Helena Fox reflects on her POEM FOREST poem.

The ocean is a living thing—it breathes, moves, thrives, suffers. It is chaotic, tender, and untamable. I can’t imagine my life without it.

When I was young, I lived in Samoa, a Polynesian island nation. The beaches of the main island, Upolu, were black sand on one side, white on the other. I slept to the lap-lap of quiet waves, protected by the reef. I jumped in pristine cave pools; I swam in clear turquoise water.

When I was older, I lived in Seattle, in the US. There were lakes and a long Sound—cold and thrumming with orcas and ferries and islands. Beautiful, but I missed the crash of surf, the grandness of seeing water all the way to the horizon.

I went for a time to the desert of Santa Fe. The light and space felt immense. The desert seemed to hum, and for a while I thought I could stay. But there was no sea.

Then I lived in San Francisco. The ocean whirled and thrashed, there at the end of Golden Gate Park. I’d ride my bike down to that wildness, walk along the gritty sand, breathe in the sea’s bright energy and tuck it inside for hard days.

When I moved back to Australia, I made a beeline for the Illawarra coast. I planted myself by the sea, on Dharawal Country. I am so grateful to be here.

I don’t need to be in the ocean. I am often glad just to watch it—its changing textures, rhythms and energies. I think of how precious it is. I hurt, thinking of it suffering. I hope that we can listen to the living sea, and do everything we can to protect it.