The coastline of Australia is approximately 34,000km in length, and by my calculations (in terms of distance covered) I’ve run right the way around. When I was young and fit – before my knees began to show the ill effects from years of pounding the hard, (usually) sloping sand on the shoreline, I used to run 10km on the beach every day. For over a decade this was part of my daily routine.
There are lots of things you can find on a beach. The ocean brings forth many treasures – natural and man-made. The excitement and surprise of a good find always makes me feel young, but not everything I find on a beach can be held in my hand. In fact, the most memorable beach discoveries for me over the years, I’m still holding in my heart.
I’ve found peace in the solitude and wonder in the beauty. I’ve discovered clarity and answers emerging from the constancy and rhythm of the ocean, and my own constant rhythm of breath and stride as I’ve wandered it’s edge. I’ve been inspired with songs and had epiphanies on beaches. I’ve been physically sustained by food from the oceans waters, and spiritually sustained from the less tangible nourishment it provides.
A few years ago, during a destabilising personal crisis, I turned to the beach once more to clear my head and gain perspective.
The beach was black. Ash, soot and charcoal from recent fires had darkened the usually golden sand, and I felt small and alone as I walked its’ deserted length. I noticed a solitary white gull feather laying motionless in the midst of the vast expanse of black sand. It’s whiteness was pure and beautiful, but also weary and worn – bleached and windswept from the elements. Rather than appearing like a white flag of surrender, it seemed to convey resilient defiance to the darkness that engulfed it. The image was so striking that it became an inspiration for my path forward – and ultimately a song that tells a tale of that path.
No one makes it through life free from destabilising personal crises and everyone experiences the feeling of being small and alone amidst the sea of darkness. That feather told me to just keep walking anyhow. Windswept and weary we may be, but beautiful we still are. Broken bits do leave wounds, but they can also leave the determination to begin again and new learned wisdom to take with you on the journey. Sometimes all you can do is move on with faith that the scars you carry will carry you forward to the new beginning.
The song Unsteady (ever since you’re gone) has now been officially released into the world and who knows what it’s life will be. Many times I’ve had people share remarkable stories of how songs I’ve written have helped them make it through. Hopefully this song will generate more stories. In spite of its weighty origins, Unsteady is uplifting. It’s delicate and defiant, and It’s a mantra for anyone needing to move forward and leave the dark behind. That’s all of us.
Some of the things you find on a beach you hold in your hand and some you hold in your heart. I hold that white gull feather tightly in each.
The single, UNSTEADY by Felicity Urquhart & Josh Cunningham, is out now on ABC music.
Or check out UNSTEADY on Spotify or Apple Music: