A Story for Our Time; Mirrors.

I look at my face again in the ocean mirror, that is twice today already….

We didn’t mean to go to sea. The sky is still blue and the water is flat again, like a mirror. It reflects the sky and the clouds move across it.  I look over the edge of the boat at my reflection in the water. My face is grubby and tanned. My hair is wild. I gave myself a haircut yesterday, my hair was way too long, it has been for ages, and I complained a great deal about how annoying it was.

I was just feeling so irritated by my hair when I realised that no one could see me out here and that there was no need to have such long hair. This was a strange revelation, not the fact that my hair didn’t need to be so long, it was the fact that I was keeping it long for other people. Who were these strange other people who needed me to have long hair? Of course they didn’t really exist, somewhere along the way I had decided that I needed to have long hair for other people, and now I had discovered that perhaps I didn’t. I could please myself.

I watched a video years ago, it was a tutorial for how to cut your hair in layers, the lady demonstrating said haircut, who clearly lived on a rather dusty looking farm somewhere in America, tied her hair up in a high pony tail and put a second pony tail further up the first one, then she cut off the second bunch. Straight off, just like that. She made a few extra apparently random snips to tidy it up, and it looked great. If by chance you have also seen this video and were tempted to give it a go, let me tell you now that it does not work! The results of this haircut are a wild style, there are indeed layers, but they are wild and random, and I love them. It is possible that more hair will go before we reach dry land, but I have been blessed with a ton of really fast-growing thick wavy hair, so anything goes. Hairdressers reading this will be horrified I shouldn’t wonder. I must say that seeing my reflection now in the ocean mirror I look more like a mermaid than ever before, and of course here there is no one to see me and think anything at all.

It is a troublesome thing to trouble over what other people might think. In reality I am pretty sure that other people rarely give each other much thought at all, apart from maybe to wonder how you are when they haven’t seen you for an age, and yet there are multi-million industries based on what we look like, and we only actually know what we look like when we look in a mirror, which ordinarily in my case is perhaps two or three times a day. I look at myself once in the morning, to check that my face is clean, once if I go out, pretty much for the same reason, and once when I brush my teeth at night, and I have no idea why I watch myself brushing my teeth.

Why the hair? I suppose it is the bit of me that I feel I ought to be able to do something about, I have never really worn makeup, I tried a few times in my teens but as I was a bit gothic I usually ended up with far too much liquid eyeliner, and after repeated attempts at making it symmetrical, which I can assure you is nigh on impossible on a face that lacks symmetry, there would be a strange grey water mark covering pretty much my whole face. Makeup took far too long to do, and I did not have the patience to learn. I was always hearing about these people who took hours getting ready before they went out, and I always wondered what on earth they were doing? Unless of course they were just fighting with the liquid eyeliner.

I hated lipstick from the word go, it was greasy and beauty or no I cannot live with greasy lips! Powder used to make me cough, and eye shadow was a no go from early on, as I was frequently teased at school that I was wearing purple eye shadow long before I was even allowed to own it. I did use mascara now and then, but my main gripe with all makeup was that when you wake up the morning after you have worn it, said makeup has migrated all around your face, generally making you look like a crazy panda, then you have to take it off, and put it back on again.

In any case, who is the makeup for? Unless you walk around all day looking in mirrors it may as well not be there, unless of course it is for someone else to see. I know, I know people have been adorning themselves since the dawn of time, and they probably always will, and the world would be a much more boring place if we didn’t do it.


I look at my face again in the ocean mirror, that is twice today already, and it’s still the morning. I have a strange smear of dirt over one eye, I wonder how it got there. I decide it’s time to go for a bath, in the sea. It has been a while since I had a wash, I had been putting it off, partly because sea water kind of makes me a bit sticky, and partly because the water is so deep. I look into the water, it is dark; the sun comes out from behind a cloud lighting up the top few metres of water. It is clear and misty at the same time. I wonder how cold it will be. I don’t really like the cold.

Most summers I go to Wales to the mountains, there is a wonderful valley there where there are no buildings, and there are rocky mountains on three sides, covered with bracken, heathers, moss, jagged rocks and sheep. Two waterfalls come down the opposite mountains and meet in the valley. It is idyllic, a magical place and I love it. Every year I must go into the waterfall, there is a stunning pool there, and the water is emerald green. It is so easy to feel the water spirits there, waiting, watching amongst the mossy rocks. The air is zinging with magic.

The water is freezing, the kind of cold that burns your skin and takes your breath away. I take off all my clothes and get in as fast as I can, which is not easy as the bottom of the pool has rocks of many different sizes, some of which are slippery, and the water is moving very fast as it leaves the pool, fast enough to knock you over if you are not sure of your footing. The water is waist deep in most of the pool, there are a couple of spots where it is a bit deeper, perhaps up to your chest, but it depends on how much rain there has been. All the time the water is pushing, pushing you over and under. I hold my breath and dunk deep under the water, then I let the water lie me down, and under the surface I open my eyes and watch the water flowing over me. Suddenly I need to breathe, and I leap from the water, I cannot help but scream! The cold tears the air from my lungs, and I take a deep breath and sing a hearty note out to the surrounding rocks, trees, and hills. Then I dunk again, and again. This whole experience is an act of will, whilst my whole body is willing me to get out, which I do as fast as I can. I rub myself vigorously with a towel and get dressed quickly, wobbling all over the rocks beside the pool as I do so. Warmth slowly returns to my body, to my hands and feet, and I feel renewed and refreshed and wonderful for the rest of the day.

I wonder if that is how I will feel here once I am back out of the sea. But there are no rocks to stand on here, no trees or hills to sing to. No ancient waterfall spirits. Here there is just me, and the sea. The great green rolling shining sea, and I do not know the Gods that live out here. How will I sing aloud to the spirits here? There are no valleys to reflect the sound back at me, there is just me, one tiny little wild woman with a strange haircut in a vast, vast sea of, of….sea.


Waterfall by Ian Cylkowski on Unsplash
ocean by  Aleks Dahlberg on Unsplash


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