January always tends to feel one of the slowest, darkest months of the year, even without a world-wide pandemic. This year with the daily routine much more restricted to home schooling and no socialising other than popping to the shop, my craving to escape to the wild, ever-changing sea is as strong as ever. A few moments in time to experience something unpredictable and shockingly re-awakening.
I take myself off, carrier bag with towel, note book with pencil. An idea for a swim somewhere different, somewhere challenging, somewhere other than the normal.
After last nights strong winds and torrential rain, the grassy path alongside Great Par is strewn with rich brown leather-like seaweed, abandoned by the big swell and driving storm. The air is damp with an icing sugar-like mist, barely seen, barely felt but thick enough to leave everything dripping with its wetness.
I walk out towards Stony Par. A large grey heron lifts off and, with long legs dangling barely above sea level, escapes to a rocky outcrop, great wings hinging in slow beating effort. The sea here is putty coloured, murky with stirred up silt. It moves as a seething body, all writhing whirlpools and energetic eddies, alive with underwater currents. It feels foreboding, unwelcoming, a knot tightens in my stomach when I think about swimming here. I walk on.
Within ten more strides along the coastline, the roar of the swell grows noticeably louder, sending a shudder through my bones. The sea has become battleship grey, white tipped rollers break fiercely over the rocks. The wind picks up, freshening on my face and whipping my hair back, but the light is magical, mystical, mythical. Horizon blurs with grey mist, thick cloud and greeny-grey sea. A soft, frosted sunlight filters everything in a gentle but chilling haze. The sea around the rocks of Droppy Nose point is threatening and dangerous. Any thoughts of swimming here are quickly dismissed.
However, the temptation to be down at the waters edge, to feel the energy, is gripping so I move to the smaller bay to my right which is slightly more sheltered and climb over the large granite boulders that endure a relationship with the relentless sea. As the tide pushes up, granite pebbles the size of a mans torso, roll and rumble, rattling along like they were mere grains of sand. Too easy to be knocked over and grated like cheese on the barnacle-covered rocks to attempt a dip here, but it is wonderful to sit beside for a while. The salty spray coating my lips, frothy white water at my feet.
Retracing my steps, and once over the brow of the small hill, the world feels calm again. Less hostile, less formidable. Towering lichen dressed granite, stand like the sentinels of the land, silent statues, steadfast in contrast to the ever moving, ever energetic sea.
As I round the headland at the base of Samson Hill, welcomed signs of spring are brightening the path, dancing in the breeze.
Before I know it I have returned to my usual, safe swimming spot along Green Bay, so much for escaping routine. Even here the sea is a mess of choppy waves, floating seaweed and stirred up sand. Warm from my stroll in the humid air, the thought of imminent submergence into a cooling sea instantly soothes me. Deepens the breath. Slows the heart. The sea is a restless creature, pushing me this way and that, never allowing a clean stroke. It swells around my arms and legs, teasing the flesh. I am glad that I played safe. A squadron of oyster catchers that speeds along the waters surface only feet from my face is enough to remind me that even if I swam in exactly the same spot everyday forever, every swim would be different, every swim would be wonderful.