This Christmas and New Year holiday was very special and inspirational. We stayed at home most of the time. With a teenager daughter, a ten-years-old son, and a husband for more than 2 decades, I was not sure if I could still make our relationship and family life reasonably OK and fun for nearly six weeks without going beyond our limits and ending up hating each other.
As it turned out, it was wonderful experience for all of us (for staying at home for six weeks together most of the time). We could explore our neighbourhood thoroughly and felt a sense of community in this place. At the same time, I realised that the relationship of my family is much more than just a blood related or hopelessly tied one. It is much more than ‘we have been together just because we are family and live together’. Not only as parents and children, or as spouse, I felt a strong connection with all my family members at a soul level that transcended from the past life and somehow, we ended up living together again here in the South East Coast of Australia. I was truly thankful for this opportunity called life with my family.
I live in a small town by the sea, about an hour and a half drive to the south from Sydney. It is surrounded by an unspoiled beautiful ocean and amazing escarpment. Water evaporates from the ocean and hit the escarpments, and as a result, a warm temperate rain forest had been developed. This proximity from ocean and mountain (escarpment) strongly remind me of my hometown in Northern Japan. Here, rocks and vegetations are uniquely Australian but the scenery reminds me of my hometown and makes me very comfortable and feel at peace.
Not every seashore is beautiful like where I live. Some big cities like Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and New York had been developed by the sea, because of its convenience of traffic on the water. I don’t dislike those big cities but the water near those big cities never make me feel comfortable nor welcome. The water near the big cities have lost its natural purification function a long time ago. If you stand close by, it is just a pond full of rotten, lifeless and stinky water. It is OK to see these cities from the air plane or on TV, but not walking along its water.
Naturally, I can say that the comfortable and beautiful sea means where the natural environment is left untouched. The reason why this south coast of NSW is undeniably beautiful is because most of the sea shore was left untouched. There are some places where houses and restaurants are build but people made a lot of effort not to spoil the natural beauty of these coastlines. Here, you can truly appreciate and enjoy the vastness of the ocean beyond the white sandy beach. This sea shore and ocean are the entrance of the mysterious and undiscovered spiritual, waiting for you to explore…
Real estate boom has been hitting this coastal area recently as well as other places in Australia. According to the local free magazine, this area has now been called ‘cappuccino coast’ because of the cafés along the coast road (as well as real estate agents). More cafés, more tourists (and more local people who goes to local cafés). Nicely renovated or build houses has appeared around the area recently, and they are not necessarily cheap. Among these new housings, you can also see some small old cottages (typical ‘beach house’ in 50s) that make you feel nostalgic and you hope they stay there longer (before it would be rebuilt into bigger modern buildings someday in the future).
People who live in these houses (called ‘locals’) would go to the beach with their swimmers or wetsuits from home, had a good swim or splash in the waves, then go back to home. Quite a number of locals don’t bother wearing beach sandals. It would be very crowded during the summer or on the weekend but locals do not need to join the crowd from the city, as they know the best time to go to the beach. I heard that it is best to go to the beach in the morning, probably before 10:00 AM, and from the early evening, say after 4:30 PM. The sun is unbearably hot and strong around the midday, and wind gets uncomfortably strong and annoying.
In the early evening, I often see some surfers in the sea. Watching those surfers, who just want to be embraced by the water, changed what I had previously thought about them. Where I came from, normally surfers are seen as ‘not serious’ about anything, not caring other people, etc. (which may not be a true reflection of them, I need to add. Any kind of human is very complex…). However, those Australian surfers I had been watching since I came here more than 20 years ago, are in the water in the middle of the winter (with wet suits, of course), surrendering their body to the ocean. They need to be able to read the current correctly, otherwise not only their bodies, but their lives may be taken by the ocean. It can be very cold and dangerous. Why would they want to be in the ocean in the cold weather? I was purely curious about their motivation. I could not understand what they were thinking at all – the sea of my hometown, in the Northern Part of mainland of Japan, was scary and I only had a brief memory of me playing the shallow water where the river and the ocean meet when I was a small child. I would never go anywhere in the water where my legs did not reach on the bottom of the sea, unlike surfers in Australia. Why do they do that? Then I had a sudden flash of understanding of them one day. They, surfers, and other people who love the ocean, just want to be held by the love and blessings of the Mother Earth.
My husband and I are not surfers, therefore could not teach our children in more relaxed and opened way about the relationship between us and the ocean. They can swim but never be water babies, unlike surfers. However, I just realised that we should go our beach more often since its just there (2 min drive – 10 min walk).
Fish and chips on the beach, for example! After the extremely hot days, my husband usually says to me to not to use the cooking stove nor oven in the kitchen. It is, perhaps, a natural request for my husband, who does not want our kitchen and house even warmer. We don’t have air conditioning either, yet. How am I going to prepare any kind of dinner, then, however? I used to get very upset by this request from my husband. Coming back from work, usually he didn’t want to go to the restaurant either (because it would be expensive and he was exhausted from work). 2 weeks ago, he asked me not to use the stove and oven. Instead of getting upset and talking back at him nastily, I took my children out to the beach near-by and bought a calamari and chips for dinner. Oh, what an easy yet good decision! My children swam a bit till their dinner cooled down and sat on the bench, looking at the ocean and enjoyed their dinner in a very relaxing manner.
All the day trippers were gone, and there were only some swimmers and dog walkers, also enjoying cool sea breeze. My hot head and irritation from that hot day and imagining unreasonable request regarding dinner went quickly as well, dissolving into the vast ocean of Mother Earth…, I will definitely do that more often.
As the nickname ‘cappuccino coast’ suggests, there are many cafes along the coast road of our town. Some had been doing the business before we moved here (about 20 years ago), others just started to do the business very recently. There is a café, which used to flourish till the previous owner sold the place, then recently came back to life as they got a rival café two doors down on the same street. Some cafes seem have kept changing owners for some reason.
I have three favourite cafés in this area. First one has been opened since last year and is only 2 minutes walks from my favourite yoga studio. Their muffins have been the best so far – the texture, size, and ingredients.
The next one is located on the main road and a bit away from shops in the area. One of my daughter’s friend’s dad recommended this café a while ago, and during this summer holiday, I made a few visits there with my children. In addition to the legendary Portuguese tart that was highly recommended by the friend’s dad, this café offers ‘superfood latte’, such as turmeric, beet root, and matcha. I was not ready when I saw these super food latte menus, so I ordered ordinary ‘organic’ weak latte. It was DELICIOUS! My appetite for the coffee came back again. I would like to drink their coffee every day, I thought. I will be back there with my coffee loving friends.
The last, but not the least, café of my choice is an Italian café, a kind of waking distance from my house. Whenever someone asks me which café is the best in this area, I recommend this one with absolute confidence. Coffee, teas, as well as sweets are delicious, of course. However, the food in this café is undeniably delicious and the best around the town. Several kinds of salads, gigantic caneloni and aranchini, pork and fennel pies and spinach ricotta pies, etc… there are classic European style food (sometimes Asian inspired salads too) with mastery. Looks good, tastes absolutely yummy!
I have a bit of sentiment for this café too. A bit more than 10 years ago, with my daughter in the pram, happily sleeping (usually), I sometimes came to this café and enjoyed the decaf weak latte and white chocolate brownie. This was my only blessing (I thought), during the lonely and hardworking yet still extremely enthusiastic time of infant parenting of my daughter. About 2 years and a half later, I had a son. My daughter started to enjoy what they called ‘babycino’, which was made out of the form of milk and a bit of chocolate powder on top, and one or two mashmarrows (pink and white) on side. Most café charges nothing for this baby ‘drink’, however, some charges $1.50. As I remember, this Italian café didn’t charge anything, provided I ordered my decaf weak latte AND white chocolate brownie. But I don’t know now (and I don’t think I can ask this café if they charge money for a babyccino or not). I took my daughter and son to this café the other day. The owner recognised my children immediately and said, “ both of you grown up so big now! I still remember you were sleeping in the pram.” My children grinned shyly, but my heart was beating with joy. The sense of community has risen in me, after 20 years of living in this town and made me very happy.
There is one more place that gives our life joy and sometimes save our soul in this area; the library. Around the time when we moved into this area, there were a big vacant land, that was left about 7, 8 years. It was close to the train station, the bus stop and local shop and we had been waiting something useful will be there for the community, Then the library with the community centre was built. Locals, including us, were very happy.
I never knew such a comfortable public space in my life other than this library. The ceiling is high and the floor is spacious. I can find my table and chair anytime I go there. When the daytime temperature goes beyond 28 or 29 degrees Celsius, strong sunlights shines on our house which doesn’t have a good insulation (yet), the head penetrates the wall inside of the house. Then my husband gives order to shut down all the windows (so that we don’t get any hot air from outside) which makes me feel I am losing my consciousness due to the sense of suffocation. I will then quickly pack up my bag and children then evacuate to the library. To be honest, the air conditioning in this library gets too cold, so I learned to take a light jacked to stop me freezing. If I was with my daughter, who is a bookworm (and iPad worm), it will make 3 hour time easily. After a while, I would usually ask her, ‘ how are you? How’s things?’. She would then answer me, ‘ Good, mama! Since everyone else is study hard, I also felt I need to work hard and I could be productive.’ Same with me.
If I was with my son, however, things are different. First 30 minutes would be no problem, as my son would find his favourite manga and sit quietly with me, reading. Then he starts to get bored. ‘Mum, when can we go back home?’ he would ask, but I would simply reject his question, as we just arrived here in the library. Then he would go to his sister and annoy her, end up being rejected by his sister too then come back to me again. The bad cycle begun. Now I needed to declare clearly the time we intend to go back home, for example, 1 hour and a half later. Then he would understand and accept that and I would get peace of mind for another one and a half hours (if he doesn’t get bored again).
On Wednesday this week, my son and I could spend a fantastic time together at the library, as my daughter went to the ballet workshop for the whole afternoon. As soon as I settled into a chair and a desk, I started to feel drowsy. I was sewing till very late at last night. ‘Are you okay, mum?’ he asked, gingerly. ‘Yes, I am all right, darling. I need to rest a bit so please don’t disturb.’ I said and had a good nap for a while afterwards with the perfectly air-conditioned library.
We also started to go for walks after dinner, as the sun goes down late in the evening. In the early evening, the town goes quiet as the traffic goes down. The sea water pool by the beach becomes empty and life savers are brushing the floor of the pool, preparing for tomorrow. The park nearby is surprisingly popular with children as sun goes down hence the temperature as well. It is a perfect place for young children whose energy level is still very high, and for the parents or grandparents. I knew this sense of relief, children playing in the park in the much cooler temperature, and us sitting down, watching them.