Sunday, February 14, 2010

in which the sky is sea, and the sea is a basket of sticks.

There is no such thing.

Even our bones are merely clever things that seem to hold us up through sheer belief. Fluted columns as light as bird breath. Things which seemed solid become inevitably swept away, washed away by time. Even time itself seems completely abstract.
Nothing is forever.
When I was small I had such faith in things, in objects, in structures, in the slow and steady march of time. Now I just marvel at my own tenacity in hanging on to beliefs at all. Babies disappear and become complete other persons. Persons disappear altogether. A place evolves into somewhere unknown. Concrete things just melt away. Lose their meaning.

The sky is low today, and it showers at regular intervals in long wet breaths. The sea has pushed the sand into a hump, so that the beach stretches out a long way, rising in a long low incline then falling away steeply at the waters' edge. When the tide recedes, small lakes are left in the hollow of the sand. Here,  small children sit and dig and play. I watch a father carefully construct a dam, his backside in the air, his small daughter, in four shades of pink, throws her spadeful of wet sand at the very moment he raises his head.

My daughter is on patrol. She watches the edge of the water with pale eyes, her hair in long wet strands from the wet air and the salt.  The sea lifts itself up, and she narrows her eyes, watching and waiting. New lifeguards chatter excitedly around her; they have just passed their exam. There are so many of them, all eager to be watching, waiting, prowling at the edge of the ocean in brand-new yellow and red. They stand about with their hair in sheets, sand spattered on the backs of their legs. My daughter has removed her emergency toned lifeguard clothes, and hovers, pale skinned, in blue, silent and barely visible. Yet the small children follow in her shadow when she swims, then they follow her out again, like little doctor-fish. They sit nearby, cross legged. She moves, and they move with her. Looking at her in her blue club costume, I can almost glimpse her as a tiny girl, in the smaller version. Same colours, new girl.

It is warm and inky. Eveyone sits on the rain-pocked sand happily, playing in the tidal puddles, in the strange light. I can smell the base note of salt and the wetness of the sand in the warm air.

The sea beats itself on the steep incline of sand at low tide, snarling in a froth of flung sand like a serpent flicking its tail in its sleep. Beyond this, it is smooth between the sets of waves.  Knots of people negotiate the wild rhythms at the edge, reluctant to step into the deep.

I wonder about the things I hang onto, I wonder about the things that disappear and I dont even notice.
I count the things which remain as a constant, forming a rhythm to my life and thoughts.  Something that bundles me together, me,  creature of salt and blood and bones and hair, all too ready to wash away. Dissolve.

The hard sloping bank of sand is pleasant to walk on and the low sky like dark watercolour seeping into the air just above my head. I enter the water, bracing myself for the onslaught, trying to look nonchalant, my goggles around my neck.

I have to drop quickly to the sandy floor as a nasty cracking wave curls swiftly out of nowhere, and I am immediately blasted with sand. Before I have time to so much as brush it from my face, I am forced to commando-roll beneath another two before I escape along the bottom and dart out across the deep.
Still the waves dance their vigorous waltz.

It is so dark beneath the blanket of wet inky sky that  the ocean floor is rendered a dark green. It is cloudy from the rains, and shapes shift beneath me, yet the water feels like soft warm silk: so seductive, so beautiful, achingly alluring. Out here I am washed clean of sand, am nervously eyeing the shadows far below where indistinct swarms of fish move about in the swirl. The summer sea is filled with small animalcules, little lively swimming things, blue sea lizards. Transparent, spent carapace, small, soft and shaped like clawed hands drift and float, wave like tiny fingers. Tiny unseen creatures hover and dance. Nestle near to my skin, preparing to leave their constellation of pink marks on my body. My own body, without a carapace, without a bunch of claws, without a cloudy bag of ink to expel.

All are netted into my swimming costume, a harvest of sorts. I move through this lively soup like a whale shark on Ningaloo, sifting the water. Only a thin skin separates my inner body from my outer, the sea as warm as my blood, too warm to seize my head by the temples and knock sense in to my brain. Too warm to enliven my slow and bedevilled dreams. I feel as if I move slowly and fill myelf with a mad bevy of microscopic monsters.

It has rained so much that the lagoon has burst its banks, and leaves swirl past me. Casuarina needles poke at me, needle my arms. Large brown eucalyptus leaves flap past like huge moths in the dark green waters.  The sea is laughing quietly to itself, like some demented thing, toying with folks at the edge and flinging them about. I keep silent and as still as possible, gliding through the depths, trying not to stare, pop-eyed at every thing that moves, trying not to shudder at the sensation of the clouds of casuarina needles, the flapping moth leaves. The dark indigo shadows

When the lagoon bursts into the ocean it carves a huge river into the sand. Out of the dark the water rushes, pale blue in the blackness of a rainy night, and empties into the sea. In the morning there are just the mudflats, inspected by a team of concerned pelican, walking seriously from puddle to puddle, inspecting the flat chocolatey silt with their beaks. All the lagoon dwellers have been expelled into the sea: tortoises, mullet, plovers, flushed from the rushes and the reeds at the foot of the casuarinas. Sometimes ducks and their ducklings, their striped fluff spiked by a sea-dunking, scooped up in cupped hands quickly and saved from the waves.
Along the shore lie reeds in bundles, a handful facing one way, the next another, all along. Tennis balls, odd shoes. Strange things knitted along the edge of the sea.

Now the sea has gathered everything, the lagoon contents, and fashioned a kind of floating raft of rushes, pointing this way and that, woven in between with small pieces of bark, pine needles, branches, and has placed me in the middle like some archetypal foundling. Jostled among the flotsam and the creepy jabbing reeds.

Enough, I say,
I cant stand you today. 

And  I make some mutter about summer water, how the soft silkiness of it is so beguiling, but just so unrewarding. And so populous. How I am bedecked with a tiny bestiary and a collection of lagoon items. How nasty the prickling of casuarina needles, the prickling of tiny things.
And I am unashamed to say it, and rush to the edge, prepared for by sandblasting, prepared to be knocked this way and that, to drop to my belly and let the nasty flapping curl of snad filled water pass above me.

I can't bear you today.

I look up from my raft of rushes, poked this way and that incessantly by pieces of rush and reed, and the world has changed again, like the magic faraway tree.  Folks have shifted, children have grown, the sky has fallen and there are trees in the sea.

There is only one constant in this world of flux, there is only one thing. Endless. Constantly changing, but always there.  I shall enter its summer self, among the frenzy of seaweed bits and mad swarms of fish, its raft of needling rushes and the red sand which tosses in plumes beneath the sudden violet storms. I shall spread my arms and lie on my back, watch the cumulus clouds pile up on the horizon, and the sea will say

shh shh shh!

such utter nonsense you always speak:

shh shh shh!

and as it throw one last spray of sand on to the backs of my sorry legs it shouts again: