Recently, I had the strangest experience. One of those freaky coincidence experiences that really makes you wonder how the universe operates and how these seemingly unrelated cogs suddenly end up whirling together in unison.
Whether you believe in God or not is almost irrelevant because it’s hard to believe that God who operates on such a grand scale such as creating the universe, would have time to be bothered with the minutiae of things. But then something happens that makes you question all of that. God strangely seems to have all his fingers in your pie, guiding and directing you in such small and subtle ways that it’s all quite mind blowing.
I use the word “serendipity” to describe these moments. Sometimes things happen that are just too slick for any kind of explanation and I guess you’re just left with what was “meant to be”.
Only the night before, I’d been discussing serendipity with a friend. Since I’ve sort exited the rat race due to my health issues, I’ve ended up in a spot where to some extent, I can let my life go with the flow a bit. I am a bit more flexible and can respond to changes of direction instead of being stuck on the old railroad track. I’ve had my plans but I’ve also been on some fabulous goat trails which have extended me so far beyond what I ever considered possible. This has included starting to learn the violin this year.
As John Lennon said:
Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans…
Just for the sake of honesty and disclosure, I am a Christian but I’m not a ram it down your throat Christian. I experience a spiritual God who actively guides my life even when I’m focused on other things. I am a human, breathing miracle just like every other person on this planet.
So often we miss what God is doing in our lives or don’t understand that suffering is necessary for growth and as much as we don’t like adversity, it is part of life. Ironically, without adversity, we do not build resilience and we lack backbone, inner fortitude and we fall apart at the first sign of trouble. Adversity is as essential to personal growth as air is for breathing.
That doesn’t mean I like it but life is what it is.
Anyway, yesterday morning my daughter was competing in her first physical culture (physie) competition down at Terrey Hills. She had to be there at 8.30 AM so we stayed at my parents’ place in Sydney the night before and we had a 6.30AM start. That’s incredibly early for a pair of night owls.
Physie is a combination of march, dance and gymnastics set to music. The girls have to remember quite detailed routines and it strikes me as being very precise and disciplined. My daughter does it with her friends after school and our club has a fabulous sense of community and fun as well as encouraging the girls to apply and extend themselves.
As I mentioned before, this was Amelia’s first competition and although we’d had a trial run the week before, it was still quite nerve-wracking as it is when you try something new. I usually chat to my friends during physie and miss the gist of what’s going on. Hence, I had to a buy the regulation leotard in a stressful, last-minute panic. I also remembered hearing something about the hair and curls and being being able to buy some kind of twisty doobywackers to do the job. Not being much of a hair person myself, I didn’t bother filing that thought along with a thousand and one erroneous pieces of paper which are floating around this place like lost swans. You know how it is. You just get completely overloaded!!
In the end, her hair looked gorgeous in a straight ponytail and I thought I was Mighty Mum just because I’d managed to get a hair ribbon in a matching colour. I’m just trying to keep things simple, especially for our first competition. You can get dreadful performance anxiety as a mother. Not because you’re worried your kid is going to screw up. You just have this awful sinking feeling you’ve forgotten something and that you will be the weakest link.
The performance part was almost an anti-climax. There was no big catastrophe. She remembered her routine. She didn’t get a place but she was happy with her pink participation medal. It was all over quite early and we had the rest of the day ahead of us.
Now, any sensible “sick” person would have gone straight home to bed after all of that excitement but not this little black duck.
We were off to Whale Beach.
I know this plan sounds somewhat insane given that I’m currently on 50mg a day of prednisone and my muscles are starting to waste away. Instead, you would think that I would have a nice, quiet day instead. But I am who I am. Carpe diem… seize the day. Tomorrow, I can crash. Besides, on this much prednisone, I’m like a Morris Minor with a V8 engine. I’m zooming along with all sorts of bits falling off. I’m probably about to combust. But I literally can’t stop!!
This was the first time I have driven down to Sydney myself in at least 8 years. I can’t even remember the last time I’d driven down to Sydney myself. So there I was in Sydney with the car halfway to the Northern Beaches and a trip to Whale Beach made such perfect practical sense. I have only driven past the house once or twice since we sold it over ten years ago. That place was like my heart and soul being turned inside out and painted onto an enormous canvas. I desperately wanted to go back. See the house. Go and sit on my rock and absorb the waves. Share it all with my little girl! It would be so, so special!
Recently, I had realised that Whale Beach has dropped out of our family narrative. We’ve moved on and I didn’t think the kids knew much about it at all. You can’t live in the past but I want them to know me. Experience me. Whale Beach has been such a significant chapter that I couldn’t leave it out. It’s still etched into my fingerprints, my heartbeat, my very being.
So our adventure began. Driving up Mona Vale Road past the Baha’i Temple, I slipped back in time. I have driven up and down this road hundreds of times before and even though it’s been a very long time, I still know it like the back of my hand. I am going home. I am so excited but there is a little bit of caution too. What if they have knocked the place down? It’s been over ten years…a long time when you’re a 1960s shoebox shack with million dollar views.
As I park opposite the old house, I notice some people outside and wonder if they’re connected with the house. I don’t know what I was really thinking at this point. I was just grateful the house was still there.
When we first bought the place, it was painted primer pink and the cupboards were filled with all sorts of relics from the 1960s….old Women’s Weeklies, an old porcelain jug, empty Chianti bottles. There was even an ancient bottle of Detol. There were all sorts of funny bits and pieces tucked away all over the place and we kept them. They were fascinating.
Mum and Dad had bought Whale Beach, well our little patch of it anyway, while I was still at uni. As a uni student, you really couldn’t ask for anything better. Unfortunately, I couldn’t drive at the time so there were grueling trips from Wynyard Station on the 190 bus and a hellish climb over the hill to reach paradise. Of course, there were parties. New Year’s Eve staying up all night at the beach by the campfire and watching the sunrise over the water…a new beginning. For some strange reason, I still believe that life starts over on January 1st each year. Silly me!
There were also many, many hours of deep contemplative reflection, atomic angst and bust ups, broken hearts. The storms weren’t always over the sea.
But ultimately, it was a place of healing. Sewing broken hearts back together. Writing, journaling, working through stuff as I watched the street light twist and turn like a snake shining across the waves down the southern end of the beach.
Anyway, as I get out of the car, this young bloke calls out to me and asks if I could give him a jump start. From my point of view, he’s just asked me to perform open heart surgery on his vehicle. I can feel myself starting to panic a little. I really want to help but this is way out of my league. As anybody who knows me knows, I am not technical. I am certainly not mechanical and I’m really not practical either. The only thing I know about my car is that it’s blue and it has a luggage pod on top and that’s how I find it in the car park.
I am also a reformed nervous driver. I have realised that I have serious spatial deficits and it’s all about parking and manoeuvring the car in tight situations that’s the problem …not the actual driving itself. This doesn’t help me with the jump starting. I will need to jiggle the car into position and this is looking very tricky indeed. Jump starting this car on windy narrow beach road presses all my alarm bells but I am feeling strangely confident. After all, I am on 50mg of prednisone and it really does make you feel like you can do just about anything.
The bloke senses my hesitation and asks if I’m in a hurry and then asks what I’m doing there. Not in an interrogative way but it’s not the tourist end of town. I tell him that my Dad used to own the house across the road. He tells me that his Dad currently owns the house. Suddenly, we are no longer two strangers passing by daylight. There is this link. Suddenly, the seemingly impossible becomes a reality and I am suddenly standing inside my parents’ old beach house and he is taking a photo of my daughter and I standing on the balcony with all of Whale Beach stretching out behind us. I am in absolute heaven.
I had never thought in my wildest dreams that this would ever happen but I can also hear my mother saying: “only you Rowena”. I am always meeting strangers and establishing strange coincidences.
But we still haven’t jump started the car yet. Of all the people this poor guy had to ask for help, he must have picked the worst. Just turning the car around was a challenge and I no idea how to open the bonnet. I felt like such an idiot but we can’t be good at everything. I offer an emotional philosophical breakdown service. I’m not the NRMA but I came through. He got his car started and our paths deviated once again.
I was on top of the world gushing with so much thought and emotion seeing the old place again but I still wanted to show Miss my rock down on the southern end of Whale Beach. The rock overlooks the surging waves and I just sit there watching them smash against the rocks exploding into a million million water droplets. The waves sound deep like there is some kind of underground cave. I am impressed by the sheer force and power of the waves…the energy. I can almost hear them breathing.
Miss is collecting blue periwinkle shells and lining them up and watches the snails stick their tongues out below and wiggle their tails. She is mesmerised. She runs off with the video camera and starts filming her own documentary. She is wearing a black vinyl jacket and looks very much the film director…just gorgeous.
I find some rock pools filled with squiggly snail trails. I remember photographing these many years ago and show them to Miss. I want to photograph her feet next to them. She tells me that “snails make the best drawers” and she films her feet while I take the photos. I can’t help looking at her and seeing a glimpse of my own reflection. She has told me before that I have stolen her hair and we look quite similar but she also sees the world through the lens and finds herself stranded on a rock surrounded by the waves with the video camera in hand. She is crying. I can’t reach her but a stranger comes to her rescue. She was never in any danger but at that moment, I knew she had the bug. She’d do anything for the shot!!
It was hard to leave Whale Beach but Geoff and our son were arriving on the Palm Beach Ferry. They’d been to football and were meeting up to go back to my parents’ place for my birthday party.
This was my last day of being 42. If you have ever read the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, you will know that 42 is answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything. This day kind of finished things up rather poignantly. I was satisfied…content. I could move forward.
I am now wondering, now that the mystery has finally been unraveled, what I’m going to do with the rest of my life?
That’s right. Now, I just need to find out: “What was the question?”