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.