Sunday, 16 January 2011

How Fleeting Is A Life-time?

This is a piece of fiction I've written on the theme of 'ghost,' for my writing group.

It all looked the same from my vantage point. Every tree, every rock pool, each undulation of the cliff top. The sea pounding the shore, spraying waves like celebratory champagne. The thunderous grey cliffs framing the beach as Lowry figures, heads bowed against the whipping wind, trudged along the snaking muddy footpaths. Gloved hands thrust deep inside pockets and hoods pulled up over cold red ears. Storm-tossed rocks resembling ancient spines of dinosaurs, jutted into the pale sand. Jagged fragments of rock, ready to slice toes as crabs were hunted in thick soupy puddles.

The gaping entrance of a cave yawned seawards. As a child, that cave had been my castle, my wigwam, my refuge from angst. It was a safe haven from the sea dragon which lurked around the next bay. I had my first kiss in the mouth of that cave. Sweet sixteen and never been kissed until that summer's day. His name was Jude Morgan, a bronzed skinny youth I'd met in school. He'd pulled my hair and stolen my strawberry laces in previous years. Who'd have thought he'd be my love for one glorious summer? I remember how our footsteps echoed as we crunched on weathered shells underfoot. How water trickled down the walls of the cave, dribbling and gurgling through lichen and moss. We prised clinging limpets and barnacles from the damp rocks. Hour after arid hour they'd wait, until the moon drew the sea back up the beach to immerse them again. Too late for some - our thoughtless young fingers had found them first. I wondered where Jude was now.

In the distance I watched the ferry carrying visitors across the estuary, expectant, eager to reach their destination. Ready to invade the gift shops. Pennies to spend on a stick of rock, a wooden lighthouse, home-made fudge and postcards which would never be sent. The reds, blues and yellows of boat hulls reflecting dappled rainbows in the choppy water. Bunting, whipped by the breeze, flapped and flickered to the cry of the gulls which followed returning fishing boats. Sticky candy floss fingers were licked and sucked clean by pink-stained tongues.

I recall our summer wedding. A warm day full of tip-toeing bare feet, new hats and a flowing gown on the warm sand. I wore flowers in my hair and shells hung from my tanned, un-lined neck. A blessing by the sea and vows made with blissful tears. The bare sky had smiled on us that day as cousins frolicked and wine was sipped. No sulking grey clouds puckered their brows at us that day.

From high above the bustling resort, I watched fathers kneeling with sons by the quayside, catching crabs on long pieces of bacon-laden string. I recalled my husband crouching by our son's side at this very harbour's edge many years ago. Lovingly fixing scraps from breakfast onto the string as carefully as a surgeon's hands. I remember the slice-of-melon-shaped grins on their faces as crabs were slowly raised for inspection. What pink and grey claw-clad treasures they were to a five year old. Was our son now re-living his childhood adventures with his children?

I turn back to view the beach. So many picnics, so many castles decorated with pebbles, so many squeals of delight as young legs leapt over knee-high waves. How we loved to dig our toes deeply into the warm soft sand and find the cool damp grains below, or sit by the water's edge and let the bubbles tickle our feet. Summers spent with friends, sharing blankets and laughter and striped wind breaks. Bulging pocket full of pink shells. We threw driftwood for our spaniels, teasing with lengths of seaweed and digging for treasure. Remembering - long shadows, fish sizzling on a barbeque, Pimms in a jug and love in our hearts.

Sheep still silently grazed in a nearby field beneath trees bent into submission from the ocean gales. I used to love it when the wind howled along the bay. It blew troubles out into the raging seas to be swallowed and forgotten beneath its depths. The wind whisked the waves into splinters of light which sparkled in the air like Swarkovski crystals. They hushed up the damp frown-furrowed sand, carrying cart-wheeling smooth ocean-tossed pebbles.

How fleeting is a life-time? How blessed I was to have lived and loved. Mortal no more, I am the rhythm of the flowing seas. I am the whispering of the waves and the breeze in the leafy canopies. I am the soaring leaves whipped up by storms and the grains beneath your feet. I am the shimmer of a heat wave and the scent of May blossom carried on a spring breeze. I am the glow of a milky moon and the warmth of the rays on a summer day.

My ashes are whisked into whispering rushes, the surging sand dunes and dusty coastal paths. I rest in flowerbeds which burst with fresh promise each year. I nestle amongst the plump clusters of purple-beaded blackberries, waiting for careful fingers to pluck them for tea. I watch over my blood-line as they re-trace my steps, making their own memories in the crescent of the bay.

1 comment:

  1. Some really beautiful images here and a certain poignancy which stays with the reader. I love that your share your writing in this way. I have sometimes done this but often shy away from it. I should do it more!

    A x