The point at which the sea and the sky meet and disappear. This is how the world will end. A cocoon of fog enveloping the land. I walk out to greet it.
Tiny Ocean number 82. It has become a diary. A post it note logging date, time and number along with notes, about the weather, idle thoughts, preoccupations, is wedged under each jar. The sea is different every single day. The weather, the tide, it all changes. Yet it is always there, constant. An unpredictable constant.
…and I stand and look at it directly, in the eye of the storm, and shout as loud as thunder. And still you do not hear. But it stills and it quietens, and I walk on.
Waves as tall as me. Tide so high we stand face to face. I am confronted full force with what is out there. It comes at me, throwing stones. Impossible to outrun, the tide keeps coming. Water loops around as the sea wall stills its power, I am just out of reach. It claws up further before a slap across the ground spills over, picking up speed, reaching my feet, passing my ankles, and then dragging me back to the ocean.
There are days when there are no edges. I blur into the air around me, skin unable to hold me in. I smudge at the corners – leaking out and absorbing everything beyond. The world drifts in and passes through, dragging my insides out as it goes. I try to scoop it all up as I pool across the floor.
It feels like I’ve left a bit behind, slipped into a crevice, or held on too tightly to something else that doesn’t belong. A curious feeling is left where nothing seems to fit, something is lost, nothing is defined.
Tracing paths through the south downs during August and September – after all the heat and parching of the ground in June and July – I watched as new colour came from what had looked barren and dead.
Following the same foot steps day after day, repeated actions made change all the more noticeable. Rhythms and pace – slow enough to see, quick enough to show. It had all looked so dry, so without promise. Then the rains came and wild storms, churning and hurling and soaking the ground. Day by day new things grew, a brightness unworthy of what was before. Rainbows spreading outwards, in hedgerows and under foot.
It’s raining. Hard penetrating rain. Every layer soaks through. Water bounces up from the ground to splash anything the falling rain misses. Dampness in the air sneaks between buttons and zips. A dance of osmosis – anything dry attracting the wet, soaking it all up until everything is saturated.
The view is soft. The rain is hard but it’s presence softens the landscape. The outcrop of land in the distance is obscured by mist and dampness in the atmosphere. There is a weight, a screen the rain has brought – an atmospheric cataract. The view has shrunk. The world is smaller on days like this. It is empty too. A few solitary dog walkers and ardent joggers, the only life to interrupt the hardness of the ground and the thickness of the air. A shared experience of isolation and coldness draws us together – a nod, a word – in passing.
After the jubilance of the start to a new season, the heaviness of change sets in. New things bring new energy, and then reality falls. An endurance is needed. A buoyancy at the outset, a surge and a rush, expects some payback. Everything slows and hardens.
I am caught out again. No matter how many times this cycle loops round, I am surprised each time. Stranded on a desert island – an island without sand or sun. There are no three wishes or essential items. It is barren and chilled. My world shuts down outside and in. How easy it is to get cut off. How quickly things overwhelm. It becomes too much and too little all at once.
The edges blur: land, sea, me. Smudges of pigment slip into each other. Nothing is defined, there is no clarity of form – no discernible depth or texture. A heavy thick nothingness fills the sky and the world in front of me.
It’s windy, the tide is high and the sky is overcast. It is not yet cold. This feels like home. September has been especially welcome this year. A long time away leaves me finding my house anew. The start to another school year and a change in the weather drives most people away, back from the edge, away from the sea. It becomes wild, more wild. An unleashing of energy, it is no longer docile and lapping at the stones. Ocean splashes up with force, wind skips across the surface and surge stirs up the wrack. It feels like change, as if new things are possible.
It is a year since I became ill, more than a year. There are no fixed dates, no clear signs, it just slides in and out of focus: wellness, illness. It is a year since I began to think I needed to take it seriously again. Not that it wasn’t ever serious, it just sharpens and softens in and over time. I am beginning to do new things again. It is not an interesting illness, there are no particularly unusual signs or symptoms – I just stop, I am slow and I am exhausted, my body gradually but certainly shuts down.
I am excited by Autumn’s arrival. New air is blasting through. I throw open windows and doors to let it in, driving out what was. A shedding of skin, sloughing off what is now dead, making room to reveal the new and fragile beneath. The shift in seasons shows the vivacity of change, the colour of transformation. It can be turbulent and brutal. Loss and bereavement for the long warm days of summer give way to a freshness in the air and red and golden trees. New views open up and perspectives change.
A few years ago I left the UK to travel. One of the most striking things I noticed, travelling mostly overland for many months, was the stillness of the seasons. Aside from a couple of weeks of Winter in Siberia and Spring with cherry blossom in British Colombia, the weather was either hot and dry or hot and wet. For all the things I experienced, it was the seasons I was struck by most. I missed the change – noticing how different the world can look when you stand still for long enough. I don’t think I had ever been so aware until I moved to live by the sea. In the past I’d noticed trees changing colour and the loss of their canopies, tights and jumpers dragged out of musty drawers – but I hadn’t really connected with the change. This year it feels like it mirrors me, what happens on the inside, a bit more. It is a farewell to many things, and I need to trust that this loss is also making way for the new, the as yet unknown.
During the time I was away recently I followed the movement from Summer to Autumn across the South Downs. My illness allowed me to see things more slowly. Moving more slowly, and with a smaller world to navigate, each thing became more significant. Each small thing became much larger. Like looking through a telescope, distance becomes closer – what might seem insignificant far away becomes significant up close. And, just as when turning the telescope around the wrong way, what might be close up can seem far away. How difficult it can be to judge which way round you are looking.
The sea is never the same. The tide changes, the light, the weather, all shift and swirl even as you stand and stare. This lack of control, lack of predictability, just is. The seasons give a framework, an idea of what to expect, but there is only clarity in hindsight. Being able to adjust and adapt, to tolerate and thrive, seems integral to survival, integral to being able to cope with an uncertain future and an unpredictable body.