Sunday, 4 February 2007

Forever forever

It was one of those days that felt like an invitation, the stretched bodies of thin clouds flung through the sky like hurried handwriting. Come, come. Come to the sea…

A half-hour by train from Edinburgh is the small coastal town of North Berwick, home to the Scottish Seabird Centre. We quickly discovered we were too early in the year to catch a glimpse of any of the numerous species that nest on the small outlying islands, including the famous Bass Rock.

Even so, there was no sense of disappointment. When we arrived the tide was out and the beach was wide and being kissed at its edge by the kind North Sea. For the whole day, time felt suspended, just like summers when we were small. When we were still part of the rhythm of things, the sun rising, sweeping through the air and setting again, all to the sound of our footsteps as we played, oblivious yet completely inside each and every moment.

This was Saturday by the sea, kids playing kickball, the smallest ones digging in the sand before being hauled to their feet and then carried by grandma back to the car or maybe the ice cream stand. One girl just lying there in the dip she had created, her arms and legs moving lazily up and down, her sand angel darkening beneath her as she reached the damp layers and the saltwater began to soak into her corduroy trousers. Still the angel flew, slowly and languidly into the earth.

We climbed The Law, a 613-foot volcanic rock just outside of town. On the way I fell in love with one gnarled tree that stood beside a long rock wall. Up and up we lumbered, over the new grass that was sprouting in the middle of winter, until we reached the top and the strong wind made me feel unsteady and a bit queasy. For many years a whale’s jawbone was perched at the top of hill, but after the last one began to succumb to the weather it was taken down and not replaced. Traditionally villagers used the hill for signal fires, an idea that always fills me with joy. I love the rawness of it – huge fires as messengers in the darkness. The lone burly creature up there in the dark, tending the sentences of sparks as they rise and die, rise and die.

Late afternoon and we stood again by the sea, the deep yellow of the sun pushing into everything, warming it even as the temperature began to drop. The tide had nearly finished coming in but the waves still seemed so tired - they just curled and drooped onto the sand before whispering a few feet and withdrawing. Perhaps they had forgotten why they had come and decided to turn back toward the sea, where all their memories are kept, forever moving forever forever.

No comments: