowledged as "That Old Lady - she is my Mob". He untied a coloured thread from his rear view mirror, he held it to his forhead and held it out to his dog, who sniffed it, and then licked me in the face, and said "Lockii and I bless this for you, it is our gift to you, thank you for caring about my mob. I have good music here, music that is older than Egypt, music that is older than Europe, and some of it my Aunty sings on, and I have played my music sticks on it too. If you would like to hear it I can let you hear it sometime." I said that I would, then had the thought he may think I am single and that he may be looking for a friend, which could get awkward. So I thanked him, and told him that I am not technical, that my husband takes care of all 'that kind of thing' for me. I invited him to come to our place for a meal, and said that I am a good cook. Then a big black crow began to sing and he cocked his head to listen. I said "I think that bird is speaking to you" - he told me he was listening and trying to work out what It was trying to tell him. I said goodbye, and as I walked away he called out "Do you like kangaroo?" It took me a second to understand what he meant; kangaroo not kangaroos - "No, not to eat!" He laughed and said, "I mince it, and I make a good kangaroo with pasta - it lasts for four days! I can bring some!"
I left the beach feeling very happy today. What a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours, what joy there is all around us, and what beautiful souls there are to meet and discover. I made four new friends today; seven if you include their doggies.
NB I have since sent him the photos, including the first one which wasn't a good shot at all, which I had showed him, saying I would delete it, ever mindful how upset some people get with what they consider to be a bad photo. He said, "Never delete your first shot." - nobody ever advised me that before; the first shot is the one which probably captures the true moment, the unexpected revelation.