The sea! The sea!

Mad March came early this year, with The Fringe already underway and Writer’s Week and The Festival starting today. My first event was last weekend, when Kathy and I went to Sarah’s Sister’s Cafe at Semaphore for a fantastic meal and readings by local writers on the above theme. IMG_4715[1]It was a really enjoyable night – the cafe has a great atmosphere, the readings were terrific and the food was so delicious.

Inside the cafe at the end of the night; few people remaining but a sense of the place

Inside the cafe at the end of the night; few people remaining but a sense of the place

It is a vego restaurant, and they work with local producers, including primary schools, for a lot of their ingredients. We had a French inspired summer soup, a wonderful vegetarian ‘Wellington’ (concoction of nuts, veg, mushrooms wrapped in pastry with a fab sauce) and salad, and Haigh’s chocolate parfait for dessert. Bliss…
Anyway, that was just the surrounds for the readings, and for me the highlight was hearing Mag Merrilees read.

Mag backlit at the cafe after the reading

Mag backlit at the cafe after the reading

Mag has featured before in these posts and it was really a delight to hear her in this company and at this event. Like me, she lives (at least a good bit of the time) near the sea, and it was lovely to hear her reflections on walking by the water, collecting pebbles and musing as you do. She is a wonderful reader, and her lightness of touch and warmth in words and voice were really engaging.
I have been down to the sea a lot myself this week. One day I thought to take my camera to photograph some some pebbles, but the tide was in, so I only took a shot of the yellow rock someone has painted;


(and also note the gorgeous quartz slashes in the rock nearby)

 this morning I went down again, and there was the usual array of people and dogs, IMG_4718[1]plus enough sand to find rocks and shells. I collected a few in honour of Mag’s piece from last weekend that she has very kindly sent me. Here it is…

SEA GROUND STONES by Mag Merrilees

Letters from my sister start mid-thought, and end much the same way. PS, she wrote once, I have discovered how ESP works. By the next letter her thoughts had moved on, so I never did find out. The ocean is like that, full of ideas.

early light shadowed cliffs
wheeling screech of cockatoos
plundering the pines

The top of the cliff washes down when it rains. The high tide washes up. One day the waters will meet in the middle and the cliff will be gone. Council workers make the usual repairs, holding off nature, shoring up the path. A buzz of machines and taint of petrol in the air. I pick my way down.

pebbles at high water
ebbing tide’s last lick of foam
scalloped edge of wave

This is my morning constitutional, my time to stomp along the beach singing up up
up, across across across, down down down. It’s my digestion song, the song of the large intestine. But I am frequently distracted from stomping by the stones.

stoop search surely here
the perfect particular pebble
wind tousles my hair

I do this several times a week, have done for more than a year. It’s a meditation, a study, okay, an obsession. I plan to meet every single pebble on the beach, pick it up, wipe away the sand, consider it from different angles. My computer brain is busy, evaluating, classifying. If I haven’t met this one before I’ve met its cousin.

choosing ones that match
genealogies of rock
sets of stones for friends

Every morning I set a new task for brain, eyes, hands. This morning I will choose stones that are black, or multi-coloured. Look at this one! A pink and white yin-yang. Or this drab olive with a lightning flash of cream. Generally the stones should be round, flattish, the size of my thumbnail and highly polished.

is this discrimination?
why should they all shine?

There are no blue stones. A friend collects pebbles washed down by the Rhine. ‘Are any of them blue?’ I ask. ‘Not really,’ he says. ‘More grey.’ I don’t know why this is so. Green, yes, though it fades as it dries. They all do, one of life’s disappointments that you have to rise above.

glitter does not last
there has to be something more
Damn, just as they said

My classifications are not geological but I think of my father. His entire world view was geological, a very long view. It takes many millennia to make a stone, can’t be done in seven days.

you need an ocean
pebbles are crumbs of mountain
ground churned polished

I am collecting sets for an African game called Oware. Two players move forty eight stones between twelve hollows in a wooden board. Or thirty six stones between twelve hollows in the sand. Sand is pebbles ground fine. Perhaps the wind did it. More likely there was once an ocean in the middle of Africa.

for the twelve-year-old
egg shapes, irregular beans
jagged boy, still new

older woman rotund
smoothed by life, no corners left
perfect disks for her

I discard a stone, finding it imperfect. Sorry, I say, pierced by the anguish of rejection. Come back later. Come back smoother, smaller. At home I tip the chosen ones onto the table, make further choices. I am left with handfuls to return to the beach. I dribble them surreptitiously from my pocket. People may think I’m littering. I see it as repatriation, a return to the ocean. Be free I whisper, churn and swim. I have become less than rational about the stones. No more, I decide. Walk faster. Look forward not down. Think only of the digestion. The sea murmurs and crashes at my elbow.

listening to the waves
echo of an ancient mind
message from the deep
PS I have discovered …
I stop. did you speak?
tell me what you mean
but the ocean has moved on



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5 Responses to The sea! The sea!

  1. Kathy says:

    It was a very enjoyable evening, especially in such good company x

  2. Lovely evening, lovely audience!

  3. Pingback: Writing lives, reading lives | Stories of buttons and bread

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