susys running away to sea

"The rigors (sic) of an expeditionary lifestyle"

Thursday, July 27, 2006

My Eden

Friday 21 July

It’s another wonderful day of sunshine - getting on for 30 degrees. I’m going exploring, while J has some R&R in the cockpit. Down the ladder over the stern, and into the dinghy. I’m in my swimsuit, with a drybag of teeshirt, trousers, trainers and camera. J wants some shots of the boat.
As I row away, time switches itself back to a distant memory of learning to row in Fecamp harbour when I was six. I’m sitting in a little wooden dinghy, facing my father, his hands over mine, as he shows me - dip the oars, pull, lift, back, dip again. We are in the shadow of a quay, rowing to where my mother is drying out the bedding slung across the boom, and other housewifely boaty business. So many years on, and I’m doing the same jobs.
But for now, it’s back to Swallows and Amazons - discovering desert islands - Mate Susan, released from boatwifery. I pull to the shore and find a place to land among the boulders, twisting the painter round a jagged and bony rock. Yesterday’s plague of jellyfish - medusas, lion’s manes - have gone. I strip off and swim. It’s cold and clear and exhilarating. Down through the water, I see mussels and scallop shells, and little sharp stones in the mud. The water washes around me and, it seems, through me, stripping off layers of years and worries. I am removed, for the moment, from my world to this timelessness.
I dry myself with my teeshirt, put it on, and the trousers, and the trainers - how all at once strange they feel, these everyday clothes, like a loose skin, better sloughed off. But the rocks are razor-edged and the undergrowth is prickly.
There is a set of wooden steps where I have landed, leading to a picnic table built for giants, sheltering among the pines. Pinned to a nearby tree is an old photo of four brothers - the Roberts - fishermen from their clothes and the small boat they’re posed against. The date is 1957 - I wondered if this place was special to them.
Away through the brush is a rickety rackety spruce pole bridge leading - where? I wade through the grass and walk up and over the poles - until they start giving way. They are old and dried out and brittle. I decide a broken ankle or worse isn’t a good idea here. With extreme care I test every pole before putting my weight on it - ominous splitting noises, and I lift my foot very quickly. Leaning on the wobbly side bars is no good - they’re ready to collapse. I’m not sorry to be admiring the bridge from the picnic bench again.
"Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass"
Making another trail in the heat, I push through pink rosebay willow herb, blue forget me nots, yellow buttercups, red cloudberries among the waist-high grasses. Bees and flies hum, a butterfly darts, and the wind is picking up, hushing through the pines. It is intoxicating and stupefying here. A trickle stream splashes in the dark of moss, stone and fern down to the cove. I cup my hand and drink. It is beyond description here. I cry with joy.
* * * * *
I row further round the bay and then back to the boat, where I take photos of Jack and Fortune. J has rigged the sun awning, so this afternoon is to be gainfully spent drowsing in a louche delirium.


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