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.
The recent storm took me again to the shore.
I fought the wind to walk on the shingle and examine the rejected items along the wrack line. String, rubber glove, plastic bottle, shells, bits of crab, bits of stick, seaweed. Pushed to the edge, water clears space for waves and tide. Rain pierced my skin. Harsh angled water. I felt alive, of blood and breath and bone. Weeks of being virtually housebound, this was the most exertion my body had endured and it was exhilarating.
I enjoyed the weather, this force of nature. I enjoyed feeling fatigue for some good reason. I enjoyed the power and the scale of the sea. A collision of ocean and land dominating all.
I stood to watch the waves and the kind of energy I could only dream of. My best attempt to harness it was to stand in awe and breathe.
On Tuesday I walked to the sea for the first time in several weeks. Having had a crash in energy levels, my capacity to walk any distance plummeted too. On Tuesday I walked to the sea. It was still there:
On Thursday I went back and watched. I sat on the shingle and listened. I noticed the gradually shifting tide. It changes silently. Predictably and without conscious thought, tides shift from high to low to high every 13 hours. They edge gradually forward.
I was, as always, compelled to take multiple photographs of seemingly identical images. Attempts to capture a more dramatic wave, more splash, or less, a silken smooth glass-like surface.
Questioning what is shifting and a lack of progress within me, I turn again to these pictures. Each one is unique. They are clearly different, there is obvious movement, but to a passing glance they are one and the same. The sea is never still. Its constant moving energy repeats endlessly, never the same wave twice. Imperceptible shifts and constant motion.
It is Sunday as I write this blog post and I realise that Tuesday was not that long ago. Another 13 hours and the tide will be heading in the opposite direction again, whether I’m there to watch it or not.