By Michelle Travaglione
31° 53.814′ S. 115° 45.264′ E
X Marks The Spot.
I found the end of rainbow and these are the GPS coordinates for you to find it too. But be quick, because it will disappear soon. There is no pot of gold but what lies at the end of the rainbow is far better than I ever imagined. At the end of the rainbow lies Brighton Beach, also known as ‘The Spot’. The Spot shimmers and glistens under a radiant, bright, sun-shining sky, the same as a pot of gold would do. At times, the Spot can be rough and drag me out to the depths of the Indian Ocean. I sometimes lose my breath, which makes me anxious that one day I might not pop up and breathe again- just like if a pot of gold were to land in the wrong hands.
I first discovered the end of the rainbow ten years ago. I stumbled across the beauty and serenity of The Spot almost by accident. A serendipitous moment, which marks the beginning of the cleansing of my youth as a troublesome teenager. There it was. A seemingly infinite, blue body of water with waves crashing upon the shore, bringing with it all the secrets of the sea. A place where I could escape to whenever I was kicked out of home. A place to camp at night when my friends could no longer host me on their couch. A soft, sandy, white bed to collapse into. An arena for my first love and I to make up and break up. A home. An escape. A part of me.
My time spent at The Spot has been like a crazy rollercoaster ride. Sometimes I go there to bask in all its glory. Other times I go there to forget the stress of the world and spend hours swimming, surfing, or just simply floating. Sometimes I go there to sit and think and other times I just sit.
I know everyone at the Spot. The local, one-legged seagull I’ve fed for three years. The old, retired man who does not fear sharks and swims alone every day. The surfer who could not stand up on his board ten years ago but now I watch him turn, swerve, flip and do all sorts of tricks. I know the lady who blocks out the world with her headphones. She rarely smiles or makes eye contact as she crosses my path on the way back to her Mercedes parked far away from everyone else at the end of the carpark. I know the lifeguard who thinks I’m crazy because I don’t wear a wetsuit, even when the thermometer reads 0°C. I know the yoga practitioner, who just became a mother. Now I’m getting to know the yoga practitioner’s daughter, who I watched put her head under the ocean for the first time. We all found the end of the rainbow. We all call the end of the rainbow paradise.
I always have a piece of The Spot with me. I wear a mini glass bottle attached to a fine piece of rope around my neck. The bottle is filled with sand and shells from The Spot. I wear this necklace every time I travel overseas. 21 countries and counting. The glass bottle hangs close to my heart to remind me where I come from. My fondest memory was when I returned home from six months of backpacking across Europe. Before I saw my mum, before I saw my best friend, before I saw my bedroom or the comforts of home… I saw The Spot. I missed it more than anything or anyone. Being away made me appreciate the uniqueness of The Spot and I often reflected on the many wonderful memories I have. I know where home is now. Home is through the dense, green vegetation and past the sign that reads ‘CAUTION! SNAKES SIGHTED IN THIS AREA!’ Home is beyond the weightless, soft, white sand and into the perfect stillness of the crystal, clear, blue sea, which lies at the end of the rainbow.
* * *
May 25th 2016, Midday at The Spot
I notice a fortress of metal fencing around The Spot. Hmmm, that’s strange. Maybe there is an event happening today. I get out of the car to investigate.
Man in high-vis top and helmet: “Excuse me ma’am… you can’t walk through here”.
I stop. I acknowledge. I ignore. I proceed walking.
Man in high-vis top and helmet: “Did you hear me ma’am?”
I stop. I stare in utter confusion. I ignore. I proceed walking.
Man in high-vis top and helmet: “MA’AM! Stop! This is a construction site. You can’t walk down this track”.
Me: “Why? I’ve walked this track every day for the past 10 years. What’s different now?”
Man in high-vis top and helmet: “We are developing the foreshore. We are building a brand new swimming pool. We are demolishing this carpark and this track to make space for a new café strip.”
My lips part. My mouth drops. No words are spoken while I attempt to process what this monster in a high-vis top and helmet is saying to me.
Man in high-vis top and helmet: “Here, ma’am. Please take our business card. The website will tell you everything about the exciting future and plans to redevelop this whole area. You won’t be able to access the beach from here anymore. Have a nice day”.
I reluctantly take the business card and wander around the fenced off area- like a ship lost at sea trying to find its way back home. I feel like a caged animal. I can taste, touch smell and see the outside world through the metal cage that encloses me. Yet, I’m barricaded by civilisation, by rulers and by self-proclaimed masters who think they can tame a lion and take away its freedom. Supress it’s soul.
Machinery clangs. Reversing forklifts pierce the serenity with a high-pitched, repetitive beeping noise. Concrete mixes and slushes. Men in high-vis attire and helmets yell orders at each other. Bulldozers fracture the ground. The earth and unique vegetation becomes debris in the back of a dump-truck. The pure, soft, white sand becomes ‘wastage’ on its way to landfill. Or worse, the sand begins its long journey across the seas and upon the shores of pebbly European beaches. Artificial beaches around the world, which adopt this sand and claim it as their own. Artificial beaches, which attract thousands of lazy, sun-burnt tourists every year who are oblivious to the fact that the sand they dream of seeing once a year on their annual summer vacation, is actually stolen from places like The Spot.
I’ve always been a very simple, carefree person. However, the events that unfolded before me on this day, released the inner-demons from my troublesome teenage years. I crave for someone to understand the loss I feel. I find myself battling every person who smiles with excitement about the new development of the foreshore. Me VS Them.
I remember hearing a story when I was younger. A group of Noongar Aboriginal men would meet at ‘The Tree’ every morning to go hunting. One day the men didn’t meet at The Tree. On this day they didn’t hunt and there was no food for the village. They couldn’t find The Tree that brought them together every single morning. They soon discovered that The Tree was ripped up from the ground to make space for a new road to run through the South-West of Western Australia. The men tried to find a new tree but the damage was already done. Their memories and identities were attached to the old Tree. The men slowly drifted apart, as did the entire village. Their identities were destroyed and the incredible bond they shared was shattered the day The Tree was pulled from the earth. They became displaced. Their customs and traditions were lost.
I now understand how the Noongar people feel. I am closer to understanding how refugees and migrants feel when they arrive to a new, foreign land. I can relate and I can empathise.
I’ve found a new spot now. I haven’t named it yet. I think you should only name something once you have developed an attachment to it. There are lots of unfamiliar faces and strange things happening here. People take photos of themselves on the beach with their phones. No one smiles at each other or says hello. I can’t tell the seagulls apart- they all look the same and they all have two legs. People whisper about shark sightings and stay out of the water in fear of an attack. I wonder where the old, fearless man has gone. Where has the yoga practitioner taken her daughter to teach her how to swim? What about the surfer? I hope he found a new spot to practise and learn more tricks. The sand feels funny here and I swear it has a grey tinge. The lifeguards tell me off for swimming in ‘dangerous ocean conditions’ and force me out of the water.
I don’t know the rules of this strange beach. I don’t want to conform to the ways of this new, foreign spot. I want to maintain my old traditions and way of life. I don’t care if people think I’m different. However, change is an inevitable part of life. Maybe I should accept the changes to my paradise and begin making new memories at the new spot.
There is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. A dirty, powerful pot of capitalist gold, which landed in the wrong hands. I will never forget The Spot. I will pass the stories on to my kids one day and reminisce about the good times when life was simple. Simple and free.
31.8667° S, 115.7633° E.
The GPS coordinates to my new spot.
A spot without a name… yet.