Today was meant to be the day I returned to Bryher from the November writing retreat held by Kath and Jane from The Writing Retreat Cornwall. The word "meant" belonging to another world, a pre-covid world. What an amazing experience I had last year at my first retreat, meeting new friends, gaining new confidence, learning new skills. Instead, today, we have all joined each other for a zoom workshop about fantasy worlds of fiction, quite ironic really.
The short story I am working on at the moment, is drifting towards the realms of magical realism. A world in which a young woman is seemingly trapped in a horribly stifling situation, unable to escape. She encounters a Kelpie, a magical bird lady, and ultimately faces taking a leap of faith into an unknown, but hopefully better world. Who knows how much of our everyday lives seep into our works of fiction, but this characters situation could easily relate to the difficult and somewhat imprisoned world that many folk find themselves coping with at the moment. Hopefully somewhere is a little magic to conjure up that more positive world of freedom we are all used to.
The light today has been gentle.
From the first hues of lilac and amber that break into dawn through to the mid afternoon sun, its pale golden warmth already casting long shadows. The air has a soft, hazy quality, as if a constant bonfire drifts smoke over the world, but without the nose-tingling scent of smoke.
I first walk to the cliff edge overlooking Great Par and out towards Castle Bryher, where I imagine my character standing, balancing on the rocks. The dark sea swirling, gurgling and frothing below her, whirlpools and eddies teasing her, tempting her to follow them into the depths.
Nature and the underwater world holds so many mysteries and potential fantasy existences, it is easy to imagine why so many mythical stories have evolved from the sea, from bleak deserted moorlands or entwined ancient woodlands. They are worlds we don't really belong to, and yet they are right outside our front doors. Perhaps this is part of the enchantment of wild swimming? That magical escape into an unknown and beautiful world, to come face to face with creatures that are wild.
I step down from the edge of the rocks and wonder back towards the beach. The ground is damp with slight twinkles of dew that still sparkle despite the winter sun. In the distance I can hear the faint grumbling rattle of the old grey Massey Ferguson pottering around the island, and folk busy working in gardens, but here at the waters edge only the lazy surf of the sea and the yell and squawk of the gulls interrupt my thoughts.
The grassy paths, dusted with sand, are edged with red-tipped hot and tot fig, rabbit diggings and droppings and numerous fungi of mottled mocha and gravy brown colour. As I reach the slipway of Great Par the sun lights a shimmering golden path upon the sea's surface, squinting the eye and illuminating the stray strands of hair that drift across my face in a gentle breeze.
I pick my way, a little clumsily, over the large pebbles, slowly sinking deeper into the cool glassy water and into a wonderful world, that luckily is not entirely one of fantasy.