Today’s full moon low tide is exposing areas of the beach normally covered by the sea. I walk, and walk, and watch and wonder. I enjoy the effects of low banks of heavy cloud and patterns of low winter sunlight. Bladderwrack covered reefs, one as tall as myself, are there to be explored: to study close-up, to feel with fingertips inch-by-inch over barnacles and bladders, and to photograph… though my header image doesn’t do them justice. Atop the reefs, in multiple little pools of sea-water, it’s business as usual: they are full of tiny delicate shells, tentacle-waving anemones, minuscule shrimps. Nothing in these pools seems to know it’s midwinter.
Scanning the wider landscape (seabedscape, really) I am particularly attracted to the rib cages of fine gravel and how some of the ridges, reflecting the heavy sky, look deep and dark; others touched by a brief ray of sunlight, look shallow and bright. Again, my phone images are a poor replacement for a proper camera (and a proper photographer!) but I can’t resist… I take one after another, obsessively.
This is one Google has ‘improved’ for me…
Better in a way, but somewhat brighter than I remember! And there wasn’t a trace of blue sky in sight, nor is bladderwrack this green. Google randomly does this when I take a few photos: the ‘improvements’ often look to me like a child’s colouring-in with neon highlighters. Or maybe an adult’s, since we are all colouring-in these days. Nothing wrong with that: there can be mindfulness in mindlessness.
I walk on, a little preoccupied with my own thoughts once I move away from the beauties of the sea’s rib cage. I’ve just received a diagnosis of spinal osteoporosis and spent last evening researching online and looking at more images of osteoporotic bones than was perhaps ideal. So when I come across this rather-the-worse-for-wear though nonetheless exquisitely formed spiral shell, I feel a degree of empathy for my spine – I feel sorry for it, though not for my self. Whatever the self may be: that’s most definitely another story…
I don’t feel a victim at all – or that awful phrase used so much in the clinical world: ‘a sufferer from…’, though the shell does seem to encapsulate some sense of self-right-now for me. It’s battered and a little broken from its life in the ocean, but there it still is, serving a purpose – if only to give one person a moment of joy and illumination – and it sits, calm and quiet on its gravelly ridge, away from the turbulence of the ocean, for now. I take artistic liberties by deliberately placing a nearby piece of sea belt (the only green scrap of anything I can see right now) and take another photo.
Wandering on, I meet a couple of friends and chat for a while. A routine social exchange, then into a more meaningful and heart-warming conversation. By now, the tide is coming in, and little ‘desert islands’ of sand are forming. I decide I will take one last photo today. Or rather, ask my friends to take it. Sitting there, calm and quiet, a realisation: a small epiphany. Like a seaside shell, I am slowly – I hope slowly – disintegrating; yet here at my own seaside, among friends and the beauty of the coastal world, I’m also happy, and feeling blessed.