Last weekend JL and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary at Cronulla in Sydney. Don’t worry. This blog is not giving you tips on how we managed to stay hitched for 25 years. This blog is about how things can change in the blink of an eyelid and how everything (including us) is impermanent.
So, there we were on Jibbon Beach, one of my favourite places on Earth. It was a perfect sunny, summer day – a bright blue sky with a gentle breeze. There were yachts and motor boats moored just off the beach, swimmers splashing in the water, people practicing paddle boarding and others strolling along the beach – in short it was a picture postcard of happy, heavenly bliss. As we were lying on the beach taking this in, I told JL that, as a Buddhist, I was mindful that all this before us could change into something very different with the appearance of say, a shark, for example. I don’t want to be a downer but it helps me to reflect on these things both when everything is going wonderfully and equally when they are not. This too will change. Our reality is changing at every moment.
Well, it wasn’t a shark. It was a jet ski. Are you imagining an uncontrollable jet ski with sharp, razor teeth? No. Stay with me. We’d just come up onto the beach after enjoying a swim together in the cool and refreshing salt water. As we lay on our towels, the young couple not far from us on the beach who had come to Jibbon on their jet ski, decided to go for a walk along the beach and up on to the rocks. They hadn’t been away that long when I noticed that the incoming tide was starting to come up under the jet ski and it was sliding back into the water. Without any hesitation, I got up and mentioned to JL that we needed to pull the jet ski up higher on to the sand so that it didn’t float away and ruin this young couple’s day. Firstly, let me tell you, jet skis are damned heavy things! We pulled and we pushed but it didn’t seem to budge much. I suggested to JL that he pull and I push from the back. It worked a bit but we couldn’t get it high enough up on to the beach for it not to float away. Finally, we decided to both give it one last mammoth haul, you know, like the old man and the old lady with the farm animals who are all holding on to one another as they try to pull a gigantic turnip out of the ground?
Suddenly (my favourite word), JL’s hands slip off the jet ski and he falls back heavily on to the sand, screaming in agony. He mutters that he heard and felt something in his back crack. He’s almost in tears and saying the pain in his back is unbearable. Somehow, he manages to crawl back up the beach on to his towel whilst I try to control this by now f***ing jet ski. A couple of passers-by lend me a hand and between the three of us we manage to drag the FJS up on to dry land.
That done, I now make my way over to JL. He’s not a happy chappy and all I can do is hold his hand and reassure him that everything will be ok. Stay calm. Breathe. It’s ok. I’m here. The pain will pass. As my heaven has now turned into a hell, the couple who own the jet ski arrive back from their free and easy, everything is perfect in the world walk. I explain what has happened and T, the owner, is very apologetic and I think feels terrible. Luckily, he has some knowledge about back pain and leans over JL giving him some good advice on how to lay flat on his back. His reassuring words help JL and he seems to calm him a tad as he breathes and probably swears under this breath.
Forward 30 minutes. By now, all those around us are asking if JL is ok and how they can help. I tell them that I need to take JL to Emergency at Sutherland Hospital and that of course we won’t be able to walk back to Bundeena to catch the ferry to Cronulla. T, the jetski owner, volunteers to take us around and goes in search of an extra lifejacket for me. A, a small boat owner, states that a jet ski ride will be too rough and he will take us to the Bundeena wharf in his small motor boat.
We accept his kind offer. All hands on deck, we manage to get JL into the boat, sit him down and then off we motor. As I sit up at the front of the boat with my legs crossed and look out at beautiful Port Hacking - a place that holds many wonderful childhood memories, and see the blue sky with seagulls flying above me, I try to be present and somehow relish, if not entirely enjoy, this strange opportunity that has presented itself that enables me to get out on the water and feel the wind on my face and the salt air entering my lungs. I feel a tad guilty that I’m enjoying the ride but I can’t help it. It feels so good.
As we motor towards the wharf, we can see the Bundeena ferry in the distance about 5 minutes away. Just enough time for A to drop us off right on the wharf where JL can sit or lean on the rails. Our driver, A, carefully maneuvers his boat and we pull right up alongside the timber wharf. A and I help JL to steadily alight from the boat and as I turn to thank A, I can’t help but say, Our happiness depends on the kindness of others. He smiles, and I know in my heart that his good deed and our gratitude has made his day.
The people on the beach, the jet ski owner, the motor boat owner and then the Uber driver who picked us up right at Gunnamatta Bay Wharf as well as all the staff at Sutherland Hospital and my parents who drove us back to our accommodation – all of them, in their own way, showed support and kindness when we needed it most.
You probably won’t see a story like this on the TV news tonight. Remember, just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean that stories like this aren’t happening all over the world, right now.