A drab December greyness. I scrunched eastwards along the shingle, heading towards Black Rock. Foamy salients threatened to swamp my boots. My little terrier Phoebe darted in and out of the wavelets to retrieve sticks.
Here and there I paused to watch a raft of scoter (Melanitta nigra) offshore. Their dark shapes pulsed up and down on a smooth swell.
There was no horizon, no distinction in the overall grey tonality, no dividing line between sea and sky. The only variation, far to the south-west, was an opalescence where sunlight glimmered behind a thinning of cloud and was reflected in a nacreous sheen on the back of satin waves that hid the birds in their folds, only to reveal them once more like the slow flickering of an old film.
Offshore as far as the eye could see were other groups of scoter, scattered, innumerable, a huge flock. They dipped and dived, briefly took flight, their presence a marvellous otherness as waves like the world’s breath sighed in.
Watching the birds, my heartbeat attuned to the wave-rhythm. A stillness came upon me. In Simone Weil’s marvelling phrase, I was “annihilated by the plenitude of being”, and felt myself to be a part.
Phoebe rapped me on the shin with a stick she’d seized from the water to summon me back. I threw it for her. She bounded after, kicking up her heels in ecstasy, dancing in the surf.
We climbed the headland with the dark caves beyond where monstrous creatures lurked in Robert Graves’s “Welsh Incident” (“I was coming to that…”).
Starlings sped past beneath, heading for their roost in the reed-beds of Ystumllyn. A marsh harrier ghosted by, momentarily hushing their excited chatter. Our way back was by the slippery path behind the railway, in failing light.
What a dark year this has been. I send my blessings to Brendan Cox and his children; lament the inability of those responsible for their grievous loss to see the role they have played in this, and be for once contrite.
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