The buoys of summer

September 15, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Sometimes I’ve been mildly musing (self-indulgently as always) on edges and coasts, boundaries and transitions. My unsuccessful art teacher used to hammer into me at school (or was that the woodwork teacher) that  there are no drawn lines in nature. Just places where the colours change.

I seem to have particularly thought about edges when swimming on Monday nights in Teignmouth. As I plosh onwards, mouth open for plankton, my thoughts littorally drift.

Where we swim and run at Teignmouth, there is a rope of flat contour lines separating wet from dry. The paddling waves, the sand, the sea wall, the coast path, the railway lines (I like trains), all hedge up against each other before the cliffs start to rise 

And when we are out as far as where the pier stops prodding the sea, there are still the overlaps where the colours are mixing.

Sometimes the overlaps are my landward thoughts when I should be thinking sea things. Once this summer it was the sound and smell of the funfair reaching out, so as well as the sea-salt and splash, there was a warm fuzz in the air of candyfloss and waltzers.

Today as we swim parallel to the land, I’m experimenting with breathing (and looking) on alternate third sides, like I’ve been told I must. As we move along the string of yellow buoys that somehow delineate sea from sea, the landscape on each breath changes; seacape to landscape and back, horizon to beach and back, with the world pivoting round an axis of swimmer.

I start to play with the blunt knife-edge of the water, where I’m reaching through it, making an unsteady crease as I go. Picasso-like, head half below the water, head half above, one eye in the sea, one in the air, one ear for the fish and one for the seagulls. Mindful. Green to blue and back to green, tracing bubbles and clouds in a mackerel sky.

Getting back to the last of the buoys before we turn in to the shore again, the anchor chain beneath it stretches heavily into darker places I can’t see. I wonder about diving far downwards, and momentarily frighten myself with the sense of exposure. Fell-running on holiday, I had the same flutter as I scrubbed across a bad step on an early wet morning, while the children slept, and shiny slippery rock reminded me how much depth was beneath me.

As I turn though, the perspective changes, and my panic settles. I briefly wonder whether if the chain was lighter, string-like, the buoy would slip its mooring and float helium-like to join all the other balloons and kites that me and the enfs have ever lost.  

Earlier in the summer, I swam on a stormier day, and afterwards as I ran on the cliffs, rain in my eyes, the white horses on the sea blurred with the sky. Ships in the distance lacked gravity, and hovered somewhere in the no-mans-land between a definite sea and concrete sky.

For a moment then, pace increasing as I leaned forward down the hill, the houses on the hills ahead seemed to be part of the sea, or part of the sky, and I couldn’t tell which. I was reminded of a glowing twilight in Borrowdale last year, when I briefly lost track of whether it was spring or autumn.

Running back today though, I’m well aware it’s the edge between summer and autumn. The light is beginning to fade quickly, and there won’t be many more Monday evenings in the sea, or at least not until I’m another year older. I stretch my pace out along the seafront, back to the happy blue lighthouse where it all began. Rainfall, seafall, landfall.

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