With my children asleep this afternoon and my husband safely captured by the television I headed off for some quite Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, I’d left it too late and my only shopping option on a Sunday was the very uninspiring Woolworths. But I was not ready to go home.
As I drove I was compelled towards East Woody Beach. As I drove over the small crest I saw it – the arbor – the symbol of hope that was so eloquently celebrated at the Nhulunbuy Women’s Christmas Gift Exchange that I had attended last night. The guest speaker, I knew of, but we are not personal friends spoke sensitively of the hard times our community has faced in the past year since the announcement of the ‘curtailment’ of the Rio Tinto refinery operations in our little town. She likened the lives of locals of being in some kind or reality television show who may be voted ‘out’ at any time and that no one had any certainty about their future. This powerful speaker mentioned that in the midst of all this turmoil there was a wedding between too long-term locals who wanted to marry before they left town. They married at East Woody Beach under an arbor of driftwood and here it still stood.
The arbor was a beautiful stark contrast against the backdrop of a moody sky and a restless emerald green Arafura Sea. I sat in the car and stared at it before kicking off my shoes and accepting its magnetic pull. I walked straight up to it and around it – it didn’t seem right to go into it . . . I loved the way it framed the seascape that I loved so much.
I felt and overwhelming sense of power emanating from it that I didn’t understand so I walked on but kept looking back at it to see the different scenes it caught. Last night’s storm was a balm to my sanity and the tide was high, taking a huge chunk out of the beach and slowly eating its way towards the precious arbor. I distracted myself from it by collecting some cuttle fish for my friend’s bird and looked out to sea, my thoughts as tangled and knotted as the gnarly driftwood pieces of the arbor.
I couldn’t help it – I had to go back to it – my gait unsteady on the crunching wet sand and I enjoyed the feel of it caking to my toes. I walked past it again in the direction of Cape Wirrawuy and wondered about all the reasons why this place frames my life in so many ways . . . as an artful young woman in my early twenties I enjoyed coming here to paint and to think, it’s a place where I bring visiting family and friends, it’s where my husband and I attempted to stroll on one of our dates (until a beach going buffalo ended that little romantic escapade!) and now it’s where we come to let our children run free . . .
I looked in every direction but couldn’t see anyone. A prawn trawler disappeared around the cape and an osprey circled and landed in a nearby coastal pine tree.
There was no escaping the arbor so I turned around went back. I felt that it now belonged to anyone who wanted to share it and that somehow gave me permission to enter it and sit under it. I sat and let the earth absorb me under this powerful structure. I watched the clouds roll closer, I marvelled at how restorative I found the wind on my face and breathed in the salty air in deep greedy breaths until it hurt. The high tide is just metres away from getting to the arbor – the next storm will probably do it; but for now it is untouched.
It seemed to me that I needed to come here today. There was a sign waiting for me. The sign was the arbor – a temporary structure of love and strength that scaffolds your way forward so you don’t need it anymore. Just like the bride and groom have now left and started their new life – I’ve gathered my inspiration from their arbor and used the love and strength I have around me to move in my new direction. My mind is clear.