The Woven Shore

The sun was beggining to reunite with the sea again as Anna made the journey home. Heading down the Old Coast Road, her black Mercedes purred harmoniously, in contrast to her dishevelled mind. Fraught with worry that her presentation had not been convincing enough to get management approval, she adjusted her glasses, irritated that she could not shut out the incessant chatter of her mind. What if the theme was all wrong? What if they hated it? What if she failed? A shudder rippled through her body. Stuck in the unforgiving vernacular stomping across her forehead she did not notice the sky. She did not notice how the soft clouds danced across the blanket of faded blue. She did not notice how majestically the trees stood together, as ancient monuments of ethereal pride. Only vaguely aware of the blur of cars passing by, she did not notice the people in them – nor consider the depth of their internal worlds or the chatter captivating their minds. She just kept driving, as she had done a million times before, heading south toward Bunbury, to her treasured childhood home.
As the outskirts of the familiar country town came into view, Anna felt a welcome rush of comfort and security. Her face unknowingly unfolded itself into a smile as she wound through the friendly streets. She made all the necessary turns toward her father’s little house by the beach, while she considered how her blueprints could be improved. Perhaps a focus on the ecological benefits of the programme would have been better? The possibilities fluttered furiously in her brain. The unanimous threads of self-doubt mounted to a thundering crescendo. Then her mind suddenly went silent, as one unexpected thought boldly swept across it … do I really care? The thought took her completely off guard, causing her to slow her vehicle almost to a standstill. An angry honk jolted her back to reality. As she surged forward, she realised, in that singular moment, that she didn’t care – about the project, or what the board thought, or even about how hard she had worked to get the damn thing designed. She didn’t care about any of it. As the intensity of the realisation sank in, Anna began to panic. She drew her breathe in sharply and felt her heart pump with alarming velocity. The landscape before her seemed to become brighter as its contours lit up with startling lucidity.
Without thinking, she made a sudden left turn, causing the cars behind her to bleat in irritation at this abrupt disturbance to their otherwise routine day. The spontaneity of the sudden turn both terrified and exhilarated her. Where the hell was she going? She was instictively heading towards the beach. Anna was not an impulsive person by nature, so the desperate compulsion she felt to see the ocean at this moment baffled her. Regardless of this, she knew that she had to see it. As the adrenalin began to settle joyously in the pit of her stomach, Anna sped toward the coast. She pulled her car to a halt and took in the view before her. She had seen this beach thousands of times, but never before had it appeared so beautiful. It was like she was seeing it for the very first time. Methodically she took off her shoes and got out of the car, taking in a deep salty breath of freedom. Her mind was unnaturally and majestically silent as she wandered down to the shore. She almost felt as though she inhabited the body of a stranger. As the water touched her feet, a welcome flurry of peace wove through her tired and scattered soul.
Anna sat at the water’s edge. The ocean was a sublime union of aqua and indigo possibilities. The sun was surrendering itself to the oceans depths, as it poured pink and orange ink into the sky. Hope glimmered like diamonds over the rippling water, almost blinding Anna’s eyes. The tangy perfume of the sea sweetly invaded her senses, bringing with it a torrent of memories. She remembered how she had walked with her mother along this shoreline. She saw herself ambling through the sand, laughing and chatting with Ester, in those glorious days when her mother was still with her. Anna was thirty when her mother had died suddenly in a car crash. It had been twelve years. The depth of her fresh aching for her mother stung at her core. It was not often that she allowed herself to just sit and think – to contemplate the past. On any other day she would have considered it a waste of precious time and energy. But not today – today was different somehow.
As the acute remnants of grief dissipated, another memory danced through her mind. She remembered walking along this beach with another soul she had loved. Her ex-husband’s face appeared in her mind as though he were standing before her. They had been so in love back then, before the impenetrable boulder of indifference wedged itself between them. Anna closed her eyes as she remembered the warm feeling of his hand in hers as they strolled on the sand. She remembered the way his eyes glistened mischievously as he threw her against their special rock, and the way he tasted when he kissed her passionately. Her heart surged with a love long ago lost as she thought about how the moon had looked that night. The vivid recollection made her blush. She couldn’t believe that he could still make her blush, the unforgivably audacious bastard.
As she watched the last remnants of sunlight dissolve into the sea her mind drifted to the present. She thought about daughter, Bridget, twenty years old now and travelling through America with her highly unsuitable boyfriend Jim. Anna had voiced her reservations about the trip in no uncertain terms. Finally she had admitted defeat when Bridget had taken her hand and said, ‘Mum, I know you’re just being a mum, but I need to live my own life now, and this trip is my decision, just like Jim is my decision’. Point taken Anna had thought as she silently turned toward the liquor cabinet. She did hope things were going well and that Bridget was being sensible – having fun but being sensible in the process of course. Anna sighed. She had raised her daughter well and that’s all she could do. A comforting feeling of accomplishment swept through her being.
Running her hands though the damp sand she saw a man walking his golden retriever in the distance. She wondered if he was happy with his life. What did he do with his life? Was he satisfied with the decisions he had made? He certainly looked content; an air of peace seemed to emanate from him.
Finally her thoughts naturally came to rest on her own decisions. She thought about her work. She had achieved a great amount of success in her field. But as she allowed herself to really contemplate it, she realised that she did not feel fulfilled. Something was missing. She felt strangely empty and dissatisfied. It was always about striving for success – for the next victory. It was about impressing people in the vain hope that doing so would validate her in some way. It suddenly occurred to her that she needed this validity. It made her feel like she contributed something and that she mattered. But it was a hollow sense of validation. She wanted validation from herself for the first time in her life. What is it that I really want to do? The question brought with it a quiet reverie of contemplation.
Anna wasn’t aware of how much time had passed before she begun to notice how the sky had turned three brilliant shades of blue as the moon shone new light upon it. Slowly she got up and walked fully clothed into the water. She loved the beach, but the ocean itself had always frightened her somewhat and she hardly ever swam in it. Tonight she felt it was absolutely necessary that she did. Now waist deep she abandoned herself to the sea and floated on her back, gazing up at the dappled stars that popped out of the darkness above her. The water caressed her aching body and reached tenderly into the depths of her being. As she lolled in this sublime cocoon of serenity it became absolutely clear what she needed to do.
Anna’s whole being smiled as she got back into her car and dreamily drove to her father’s house. As she was driving, the gravity of the day’s realisations hit her. She began to doubt her revelations as those familiar thoughts of self-doubt pushed their way to the surface of her mind. Is it realistic? What if I fail? What will everyone think? More importantly, what was her father going to think? He’d be mortified obviously. He was so proud of her accomplishments. Yes, surely he would talk some sense into her. As she pulled into the driveway of her little childhood home, she caught sight of her father down by the shed, preparing the crab nets. A wave of love for him and all he had given her washed through her. Taking a deep breath, she gathered her strength and got out of her car. Although she walked to her father with a sense of purpose, fear fluttered uncomfortably in her stomach. Without giving it any more thought she abruptly appeared at her father’s side, fully clothed and soaking wet, and blurted out ‘Dad, I don’t want to be an architect anymore. I think I want to be a painter’. She waited with anticipation for his reaction. But to her compete and utter surprise, he simply looked up at her and smiled more warmly than he ever had before, as he said, ‘I thought you’d never come to your senses darling’.

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