We didn’t mean to go to sea, it’s too hot, and the sea is dead calm again. It is night-time and the air is close and humid, I wonder if that means we are in the tropics? I feel stuffy and wheezy, and really, I just want to go to sleep, but it is way too hot even for that. I lie on my stomach on the cool planks of the deck and stare down at the black water. Ripples emanate from the hull, I watch them as they flow outwards across the otherwise glassy surface. I wonder what it would be like to be a wave, endlessly flowing onwards towards the shore, the rise and fall, under and over forever.
Or perhaps I could be a fish in a stream, I love to swim, but I will never know what it must be to be forever enclosed in the embrace of water, does a fish even know where it ends and the water begins? I suppose that is like asking whether humans know that they are surrounded by air. The air is just there, all the time like an invisible blanket wrapping itself around us, we don’t feel it unless the wind is blowing, another invisible force.
I have a strained relationship with the wind, of all the elements it is my least favourite. The rain falls down, and occasionally sideways, but it is fairly predictable, everything gets wet and we are washed clean in so many ways. Snow flurries and flutters and sometimes it blizzards, it lands in great soft heaps and coats everything in wonderous sparkling beauty, it reminds us that everything can be curvy, everything can be bright, white, shining! The sun is a temptation, it draws us from our shelters to bask in its brilliance, to bathe in its loving warmth, to shine and glow mirroring the radiance of the bright golden ball in the heavens. But the wind, the wind whips up the storms, she adds the sting in the tail of the rain and snow, she dries the air and steals the moisture from your skin burning and chafing. The wind irritates and aggravates me, always pulling at my wild wispy hair, setting it free from the bunches I carefully tie it into. The wind has power, she can topple a building, whip off a roof, raise a tidal wave, she is a mischievous spirit and a magnificent force of destruction.
There have been times though when I have sought out the wind, when I have longed to have my cockles blown away and the wind is the best for this. When I feel most sad and stuck, I like to climb the tallest hill I can find and stand at the top and be blown clean by the wild wind. One morning I climbed up Glastonbury Tor in search of the blessing of the wind. I set off just as the sun was rising, and made my way around the lanes in the crisp cold early morning air. I love the very first part of the day, there are so few people about and the birdsong is wonderful, musical and magical. The Tor was surrounded in mist, a cloud had wrapped itself around its middle like a fluffy blanket. The sky looked grey and foreboding, I wondered if I would be washed away by a great deluge, well I didn’t mind, either would do today, the wind or the rain. As the path wound around, I walked through the clouds, and droplets of water clung to my hair, my skin, my clothes, a gentle reminder of sweet Irish rain. Moments later I stepped up and out of the clouds into magical bright sunshine, the sky was blue and clear above the Tor.
I lay on the ground and looked up at the sky, swifts darted around the top of the Tor, a great whirl of wings, spiralling, twisting and turning in a wonderful display of the magnificence of delicate deliberate flight. As I lay on the grass basking in the early morning sunshine, I heard music. I sat up and saw a beautiful sight, there was a woman who had brought her full size harp all the way up the Tor, and she had positioned it in front of the building and the wind was singing through the strings. It was as if the angels themselves were calling to us. I felt as if I had landed on a heavenly cloud, I wanted the day to last forever, it was a time out of time for me, a moment of absolute stillness. I loved that moment and I captured it in my heart.
Perhaps I should love the wind the most, she can be wild and she can be gentle, it feels so strange that something we can’t even see has so much power. I do believe in the wind, even though I can’t see it. Strange.
I did not blow away my cockles that day, but they left me nevertheless.
I have climbed the Tor many times and I know that the wind can be cruel up there. I have come to know the places where the wind lies in wait, that sounds crazy, but because the climb twists and turns around the hill there are places where you are sheltered and could even forget the elements for a moment, and places where the wind is ripe and full and rampaging.
On the most exposed parts of the Tor the wind flies into my clothes and tries to tear them from me, but worse than that she gets in my ears and roars in them! She freezes them at the same time, and the ache spreads through my jaw and into my teeth. I want to turn around and run away down the hill to the safety of the ground, but I must continue until I have reached the top. There is something ritualistic about climbing great hills. I cannot stop and turn back, I am compelled to rise to the summit. Once at the summit I like to walk around and see all the land around, this is the gift a hill gives: the view. This kind of panoramic view does something to my heart and soul, it breeds an expansiveness within me that is not normally present. I long for this feeling, it is a craving I live with most of the time. I become large somehow, open, majestic.
When I have finished I feel like a new person, and as such I must walk back down by a different route so as not to pick up any of the echoes of my past. This is easily done on the Tor, you can walk up one side and back down the other, and there are many routes back down into the town through orchards and leafy lanes, past ancient trees and banks of wild grasses.
One day on the way back down from the Tor, my cockles successfully blown away, I discovered a whole field filled to bursting with thousands of dandelion clocks, I lay down amongst them and looked at them with my head at their height. They looked exactly like stars, and so I named them Earth Stars and have called them by that name ever since, The dandelion is one of my favourite plants, I wonder how people cannot love them, in spring they are bright and yellow like miniature suns, in summer they are stars on the earth that bring great joy to children when they blow away their seeds which fly like fairies on the breeze, and their leaves and roots are edible and fortifying. What’s not to like?
I miss the Earth Stars, although out here on the ocean there are many thousands and millions of stars, but I cannot touch them or blow away their seeds. That is the way with so many of the joys on the ocean, they are intangible, like the sound of the waves, or simply just too far away, like the stars. If I were to touch one of the ripples on the water it would soon be gone, altered forever.
I miss climbing the great hills to have my cobwebs blown clean, I miss the winding paths, the little bits of sheep wool, like sea foam, that cling to trees and unsuspecting rocks. I miss the swifts flying low, sipping from lakes and streams. I miss the sound of my feet on the ground, the dirt between my toes, the grass tickling my chin as I lay down in it to see the view, as if I were an ant. I miss the coolness of the ground, the coolness of stone, of Earth, out here on the Ocean.