EVER SHIFTING WATERS
Image by Jackie Morris
I love the Springtime and always have. The Spring is where everything starts. The beginning. The soft unfurling of bright, green leaves and the tentative rising of buds, their faces peeking out from the rich, dark soil. The first flourish of new life. The skittering of lambs with wagging tails, leaping and bleating, their form cotton-soft upon a patchwork of fields. The winds high and blustery as they send storm-clouds forth, to spring-clean the face of the earth. The Spring tides rising so high that they sweep the sands of each beach clean, from top-to-toe.
But our time was not Spring. You and I, we did not begin when youth settled with a joyful leap of expectation upon our shoulders. For when I was young I felt I had to hide myself like a sapling that hides under the earth. I had to curl up small like a tree curls within the skin of a seed, just to fit into my shape. And parts of me would always break free, reaching up and out or digging in deep and reaching low. So I had to hold myself close and I learned to keep hidden.
No, Spring was not our time. My Spring belonged to a creature that swam in the waves, dipping its silky head beneath a rippled, dappled surface. But my Spring also belonged to boy with stumbling words and tangled lashes who shuddered in a field and left.
Nor was Summer ours. Summer with its high cliffs stretching up into blazing, cloud-puffed skies. Summer with its reeling, clacking gulls and its impish dolphins that leap jauntily out of the white, frothing waters off Holywell Bay, and its open-mawed Basking sharks that sweep the plankton out of the sea upon The Roseland. Summer with its sweet scented grasses and its long balmy evenings. Swimming up the rays of a sunset in high tides.
No, Summer was too brash for us, its light too harsh. My Summer belonged to a man who wrote ‘hi…’ and wove his clever and beautiful words into my heart. A faceless, voiceless man who loved me beyond my mortal coil. But my summer also belonged to a man who played in the shallows and loved moderately. And mostly it belonged to my wriggling pups that I pushed from the tides of my womb.
Spring and Summer have come and they have gone now. Each season beautiful in their own way. Each one gifting me with so much! With memories that I keep safe and stories I take out and speak aloud sometimes. Stories that make me laugh and weep in equal measure. Yes, Spring and Summer had their moments of wonder, of awe and of such love!
And yet they pale in comparison to the blazing glory that was brought upon late Autumn’s winds.
Autumn. Her final flourish is the year’s finest. The jewel in her burnished crown. Autumn, with its whispering winds that rise and rise to a glorious song that none can ignore. Autumn, with its lingering frosts that carve iced ferns into glass and bite sharply at the flesh to remind us it is a season to be taken seriously. Autumn, with its rich and golden days that slip one by one into brilliant dusks. Star studded. Yes, Autumn is a time of abundance, of ripeness. Of fruition. The seeds that are sewn long before – in the Springtime – are bountiful. And so it rolled on, the Autumn of my life. The passing of time scribed the soft lines more deeply upon my face, the echoes of laughter could be found etched in deep puckers about my lips and folded around the corners of my eyes. Feet of crows. My soft body scarred from carrying my pups. Ripened and pliable as if it has become more used to its shape – a shape it had never really wanted to be. My soul mellowed and yet aflame, for I had waited so long. A lifetime, for you.
Autumn has its own deep magic, for it knows that too soon it must sink into the long slumber of Winter. And its magic cannot be hurried. And that is why I believe it waited for us. And so at last! The magic of you lit my features and danced through my every movement, my every gesture.
And so this, my love? Oh, this was our time. Our Autumn years.
And wasn’t our Autumn long and wasn’t it glorious! For with Autum’s first frost I had believed winter had come and yet at the very last it softened into an Indian Summer that gracefully slid into shorter, crisper days. Ripe, mellow days full of sweetness. Flourishing ones. Oh, I remember…
Do you remember our laughter? So much laughter that it shook our shoulders until we gulped in silent hiccups of air. Until it made us curl up shell-small with water pouring down our cheeks. Aching with mirth. And do you remember walks upon the shores and in the woods? And our meanderings upon the moorlands and the tors, the wind whipping us into a frenzy, so we would climb panting and ruddy cheeked, hand-in-hand to the top of hills and shout of our love like love-struck children, our voices scattering to the four corners of the earth. I remember black nights with glimmering stars that winked and blinked as we lay upon the grass, fingers woven together. In awe and in love. The moon, her face turned full upon us, the only witness to our long, lingering kisses. And do you remember the July when we visited Polperro once more, though we lived so far from the warm Cornish shores? Licking clotted cream ice-cream, our eyes half-closed in the sunshine and half upon the swooping gulls that called to us as we swung our legs from the harbour walls. Lazily searching the distance for a head that may bob up and blink at us before sinking back down. Submerged.
Over the previous years I may have known the caress of your beautiful words, written upon a screen. But in these years, our Autumn ones, I learned the caress of your fingers, feather light. Causing me to gasp and to tremble. To weep. So that you kissed away my unbidden tears. And I learned the taste of your salt upon my tongue. Your salt, the seasoning of my soul. I became intimate with your song of the sea – a song that fell from your lips as you gripped me and shuddered, eyes closed in bliss. Body-to-body. Breath-to-breath. Seed-deep. I dived into the waters with you and we lost ourselves within one another. Fingers entwined. We did not have to deny our true form, not with each other. For though we have a mortal frame, we have our other shape. One we have shared only with the other. And so we could express this love in every possible way.
The love of youth has nothing on this! Oh, wreckless and blind youth! Foolish and feckless youth! It can love but not with such power. Not with such expanse. Fathomless. Boundless. No, this love was a careworn and textured love. Sage and discerning. Truer than true.
Of course there were hardships and times of sadness and of loss. Times of anger too. Harsh words spoken in haste, regretted and forgiven. We were from the depths, you see, so that was inevitable. Our emotions would swell and grow high, small tempests that would soon pass. But our anger was always short lived and the sun never set upon it. And our Autumn slipped by gracefully, its waters never the same twice. Sometimes stormy, with high, roaring waves and sometimes calm with the twinkling of sunbeams. Ever changing, always beautiful. Magical. Powerful! And we faced those ocean depths together, you and I. At long last.
And when nobody was looking we ran to the shore and took off our shoes, dipping our toes into the surf. Letting the waves lap them. We slipped out of our skins and wrapped our seal-pelts close about us and we weaved through the currents. We explored the fathoms and glided upon the surface. Our whiskers twitching. Our eyes bright. And even though our mortal flesh grew older, still our seal-pelts have only ever knew the patina of youthfulness. Playfulness. Joy. And even though our hair turned white with the sea-spray, our skin deeply etched and salt-worn, still you held my hand in your own. The march of time did not stop us! We still threw our heads back, laughter filling our bellies. We we lay within our bed, fingertips outstretched – touching one another in awe. Ageless and timeless. Finding a deep satisfaction in the depths of our love, no matter how age changed us.
For I had waited, as I promised to. I waited for you. And the final sea-song was the most beautiful of all!
And yet all must pass, my love. And we are coming to this end – our end – as my fingers stiffen with cold and the wicked wind whips at my sore cheeks and steals the salt from my eyes and the ocean waves tear at the rocks. I wish, oh! How I wish I could have stayed in our Autumn forever and yet this too had to end.