Anyone watching that day would have seen this.
A large woman, probably in her seventies made a beeline, as old women do, for the toilets. She paused briefly to take in the mosaic murals. You could almost see her thinking “Art on public conveniences. I can’t quite figure this out. When did this habit begin? Beats graffiti, anyway.”
She returned to the car, pulled out a bag and proceeded to picnic at the steel bench-and-table-in-one, where the petals of the tea-tree drifted down. A sandwich, tea from a thermos, and strawberries sliced in half. She obviously knows that someone’s been inserting needles in supermarket strawberries
Lunch finished. There she goes: she idled back to the car, grabbed hat and camera, and paused at the panel which gave a history of the name Tomakin, and marked sites of historical interest. Obviously a consumer of information. But then people of her generation often are.
She paused again, probably wondering which way to go. She chose a sandy track winding through the bush. The onlooker knows the beach well and thinks “She won’t get far that way. The landcare group’s been busy with regen, and they’ve fenced off the dunes to make sure it takes. I reckon she’ll have a quick look at the river, across to the mangroves, and then she’ll take the stairs down to the beach.”
Sure enough she soon appeared on the sand, heading south. She was a bit of a nuisance actually. A woman was obviously trying to train her puppy, but this lumbering figure was tempting and he kept running back to leap up at her. The owner began to jog to remove this temptation.
The woman walked on in a way that seemed to be choreographed by her camera, pirouetting around to photograph the beach both ways, swooping low to the sand (a leaf? a shell?), pausing to look out to sea and at the low rocky island.
She reached the river mouth and suddenly evinced uncertainty. It was easy to see why. She was wondering whether she could return to her car along the river.
This uncertainty remained for the next half hour. She was still hesitant as she rounded the bend and looked across the red buoy to the settlement, but she was apparently reassured by the firmness and width of the sandy stretch. However the camera hung unused around her neck.
Aha. She made a wrong decision there. No use heading into the bush. No real tracks there, and no easy way back across the dunes to the beach. You could tell she was thinking “Snakes. Ticks. Twisted ankle” as she gingerly picked her way back to the sand. Then you could almost see the wheels of her mind turning as she looked down. “Paw prints. The woman and her dog came this way. And they haven’t come back.” And on she went.
The strip of sand became narrower. Now she had to move the branches back, clamber over tree roots onto higher ground, bum it back down again. She should be over her worry now – she can surely see the boat ramp near the car park from there. Besides there’s a sandy track soon that’ll bring her up to to the top of the dunes, but she can’t know that.”
She spotted it and laboured her way up, using hands the way old people do. Once, nimble legs would’ve been enough.
She dropped back onto the beach, eyes drawn to the low tongue of rock between Tomakin Beach and Tomakin Cove. She seemed to be paying inordinate attention to Melville Headland: surely she couldn’t know anything about its geological significance. She doesn’t look the type.
She headed for the rocks and pottered around there briefly, showing no particular interest – not an amateur geologist then.
Just an old woman getting a beach fix on a beautiful sunny spring day.