Hidden Moments

August has been August. A month of mind-spinning entertaining, chatting, working, thinking and planning. It is the same every year; our house a revolving door of family and friends, the island full with enquiring visitors and well-wishers, the farm still busy with summer picking and planting and the children in and out, here there and everywhere.

I love it but it is hard work and come the end of the month I begin to crave those long, dark winter evenings, when I can light the fire and sit in relative solitude with a good book or my note book and pencil.

Islanders by nature are pretty solitary folk I suppose. I have discovered this about myself these past few years and I am content with it.

So it was with a sense of relief that the summer bubble burst with a raging storm from the south. The forces of summer; those hot muggy mornings, seemingly endless evenings, and hot dusty days, clashed with their great rival autumn. In a boat-sinking, wind-whirling, sea-swelling storm, autumn banished summer for another year, taking her place in the natural swing of seasons.

Blackberries now ripen and are greedily picked for pies, skies are unsettled with sweeping grey clouds of sporadic showers to catch the walker unawares. The colours of the ground change from sundried golden yellows to rusty orange and dampened browns as the bracken withers. Dusk slips quickly into night.

Last night it should have been bedtime, gone 9 0'clock, and that is late for me. Instead, the moon was bright, glowing silver through the dark clouds and it felt the perfect moment to go for a moonlit skinny dip.

Last week I listened to the amazing Will Self, presenting an Arvon masterclass on time and space. His words about writing to convey a journey resonated with me. In all my writing; my dips into the ocean, my walks and wonders about Bryher, I am, I suppose, trying to convey a journey. Either a physical journey through the natural world around me, or an emotional journey in which the landscape helps me to explore.

Each hidden moment of time is a journey, sometimes we just need to be aware of those moments and engage a bit deeper with them. I almost didn't leave the warmth and comfort bedtime promised, nearly left this hidden moment for "another time". But the moon was too bright, the anticipation of swimming in that syrupy-black sea too good to miss. So poor old Graham, out he came, as I grabbed a towel, slipped on the old flip-flops and we headed off through the darkness to Rushy Bay, lured by the moon and the sweeping beam of Bishop Rock Lighthouse.

Everything feels different at night. The world is variations of black. The hedges and deeper undergrowth blacker than black, the path of sand and the clouds a lighter shade of black, touched with the gentle grey of the moonlight.

The wind was breezy, the ground uneven and unfamiliar, despite me walking it nearly everyday. I hesitated over its undulations, aware of the low-creeping brambles that waited to catch my naked feet.

I felt like a wild and rebellious teenager, escaping the parental home with a new love.

The wet rushes over the dunes at Rushy seemed to leave no path for us to take and dragged cold and damp along my bare shins, but there in front of us was the most beautiful moonlit sea, stretching away to the west like a silver path to the moon.

The beach was full of dark, shapeless rocks and my nostrils twitched at the heavy metallic tang of rotting seaweed that lay in great slimy heaps, left from that summer storm. Strange sounds of unseen birds, echo those of a long-lost era.

As we stood, the rain hit; a squall of wind that picked up the gentle droplets and drove them into our bodies. We huddled like two emperor penguins. The moon sank behind a cloud and the world went black.

It soon blew through and before the next shower arrived, and just as the moon reappeared, I scampered into the dark sea. A white ghostly shape of soft flesh. I slid into the unknown of dancing shadows. The waves at first felt soft and comforting, familiar and safe, but as I swam further away from the shore I very quickly felt a loneliness and evolutionary fear of heading into a dark and dangerous place. The slightest brush of seaweed on my legs sent my imagination into overdrive and I quickly turned toward the shore, back to the safety of a towel and a hand to hold.

It was a magical, crazy moment of hidden time. A breath away from summer but a world away from the business of summer life. It felt like a little step towards those isolated days of winter still to come. The forces of autumn bring mixed emotions for many, but I love that sense of slowing down, of harvest, of preparation for winter and the chance to grab these little moments of hidden space and time.

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