There’s a story I have, a story of the earlier and formative years of my life, before an adulthood which permitted no romance placed a full stop at the end and closed the book. Charlie has a similar story, albeit shorter, the story embedded in Australian history long before it was called history. It’s the story of a salt water people. It’s origins lie before our fair skinned forebears arrived to the country we call home, passed down through generations from a time when dreams were more than a hasty scribble on a post-it to snatch at the waking instant sliding into discretion. It’s not my history, my forebears did their best to quell that, but it is my country and some stories are more than a collection of contrivances. It’s a story of a country from before it was dreamed by the people who walked upon it. Some stories are inherent and whisper for anyone willing to listen, spoken by one people for all those to come, a persistent story of Australia so succinct it needs no updating or modernising.
At different times we both turned our backs on that story for different lives, we turned our backs on the sea breeze of a salt water people; or at least we stopped looking. For so many years mountains have been our home, where we feel we belong. In the mountains the gulls don’t cry, the world doesn’t exist to the static backdrop sound like when you put your hands over your ears; the air has no salt. A supportive post dislodged at the base swings and clatters against the waves below this jetty that moves with the sea more than it should; salt water stains the worn timber with a temporary lustre it doesn’t deserve but handsomely boasts. There’s more sky than we’re used to nowadays, it reaches so far down to a horizon so comically flat. And the salt roars at me borne on wind over an ocean too vast, salt water bearing down on us from as far away, as far back as the salt water people.It’s a silent moment that carries on for longer than I could put a number to, for as long as it takes the sun to go from up to down. Charlie’s sitting right beside me and for a moment, after years of looking away from the story of our nation, we know that we never really turned our backs on it at all, not entirely. No words pass for that time it takes the sun to go from up to down and no words are needed, who needs to speak when there’s too much to listen to? Such a rare commodity nowadays, listening. But listen we do, to whispers on a salty wind not talking to just us, but to a nation scattered so far and wide; we listen to a story that adulthood called an end to, but refuses to slide away as dreams so often do.
A little etherial, a touch poetic, downright wanky? Yes it’s all of these things and for one piece of inspired silence it doesn’t seem to matter. The story doesn’t belong to any one people, it’s a story that calls to anyone with a little bit of salt in their veins and right now it’s our story, carried on the wind and solid just for a moment before the waking instant again slides into discretion. For us our saltwater story doesn’t exist in waters gentled, it roars from a churning world so alive that It makes putting your hands over your ears just feel like emptiness, with no story at all.That water churns below us only occasionally reaching up to kiss our feet that dangle over the edge, this pose so reminiscent of a childhood that dreamed no stories of mountains. The salt wind calls from the salt water, to the salt water. And we follow. Sirens wail a seductive song and we’re pulled in, the water is warmer than our stories wrote but it’s the same home we know; alive, surging, relentless. There’s other people on the beach, barely willing to tempt wet knees in the wild choppy water that sucks and drags us hither and thither; they’re like tourists at home but now it’s us that are the tourists. We were the tourists, in a world girt by sea. A rip sucks us sideways like an old friend taking us only as far as the next waves that won’t stay gentle, salt water threatens all those around that don’t know the story.
Romance carries us all away occasionally, I say it’s romance and not spiritual but everyone has their own story; this is ours. For so long romance has come to us from other places without salt in the air, or water, but in a silent moment followed by a sucking rip the old book is opened so abruptly. I was born in a hospital where the eastern and northern walls were crusted white from the sea breeze pounding over the golf course, salt air was my first breath; from Charlie’s first steps the ocean was a roll down the hill away. So easy it is to reject this flighty romantic story in favour of the yolk of bluff masculinity that my country is now only climbing from, for now we’re not too tough to be brave; we’re in the storm where these two stories began. It’s taken a trip across the ocean to open a book dusty with the red sands of home but we don’t read, we listen; can you hear it? It’s the story of a salt water people.