Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Extremities: Cove Park, Day 2

I could've been in Tofino this morning with the boggy Argyll forest smelling of wet dog and the visible spears of rain driving through me like mycelial threads. Being shot through with some binding material, web or spore. I didn't mind the wet at all until I crossed the road that leads to the naval base at Coulport and over the trampled fencing into that meadow of buttercup and tufted vetch and long grasses just at the point of spilling their seed. I was up to my waist in it, and felt the waste as the rain-laden seedheads burst across my jeans. The denim drank down that rainwater so fast that before I was halfway across the field my boots were filling up with water.

I crunched over a brittle crust of spootshells, cockles, smislins, live mussels, like the caramelised glaze on creme brulee, thick, so there was no way you'd see a siphon beneath. Nor did I feel like hawking about in that mud for nothing. I waded out into the shallows, to just below the throats of my boots. I always end up with my boots filling with water at some point anyway, even on a still day when the waves are a mild uplift and drag down on their rubber. Mostly I just like an excuse to stand in the water and feel the gristly membrane respond to the movement of the water. I like to wade into the water and see the membrane of the sea undulating away from me. Immersion is important. The amphibious mode.

There's a lot more going on than I expected in the mud of this populated shore. Something that might be young lobsters or perhaps some kind of shrimp, their front ends a bustle of busy transparent proto-claws. About the length of my thumb. I wonder how much marine life, when it comes down to things that we might eat, gets measured in relation to the human hand. Welks, by which I mean winkles, are considered large enough to pick if their operculum is the size of your thumbnail.

After the recent hot spell, my right hand is much more tanned than the left, being my writing hand. Due to the positioning of my desk at the east-facing window, it travels across a sunlit page for most the morning like the stylus of a lie detector, or some kind of knitting, knotting or netting machine, fussy and abrupt, making sloppy or tight fankles of ink, a spidery black lacework. I like to see the branched veins close to the surface, strong and rich, like mandrakes (I mean mangroves): it means I'm warm through, right to the tips of my Reynaud's extremities. Reynaud's doesn't do me any harm, except for chilblains in winter, and a listless, uncommitted, unhopeful mood that comes over me when a few fingers in the sheaf are white and yellow, like chloropyll-starved leaves.

Those little lobsters darted away from my boots and lay as still as they could on the sandy bottom. Then, with a sly whisking of transparent feelers, they sank below the surface of the sand, one fussily arranging a square of shell on its back as it submerged. I remember when we used to beg to be buried on the beach. Wet sand was best because whoever was getting buried could be neatly plastered with a smooth skim of sand. I remember the deadened percussion of palms slapping the shell over torso and legs. There was the pleasure of shifting subtly below the carapace of silica, breathing shallowly, guessing how your bodily disturbance would crack the dome of sand above. Then there were the games of abandonment, where your family pretended to have lost or forgotten you, trapped in your sand lung like a larvae, responsible for your own hatching, the possible ticking or scratching or tunneling of sand life against your skin, horrible lugworms, perhaps. You exploded from the sand cast like a lugworm yourself or someone took pity and turned back or the game became the one where your sister pretended you were a bone and dug you up like a dog. You broke free anyway, still belonging, caked in grit, which no amount of ducking in the sea or towelling would get off entirely before you piled tired and sticky into the car.

The rain hissed on the water and my hood and the mountains on the far side of the shore were obscured by low cloud. Apt scene for a submarine to cruise. Below the surface the huge colony of hermit crabs, mostly inhabiting empty welk shells, rolled about in pursuit of each other like marbles, deflecting and diverting. The urgent activity extended over the flats. I panned out and then waded out and wondered what the consequences of almost exclusive use of the macro lens may prove to be.

I found a way back to the gate through shorter grasses but it was too late for my socks. As I walked uphill water was forced out of my socks and insoles and up around my ankles with each step. My two feet a sort of composite heart structure, pumping cooling fluid around the rubberised chambers.


Big mamma frog said...

Damn, I'm hankering for a beach now. A grey, wind-washed, pebble-grinding beach. Oh, for salt-sticky hair and the smell of low-tide bladderwrack...

Jen Hadfield said...

No beach with you?
This one apparently comes complete with cruising nuclear subs on patrol, and is near a James Bond mountain where the missiles are stored. None of us can quite believe it...or, I think, get our minds off it...