My mother disliked the sea

My mother disliked the sea

after we arrived in Australia. She would say,

‘Four weeks on a ship. Waves. Waves.

That’s all it was... And

the horizon never getting closer.’

Once, going on a picnic

with friends to Shellharbour

she sat with her back to the water.

‘Seeing the waves makes me sick.

That ship was a prison.’


Was it nostalgia or homesickness

for Europe that made her feel as she did?

Or the Polish word zal to describe

a spiritual and physical longing

for something forever lost?


Enticements to go to Manly on the ferry

or Bondi’s famous beach

fell on deaf ears.

‘I’d rather stay home

and work in my garden,’ she’d say.

‘See how beautiful the roses are.’

Or, ‘The marigolds are out. Smallest of flowers

but their colour is so deep.’


Returning from her day job

she would bring home 

seedlings and packets of seeds

from the nursery

to add to the flower garden.

It took me decades to learn

that’s where she belonged –

and she’d reached her horizon

by turning her back on the sea.

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