A Casual Beach Encounter
"What was the first piece of rubbish you picked up on a beach?"
a tiny Japanese lady stopped by me
looking at the brown piece of plastic
in my hand
covered in green seaweed and piece of coral.
"Probably something like this," I laughed:
"I go to use it for my painting of a great Southern
The fragile lady bowed her head and smiled shyly
hiding her eyes beneath her big straw hat.
Her tiny flashy camera safely in her hand
that showed the dark spots of advanced age.
"I apologise for introding your figure from distance
in your loose white shirt bending
and slowly proceeding
reminded me of someone.
In March Shikoku’s 88 temples
are full of pilgrims in white stoles
and sedge hats on their heads."
I said nothing and kept wandering the sand.
I found myself drifting into almost meditative state.
The neat lady put safely her camera
into her tiny backpack
and picked her first piece of torn plastic
from the water edge
the gentle wave licking her tiny feet
the plastic was buried deeply in wet sand,
a remains of a dead fish was caught in it.
She head off in different direction, letting the ebb and flow of the rubbish take us away on our own adventures.
At times we would cross paths again
the clean up hash bag I handed to her
full of bits and pieces
I nodded and smiled
after we would climb up the dunes
to the nearest rest point
and empty our bags into the bins
"How crunchy the sand feels beneath my toes?"
She exclaimed suddenly delightful
once we reached the water edge again.
" I feel like a child again walking with my father
toward a Buddhist temple
built high up in mountains there.
The steps to it seemed to lead almost vertically into the sky. "
In each temple we would bow at the main gate, enter and purify our hands and mouths at the ritual basin to the side.
"Why did you go there?" I asked suddenly curious.
“ To follow the route of Kobo Daishi who was born on this island in 774. Kukai lived in China as a young man and absorbed the Buddhist ideas there that has spread from India. Back in Japan, he founded the Shingon sect of Buddhism favoured by emperor. My father was a big admirer of Kukai , who was scholar, poet, calligrapher, social worker and civil engineer." She spilled out in one breath.
There was a silence as we kept searching for rubbish, then she added: "I came to mourn my younger sister who has died in a big earthquake as a child."
" My two young cousins are buried together in the rust red soil here nearby".
The Japanese lady bowed her head in respect.
I kept collecting rubbish without looking at her
and the words just flow out of my chest:
"Rose turned fifteen they took a ride from the town in a Toyota that belonged to a 40 years old driver. Several hours later, in pre-dawn darkness, local farmers found them and the driver lying by the wreckage of the ute on a straight deserted stretch of the highway. "
I stopped suddenly feeling like I am chocking.
The task of searching for rubbish
pulls my mind into the present,
distracting me from the 'real world'
from the pains of the past.
We kept wandering together and I kept talking,
first time after the painful thirty years
the black and white tragedy came out of me...
" My cousins were dead, having suffered horrific injuries as the speeding ute skidded and rolled. My birthday Rose had been partially scalped and one of her ears was ripped off. My Lisa suffered massive internal injuries and a broken pelvis. And imagine, the white owner of the ute who had consumed 30 standard alcoholic drinks during the day and night of the accident was unscathed..."
The Japanese lady took my arm to stop me but I couldn't, I couldn't anymore, the words kept crying out...
"Lisa was nearly naked when found by the farmers. She was very slight, little thing just fifteen years old. And they found her on a neatly laid out tarpaulin with her pants and underwear pulled down her ankles and her T-shirt bunched up around her neck. And the heavily drunk Toyota driver strangely uninjured touching her while she was dying. His arm was slung across her exposed chest!"
The Japanese lady covered her mouth unable to speak and dropped all the rubbish back into the sea...
"The driver said lots of bullshit to police, he even admitted doing so. He said Lisa had been coming on to him after his ute crashed. But the medical evidence showed Lisa could not walk, sit or stand after the accident and would have been semi-conscious and in extreme pain. It was obvious to police and the crown authorities that the driver was telling barefaced lies, but they didn't care!"
The Japanese lady suddenly took my arm: " When did this happen and where? For surely not in your Australia?"
I smiled sadly and took her hand and lead her up
away from beach
towards the carp park.
She sat next to me without a word
and I took her to the town cemetery.
The Japanese lady gently touched the double grave
decorated with plaster angels
cherubs, plastic roses,
the date of death 1987.
She pointed at the cherry blossoms:
"My sister has one too on her grave."
I nodded and continued because the story had to come out,
now: " I remember sitting with my mob in that imposing town courthouse with soaring walls and dark wood paneling polished to a high sheen. We were sitting in its public gallery and it felt like in church pews when that white driver went on trial in 1990. The all white jury handed down verdict of not guilty. They have been just two gins, two Aboriginal girls, they didn't count."
The Japanese old lady sat next to me on the edge of the old grave
her old wrinkled hand holding my own brown wrinkled hand
dirty and soiled from all the rubbish I have picked up that day...