In time things accumulate. It is not always easy to notice. When dust starts to collect, it is only once it has gathered in swaythes, the sun comes out and casts new light on it, that it gets noticed. Grains of sand, stones, in isolation they are easy to miss, en masse, they are a landscape.
Walks to the beach have left me with a growing collection of pebbles and mermaids purses, shells and bits of crab. A growing beach of my own, tide lines further inland.
I have been finding parallels of my recovery from chronic illness reflected in the sea. I see the parallels in my experience reflected in front of me. And for me, living on the coast, where my principle goal beyond eating and sleeping is to get to the beach, my world and much of its meaning is currently centred around the sea. Perceptions are heightened by weather and tides but my experience is (perhaps) most accurately a reflection of my own state of mind. Despite protests, I see what I project, find what I look for.
It has felt as though things are levelling out this week. The energy of the sea mirrors this. A stillness of waves and brilliance of light. November days narrow and sunsets glow more brilliantly, before the darkness swallows us all. It has become a time to celebrate the light, while the small things gather.
Flotsam is the term used for objects that float away from a boat, jetsam is thrown over board.
Flotsam and jetsam get washed up, eventually. Colourful pathways of detritus, signs of human activity out at sea, plastic mostly. Nylon rope, fisherman’s gloves, flip flops.
Today I picked up a more colourful selection to the usual coke cans and water bottles, crisp packets and straws. Today I noticed the small things. A smarties lid with the letter ‘t’ embossed underneath. T for tide, tension, tolerance. Two small pieces of green string, unravelling and frayed, breaking down into component parts of thread. Three pieces of yellow plastic, different shades of orange and green. A circular black plastic seal from a lid now opened, and a pink creature with antennae on its head, wings and a tail at its back.
All these things have a story I will never know. The life cycle of plastic means that they will have many more beyond my lifetime too. Every piece of plastic ever made still exists. Increasing amounts end up in the sea. Some of it gets spat back out again, a reminder of times past and times yet to come.
One of the greatest challenges for me at the moment is of stillness. Being unwell and tolerating that, along with its unpredictability, brings it’s own internal activity – frustration, impatience, attempts to bargain and negotiate with an irrational unknown. Stillness of body is far from stillness of mind. This isn’t unique to illness but illness makes a lack of stillness all the more noisy.
This week I found some calm. I celebrated with a cup of tea on the beach where I watched a cormorant stand for almost an hour. I watched as it watched. The sea surrounding it barely moved. Everything around me and within me felt calm and still. I noticed more, the quiet and the light. My attention shifted from the internal whirring and enjoyed the spectacular in the ordinariness around me.