True, the Pacific might be pacific out in the middle of the world there. It very well might be the featureless, endless, stagnant mill-pond that tortured the ambitious circumnavigator, Magellan and his thirsty, starving crew; but here, it is just noisy.
Crash. Shuck. Heave. It is bloody tireless.
These beaches are beaches that have you shout.
You are twelve (or nine… you’re small) and you have been swimming alone in a combative sea, you could call it “body surfing” but actually you are just fighting to breathe occasionally while the ocean practices casual violence on your freckly body. At last, you have timed out in the shallow foam, exhausted. You stumble up the beach to flop, shivering, beside the Esky.
You are me.
You didn’t see a shark or a ray today, so that’s something. They hang around sometimes, at least that’s what your big brother says and he goes out past the head on his board where they are – no touching the bottom there.
Lying on a hot towel, you can hear the sandy world trickle away under your head and the slow march of the Pacific as it throws down on the beach again and now again. The tall bush around is whispery and cool. The sun is insistent.
Your little brother is digging nearby and has got up to his waist; he chats continually to himself, and makes explosions occasionally with his spade. Your sister has gone “back up” for a driving lesson or to make a phone call or sunbake in the carport.
It’s all quiet. You dig your hands on either side down into the sand there. It’s almost too hot to touch but you can flick it about a bit. So that’s you.
Grains of sand can be as large as 2mm, so says the geologist, but I know sand can be so small it is actually dust – to a geologist, this is silt. Silt is a clogger, a blocker, a temporary but effective geographical constipator. This sand is barely coarse enough to make a gritty noise in the fingers, though it squeaks a little under pressure.
Later, much, much later – and if I told you, you wouldn’t believe how long you are to live before you touch snow – you will discover that snow makes the same squeak. It is the noise of holiday. And sand – whether it is in shoes, the bed, sandwiches or between toes – is geology made summer.
On the other side of the Esky is my Dad, asleep. He has nine toes because one of the outside ones got chopped off by a mower when he was little. He has hairy nostrils and ears and, now they are older, so do my brothers. He wears a tie in the garage and calls my Grandfather, his Father-in-law, Mr. He is very good at fixing and making things. In fact he is a regular Joseph in the shed. He was born on the land. He should have been a farmer.
In Australia in 1970 the aboriginal gets to vote – the truth is he was allowed to vote way before even any white woman – but no-one told him and he had no means of knowing. In 1970 it was at last made more than theoretically possible. 1970! That’s two years after the hourglass of my life was upturned. I felt hot with shame and anger when I learned that, reading John Pilger like a hungry person, many years after I left the country.
At the beach and the poolside Dad wears a pair of speedos that have been in the wash too often; they are bobbly and have a little skirt which is supposed to hide his cock. He sleeps on the beach with his arms folded under his head in the pose of that famous photo: The Swimmer.
Sand is, let me generalise, silica (SiO2) and has a “glass melting point” of over 2300 degrees C. I try to explain to my kids that that is more fire than we could possibly make. No window is going to magically appear on the beach floor after we have swept away our barbeque.
And that’s us, we are all lying around variously in heat serious enough to affect our eyesight, but we are all of us, and maybe we get it from my Dad, a long way and probably always will be, from glass melting point.