I am on honeymoon. I am also doing the unthinkable and writing twice in a week WHAT IS LIFE. I have finally ceased my carousing ways, my pledge to pleasurable but unsustainable debauchery and deigned to enter not so much a relationship, but what I like to consider a true union. Yes, I have finally decided to commit to myself in a real way. My father will be so proud. That I have spent approximately 50% of my remaining financial allocation to take myself on a three day minibreak to Fitzroy Island.
Sidenote: if anybody knows of a way to make money without having to actually do anything, please let me know.
What is the obsession with naming everything Fitzroy in Australia? In Melbourne, there’s the suburb of Fitzroy and even Fitzroy North. Then there’s a separate street named Fitzroy which is bewilderingly not even IN Fitzroy. And now I’m on Fitzroy Island. There are many other Fitzroys I’ve come across too – now I realise this doesn’t sound like that many Fitzroys – but we all know my shaky understanding of Geography and I feel I’ve already fulfilled this month’s quota of misinformation. Also, to be accurate would be to involve Google and I am essentially without Internet (this is being sent via the white woman’s power of manifestation).
On that note, I should probably Google who Fitzroy is – Australian readers don’t be offended by my ignorance – as I’m sure he’s some important British man. I’m also equally sure that the island and “resort” I am enjoying comes at the expense of the murder, exploitation, elimination, and probable ongoing oppression of Indigenous peoples. I will research just how terrible my holiday is and soon as I reach mainland but, for now, as I revel in almost inappropriate levels of self-satisfaction, could we communally agree to move swiftly on?
Fitzroy Island is…you know, the older I get, the more I see of the world, the more inadequate I find the English language. I believe I’ve moaned about this before in different veins but honestly, there is no way for me to describe this verdant beast hunkered into the ocean without sounding clichéd or, quite frankly, dull. The trees are green, the sea is blue, the sky is clear, the sand is broken coral that sings with each tickle of the waves. Blah blah blah. We’ve heard it all before on travel shows and in romance novels forever set in questionable locations. It’s like trying to take a photo of the sun at dawn. Insufficient, intangible, deficient.
And while this failing of technology in an age where we are artificially germinating superhumans THRILLS me (because it gratifies and dee-LIGHTS me that with all our improvements, the simple glory of nature remains unattainable), I find it incroyable to think that we can have words that construct constitutions, words that give or take away human and sentient life, words that we reverentially quote hundreds of years after their uttering and still – still! – I find myself circling, like the sea birds above me, the same six words to describe a beach. Turquoise, crystal clear, iridescent, deep, sparkling, azure. Is this a failing of language or a failing of Holly? Perhaps both?
It is – the sea, that is, and the soundtrack to my lazed typing of this letter – it IS all of those things. Azure and crystal clear and sparkling and turquoise. That, I suppose, is the frustrating point. Because clichés are clichés for a reason – their truth is such that we have to make fun of them or their earnestness would force us into thumping, heart-splayed seriousness. But this ocean, swelling before me as I fork eggs and yet another ferry whirls towards the jetty, is also more than these things. It is the most turquoise of turquoise, the azurest azure, iridescently iridescent. How to tell you these things??
And so I am snapping photos like a mad woman, working myself up into a frenzy even now on this keyboard because I am desperate, hysterical, frantic, in my desire to consecrate it. To prove it through technology (because I am a product of my generation and without a photo, without written affirmation, I too sometimes believe things don’t happen) and to prove to my future self, when cold and doubting, harried and mired in responsibility back home, that I saw this. That somewhere, on an island off the coast of Queensland, there is a beach, a sea, where the waters are…
Turquoise, crystal clear, iridescent, deep, sparkling, azure.
*Embarrassing admission klaxon*
And I’m crying over my breakfast now. Because how lucky – how hopeful, how joyous, how privileged. Because pain and grief and fear and the many facets of captivity. Because beauty – incorrigible, inevitable, unignorable. Because the exquisiteness of living and the delectability of self. I suppose what I am saying is: I am happy. More than happy: contented. In the ripest, juiciest, fullest sense of the world. Oh, I meant to write word but unconsciously wrote world – interesting. Perhaps that is more accurate and subconscious does know best? But of course there is a guilt within contentment. An awareness of the construction and enabling of this happiness. A distress, a disbelief, a despair.
The errant daughter running from the constraints of the world that gave her life.
Not many people get the option to opt out. And I have very firmly opted out. This thought never leaves me. It causes me some discomfort, as I encounter the backpackers living eleven months in a poolside hostel, working just enough to survive, spending their days in three-day-old surf shorts and ready for anything. Totally free from the shackles of civic, familial, national responsibility. That lifestyle, if I’m being honest, has always revolted me somewhat. Or rather, it has offended my iron-clad and innate belief in social contribution. Of commitment to a cause. The cause being, in the most general sense, planetary improvement. It felt lazy and selfish to me. A middleclass entitlement perpetuated by middleclass millennials who, through the subterfuge of tattoos, dreadlocks, bare feet and batiked clothes, pretend to be otherwise. Now, it begins to feel a bit like life.
And I cannot decide if this is me self-improving, unlearning the toxic diatribes of ambition as I further retreat from the impossible standards I set myself aged two, or the heralding of my own dissolution into a drifter. Is it bad to be a drifter? To not vote in your home country? To not sign petitions or advocate locally for immigration or contest the lack of adequate – or, indeed, any – recycling facilities in the hostel you’re staying in because in two nights you’ll be gone anyway? To not shame fellow travellers who hark on about environmental responsibility as they sip from disposable coffee cups because in a week they’ll have moved on too. To believe it, if not acceptable, then inevitable, that people still buy plastic water bottles daily, that they think nothing of a casual flight when half of the world lies grounded and the other half careers towards destruction, that air conditioning can run in each hostel room 24 hours a day with nobody there to enjoy it?
Do you also wonder about these things when you’re eating avo toast on a beach or is this just me? Smiley face.
Last night: I sat on the beach, far down past the jetty, cradling a beer and saronged in a beach towel. I watched the sun set and then, my favourite part, watched the lights of the sky get drunk like the wait staff when the manager goes home. Sat captivated as they bled and merged, danced then pulled themselves away for new liaisons, new clashes, new constellations of beauty. The eternal dance of the loosening.
The only sound to break the silence was the sweet tinkle of the shingle, as the waves rushed in to strum it – an oceanic harp that harked back to my childhood. The nights my mother spent reading to us the songs of the sea – the silvery voices of mermaids, the murmurs of crustaceans, the percussion of the coral. The hours spent cradling shells to my ear in rapt delight, revelling in the beckoning of the whorl. That instant rush and crush and call to that other, unreachable universe to which, in my own perversion of Ariel, I longed to swim away to. Hush and brush and crush and rub and tinkle. Collocation.
And then, to complement this orchestral swell of nostalgia, came the cacophonic ebullience of the late-night swimmers. Local boys shouting as they dove, dancing funny in flippers on the jetty, ducking like mallards in their circus of performance, their teenage troubadouring as they perfected the art of one-upmanship and flipped and fell while the rest of us looked on, eyes creased in benevolence.
I exhaled. My beer can was empty and I needed to pee.
Further down the beach, a couple, in hats and flannel shirts, were knee-deep in the water, embracing. I stared as I always must whenever I witness demonstrations of love. I cannot help myself: it never fails to appear miraculous to me that those two people found each other, for however long and for whatever journey, and now get to know the joy of being in the exact arms you always hoped to be held in. I think it a marvel and could tell by their lingering, by the soft limbs of their surrendering to each other, that they did to. Self-conscious in my voyeurism, I pulled my eyes back to the horizon line.
And felt my own union.
I wrote later that true contentment is found in solitude. I don’t know if this is right or wrong but simply that it is, for me, the truest thing. That nothing is more soul-filling, satisfying, thirst-quenching than sitting watching the most casual of miracles unfold before you, of perching yourself onto the most romantic of backdrops and feeling FULL. Present. Devoid of any desire for another – known or unknown – to come and fill the space beside you. No partner, no sibling, no friend – think of them as you always do whenever you see something beautiful. To remember, as I too often forget, that everything you need you already have: within yourself.
On that note:
I eventually picked up my soggy bum and floated back to my room. Thought I should go out for dinner to the island’s only bar. Thought it a “good” thing to do – I could meet interesting people, experience the island, get my money’s worth from this marbled paradise. Instead, I lay naked on the bed and watched cooking shows. Drank too much tea as Hugh Fearnley-Whittenstall milked cows and prepared salmon tartare. Had a picnic on the island of my clean white bed and laughed at Rick Stein sweating in India as I munched rice cakes and hummus, avocado and capsicum (look how well I’ve acclimatised!). slathered my sweet body in moisturiser, painted my toe nails, turned out my light at 11pm with a beatific grin, a silent thank you exhaled to the bed, the hoot of the outside, the promise of tomorrow.
It is almost noon and I am once more in shade. I don’t know if I will sunbathe or hike, snorkel some more or else go in search of Nudey Beach. Whatever I do, I will probably feel it was the wrong choice because that is just the insatiable person I am. But I’m reconciled to this fact.
In other news, my ingrown hairs are worse than ever and I have bought my first packet of hair dye because I am sick of this brunette-inclined bullshit. I want to be Kate-Hudson-blonde-god-damn it. All of the resort staff are rude and unfriendly, confirming my idea that I do not belong here and probably shouldn’t wear a bikini to breakfast. But I will. Because nobody gets between Baby and her tan.
Was this too earnest? Who knows.
This is an excerpt from my weekly(ish) newsletter The Earnest Spoon. You can subscribe on my home page if you’d like more musings such as this delivered straight into your already cluttered inbox at inopportune times! xo