Most of my life I’ve lived in the one spot. When you get old enough to see your own children growing up in the same place – but in a very different time – it changes your relationship with where you live. You see your past through your present eyes. Through your father’s eyes too. You begin to feel etched by the place. Whether in a good or bad way, I can’t generalise. In my case, it is good.
In all my years I’ve never had any bad run-ins with the sea. As a kid I got close to dolphins in the water. I saw a huge leatherback turtle washed up on the rocks. I’ve seen a cyclone eat away the beaches. I’ve seen the beaches turn slick black with the detritus of an algal bloom.
But I have never had any strife with the wildlife.
Even so, I’ve never been comfortable in the sea. Thoughts of sharks and box jellyfish are usually in the back of my mind when I am in the salt water. There are things in there that can kill you.
Today my son had the close encounter that I never did. He was with friends, and they brought him back early from an outing because he was not well and had developed a pain i his lower back.
It didn’t seem like anything much, but soon after he was home it got worse. It got very bad.
Do you want to go and see a doctor? Do anything to get me away from this pain.
Only driving to the hospital did he mention the weak little jellyfish sting. I could see the welt that had appeared on his leg. Irukandji, I thought. I was already speeding. I drove faster.
Sure enough, it was Irukandji syndrome. They gave him pain relief, monitored him, and his heart rate and blood pressure came back to normal. All is well.
The picture above is not my son, and there isn’t any irukandji street art in Yeppoon. It’s a composite image. I don’t know who the man in the water was, but he was swimming in the pulse of the king tide, as I once did.
If you grow up on the coast, in a place where the king tides are so dramatic, then they are one of the things that stay etched on you. The sensation of the big swell, the spectacle of the water swallowing up the beach, the smell of the freshwater runs from the heavy rain. It all floods back in an instant.
This is something my father gave me. It is not something I have passed on, with my fear of the sea. But my partner, whose own childhood memories of the sea are of small tides, blue ringed octopus, freezing water, seals and penguins has always marked the king tides for our kids. So thanks to her, it is something we will share.
Here’s my small collection of king tide 2012 photos – Instagram, iPhone, 15 minutes. Maybe next year they won’t fall on weekdays and I can do them more justice.