Tuesday, August 2, 2016

In the sun born over and over ...

There was a moment last Sunday that was notable for lots of reasons. It was on a long stretch of beach, which makes it memorable for setting alone, and it involved a family outing and a challenging but visually and physiologically rewarding walk up a very steep hill. As we walked back along the beach under an enormous blue sky, I glanced behind me for the fifteenth time to make sure Rosa was following, prone as she is to pausing and picking up shells or seaweed or spinning in circles or just stopping to plunge her hands deep into the sand because it's there. She wasn't behind me. She wasn't in front of me. She wasn't beside me either, at least not on the ocean side, and I suppose I had that split second of panic where I thought my child had vanished into thin air, before I looked to my other side and about five metres into the distance to see she had climbed the metre-high ledge of sand and was running along the ridge with pure abandon. I walked along beside her but kept my distance, and although we were both moving I felt completely fixed on her and her lightning-bolt, pure-hearted spirit. I'm almost ashamed to admit my brief moment of regret at not having brought my phone to capture this image of her, but it occurred to me then that it would be with me forever anyway, and I resolved to try something I haven't done before. I wanted to see if I could write this image, to conjure it using only words, and create an image just as real as any Instagram post. In this age where everything has to be an image or a soundbite to command attention, I wanted to see if I could make something with words.

She is running along the very top of the ridge, as though the thin line where the sand meets the vaulted blue sky is an extension of her bare feet. She seems to run without thought or effort, although her sleeves are bunched up above her elbows, her skirt long since discarded and her tights rolled just under her knees, as if to prove her protests at having to wear too many clothes on this sunny winter’s day. Her hair was pulled into a bun this morning but many hours of adventure have almost brought it undone. Rebellious strands, like the thickets of wheat-like, waving seagrass along the ridge line beneath her feet, catch the early afternoon sun and are rendered golden. Her focused, smiling face is radiant too, a reflection of pure joy and a primal urge to move, to run, to be free. I am reminded of words I once quoted when she was a toddler, and somehow they are even more perfect now than they were then:

“Under the new-made clouds and happy as the day was long,
 In the sun born over and over, I ran my heedless ways.” 
(Dylan Thomas, Fern Hill)