Walk the cliffs and look upon the bay. A grey-walled westerly
has blown in overnight, cloud thick across the sky, horizon
to horizon. Spindrift blurs the line of the white beach and the ripple
of hills beyond. Off the point the island twins are sinking;
sea and sky fused. The cloud shades light and dark, a page
rubbed light with graphite, brushed, in no particular pattern, with no particular intent.
At hand the cliffs stand clear against the grey; their seams and faces,
naked, throw no shadows. The line of headlands curves
to the opening of the bay; a pattern which you follow, circling, coming back home.
Don’t try to impress it in the mind. What is here is to be attended to.
It will return in the evening, in the quiet. The night wind off the ocean runs through the trees.
The swell breaks along the cliffs. All night you hear it in your sleep.
Seared days, dripping nights, too early in the year. At midnight lightning flickers,
faint breaths, fresh, then a wash of cool. Next day, the water is jade,
sand still settling; across its surface, stately as clouds, patches of blue move
through the breakers and the shore, the dunes and flats, to the swell
of the low hills, dunes of an ancient sea; they pause there, and look out.
On the edge of the reef, at the edge of sight, a circle widens; you wait, but nothing more;
a seam, perhaps, rocking in the wake; the wave surges on, doesn’t look behind.
The far shore blurs, more to seaward, spread and thumbed by the sea spray drift.
On the edge of the reef, at the edge of mind, a sea bird surfaces. That is
what it was. Bright-eyed, it shakes droplets from its head, faster than thought.
Ten minutes, more, under water, stretched forward like a seal
in the milky green, shafts of sun like columns reaching down
into the shadows. The bird seal dives into the pools, touches the rocks, plucks
sea moss and lichen. Down there, in the leafy brush, currents wash
cool, fresh; no heat can enter there; not now, not yet.
A rocking calm patterned under a land breeze. Breathing in, it rises in a line
like a tendon, ripples across the face of the water, pools about a rock surfacing;
breathes out on the sands, a wash of foam. Across the cliff shrubs and trees colour;
the faces of the rock thrust them forward. Stems twist, toughened under gales;
tendrils as strong as spider’s silk have split the rock, gained entry
into the earth, found water, made flower and seed. They have earned the right.
Beyond the opening ocean swells break over offshore reefs,
sweep past the islands but take no account of them. Their gaze
is on the open water, they see something we don’t see: an ocean
which circles the earth, whose swells mount on a thousand-mile fetch. Along this coast, in winter,
whales move, nosing the deeps. One year a female entered the Bay, with a calf,
three days and nights. People came to the shore and the whales moved to them,
curious, perhaps, about the fauna that had appeared upon the borders of their world.
The watchers stayed all day, camped overnight. Astonished, clutched hearts.
The shells and bones of small sea creatures drift down, rest and silt,
sit on the floors of unnamed seas. They aggregate, establish footings, turn
to stone, wait until the tides run backward to rise cascading into the sun.
Walk across the sand, wade through runnels of the ebb tide,
begin to climb. The island rock is visited by gulls,
terns, a sunning seal; transients, no foothold here.
higher up, behind a low ridge, a garden clings, miniatured
by salt and gales; your palms encompass it. The seams trapped sand
flung by winter gales, and seeds fell in and made
their own soil, to grow a ring of moss across the face of rock; spiky,
sere grass; blue-grey straps, rough; even the springing of a bush,
striated stem here like a tree. And scattered like diamonds,
smaller than your fingertip, flowers in white, ablaze.
Beyond, the dark horizon. The sea breathes; and the rock, held close,
Early summer morning, cool, the sea
out-breathes across the reefs, in-drawn
recedes, and the ledges surface. Around their edges
fronds reach a few fingers taller,
break the surface first. The water
streams away; they open to the sun
tracing the edges of the shapes that shimmer
shape-shifting, shallower, gathering
whatever of natural force, integrity
is theirs from year after year
of making; gathering even, perhaps,
courage; which, it is clear, is needed to move
out of the protecting, temperate calm
beneath into the brilliant imperatives
of the light.
The question presents itself
each half day: will it be enough,
that which you have made in the bloom below?
This time, can you stand in the sun?