Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Secret Seventh Wave

I walked down to the beach at the end of our fields last week. I do not go there often enough. I was feeling ragged and disconnected and sitting on a smooth boulder watching the tide come in helped me untangle the knots in myself. Because I love the sea but grew up in the middle of cornfields, I give it a wide berth. Long before the boulder on which I sat might have become an island or a submersible, I was heading back to land. Moreover, I always resist the idea of going all the way to the edge to watch the foam curl around the brown, stairstep rocks that march into the kingdom below.

I admired the tiny round birds that move like wind up toys down to the edge of the water and back again. I watched the gulls working in the old fashioned way-diving for fish rather than scraps out of bins or handouts from diners in seaside restaurants. While I watched the waves curling into the ends of the rocks from my cautious distance, I wondered once again about that old notion of the seventh wave as a big one. Seventh from when? or from where? I tried focusing on the edge of the roll and counting to seven. I lost track, lingered a while longer and then turned for the walk home.

I climbed over the rocks where the last of the thrifts held on to their spent blossoms. Using hands and feet in ungainly, grunting movements, I followed along a steep ledge that must have been carved by sheep's hooves and then over the sand bank where the gate now hangs slack and gawking into the sea as if it would join it, which no doubt in good time it will.

"They wanted to feel the sea foam on their faces," the newspaper article reported. Some might read that and shake their heads or cluck their tongues, but we all understand it: the sea has a dangerous attraction for us all. Two sisters clambered over the slippery rocks farther than their companions to feel the foam at Stoer Point, a wild and tempestuous jumble of rock in an uneasy truce between land and sea. There is a lighthouse there to warn ships and boats away, but there is only caution to keep people away from the rocks. When the secret seventh wave rose up, it swallowed one sister and left the other on the rocks screaming her anguish and helplessness.

Her young husband, a former Royal Navy diver, answered with his heart, which leapt into the cold churning waters and took the rest of him along with it. He might have made it back, but he went to help his sister in law. His body was recovered not much later, but her body has not yet been found. Perhaps it never will be or perhaps some other secret seventh wave will send her back to land as willfully as she was stolen.


At 12:56 PM, Blogger Gabriel Harley said...

Absolutely chilling (I refer to both the tale and the writing). It matches the mood of this hazy, overcast August morning in the heartland. Although we've been in near-drought conditions for months, I wonder if I don't sense a change in the weather--April and May's unfulfilled cyclones lurking and planning just below the horizon, perhaps.

At 1:51 PM, Blogger muddyboots said...

nothing quite liking sitting on a beach & dreaming.

At 5:10 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Indiana in August can be quite unpredictable. I remember that electric feeling of the ions dancing in the air and the leaves turning over to show their silvery underside--it might mean a thunderstorm stomping acrtoss the plain or just a relief from the heat. We are sons and daughters aof the weather no matter where we are!

At 5:22 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Hello, muddyboots, and welcome to a fellow farmer. We, too, have been holding our breath with this f and m business. The relaxing of the movement restriction really did us no good because up here only a full lorry load is cost effective and few of us can fill an entire lorry on our own.
I'll put on my f and m post which I have had in draft hoping for better news.

At 7:30 PM, Anonymous amipggy said...

Have started a subscription to Scotland magazine and the first one arrived today, with an article on fishing in Scotland throughout the years. It gives a brief history of city and type of fish but never--I repeat--never! mentions the loss of life and consequent toll on families and communities, an awareness of which I have gotten from your posts. Altho' it's probably a tourist magazine, I thot at least it should've have acknowledged the human cost. National Geographic would have. I guess I never thot I'd hold up NG as an example of honest writing, but here I am.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Interesting observation re Scotland magazine. I wonder about the author's perspective. Some folks consider it bad luck to talk about such things or maybe he just took it as a given that fishing is hard and often means loss of life.


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