October 28th 2014
‘Don’t wait any longer. Dive into the ocean. And let the sea be you.’ – Rumi
0650 and I was awake, bemoaning the fact that my brain had forgotten this was a holiday. Rolling over, I squeezed my eyelids tight against the morning – but it was a futile effort.
For a seed had been sown. An idea.
A thought of a swim. A dawn dip.
And it would not go away. Like an infant that, once birthed, will not be set down. Mewling and insistent.
So within five minutes I was up and online: Tides favourable. Weather fair. Banana peeled and mug of strong tea brewing.
Another half hour and I was five miles from my family, pacing downhill, past slumbering cottages in the still blue October dawn.
Lansallos, the Llan or hamlet of St Salwys, lay silent as the Celtic hermitage from which its name is derived. The 14th Century church stood stark against the skyline as I descended onto the woodland path that sucks one towards the sea.
For it is a force that cannot be resisted; a primordial attraction. Reverse evolution. A draw back into the ocean.
And never was that pull more keenly felt than on this morning.
Like an eloping lover descending on knotted sheets, anticipating a covert embrace; an illicit thrill filled me as I kicked virgin leaves and followed the song of the sea.
A siren song that called and coaxed through shaded wood and dew-drizzled meadow.
Until there she was. Opening before me. Lazily stretching beneath a duvet of low cloud. Wanton. Waiting. A soft mist sealed our tryst as I sank into the sand.
How far this shore felt from my visit only a week before. Then the sun shone and a small throng milled along the tideline.
There a New Age woman had come to me trailing twin daughters whose dresses flowed like the tide. Each child held a lead and each lead harnessed a rabbit. Bunnies on the beach. We had talked about swimming and how October was the ideal month for a dip. There was a spontaneity and freedom in this woman – a kindred spirit.
And was that spirit high above me, in the circling of the gulls, as I peeled off my clothes and walked brazenly into the water? Into the delicious enveloping that is sea and solitude. Seduced by the surf; a consumation in the currents that pulled me deeper into the heart of the bay. A gathering in. A coming home.
Laying back and looking up into the crack of lemon light that spilled out through a sullen sky, I soared on seabird wings and recalled how a passage in the film Jonathan Livingstone Seagull had, long ago, been my raft on darker seas. ‘Dear Father, we dream…’
Beyond the breakers, I floated in a sinusoidal swell. A rhythmic rising and falling. Submitting to the uncertainty of the sea. Wonderfully vulnerable. A rolling arousal and a tender intimacy. The spectrum of sensation so well known to those who choose to swim naturally – as creation intended.
To the west, the high spring tide lashed lazily against storm-weary rocks, casually tossing fronds of weed into the spume that tripped across the shallows and onto the sand.
Always mindful of my position, I registered that I too was being drawn towards this spat in a relentless steady drift. So I dived into the stout heart of the next wave and was somersaulted onto the shore where I lay amid the salt and shells, listening to the clash and rasp of surf on sand. Where the ocean clawed back her waters, like a jilted lover saving face.
The onshore breeze was warm and comforting as I stood facing seaward, slowly drying. There was no need for a towel. No-one was coming. No-one would come.
The black silhouette of a cormorant perched before me – wings outstretched – motionless as the moment we were sharing.
Winding back up through West Coombe, I exchanged the confusion of the sea for the steady chatter of a brook, like an excited friend recounting her adventures in Cornish meadows. Tall hedges brimmed with berries as I shuffled through a carpet of sycamore, inhaling its musty glory.
Bleating sheep and lowing cattle heralded a gradual awakening all around.
Delicate birdsong drifting from the highest boughs was punctuated by the raucous cry of a rook. The rough essence of Cornwall.
Like a shard of ore coursing through her rock.
Like the spirit coursing through her people.