Our beach is a different place in the winter. It's a place for sitting. A place for writing. A place for everyone. Unlike the long and sweaty days of summer, when it's appealing to thousands of other Sydney-siders to head to the beach also, these winter days call only a scattering of people onto the sand in hushed tones. Like a secret invitation whispered into an ear.
The sand is cool to touch, cool to walk and sit upon. I pull my jacket close around my neck and dig my coffee cup into the sand beside me. Almost pure white, the superfine sand runs through my fingers like water, glittering with tiny fragments of coral and shells and sparkling specks of sea glass. It brushes easily from my dry skin, so different to those summer days where suncream and water create a stickiness in the sand that won't budge without a shower. With the warm sun on my back, I drop my sunglasses to the ground as my eyes scan the far away sea for a tell-tale puff of water through a blowhole. I chastise myself and refocus back on the water as my mind so quickly begins to wander. The splash of a lonely swimmer's arms and legs cutting across the bay draws my eyes closer to shore, where they rise and fall with the forming waves just beyond the breakers at the point the sea is the lightest blue, shimmering and sparkling in the dappled light. My eyes track as the water laps onto the shore, leaving a silvery trail that fades just in time for the next wave, creeping that little bit further up the sand with the incoming tide. Only a few brave souls venture out beyond the ankle-deep froth, all but the lonely swimmer racing back to the relative warmth of the outside air to catch their breath once again and wrap up in a towel.
There is space for walking, and time to fossick and search for a treasure or a keepsake. An elder and a younger, both bent at the waist, barely straightening the length of the beach, comparing, sharing, stuffing into pockets and flicking the unwanted back to the water. Searching for something better, another new or different thing, uncovering the stories held here and creating a new one in this moment. The elder straightens her head scarf before bending again, her smile broad and her wrap dress floating and gleaming like the ocean around her. The pace of the walk is slower than that on the boardwalk behind or along the shop-lined, traffic-jammed streets nearby.
Laughter and chatter is drowned out in the crashing of the waves, the calls of parents for children to stay close not heard above the sounds of the seagulls. Without people from whom to beg, they call to each other in various tones of complacency. Nothing happening here...no, nothing here either...the tone of their cries rising and falling with the crashing waves as they gather in groups, leaving prints across the undisturbed sand. They investigate the sleeping mounds, just in case there's food left about the place, then take off in a group as in turn they are stalked, this time by toddlers whose parents pack up bags and strollers and shoes and socks to make the trek back along the sand towards home.
As my eyes once again scan for the swimmer, I briefly focus on white caps that just might be whales, and then retreat into my book and take a sip of my tea. Grateful for the space and time, glad for the solitude among the other people on our beach this beautiful winter's day.