Contrasts

life

We’ve just returned from a holiday in Anglesey, staying in the same cottage that we used last year. We were incredibly lucky with the weather, and had a near-miraculous (for Wales) three consecutive days of sunshine and no rain. The Thursday was particularly Mediterranean (you can see the evidence in my Flickr set), and after we returned from a lovely walk on Holyhead Mountain I decided to go for a swim in the sea.

The late afternoon sun was still warm, and it made everything the colour of honey. The tide was out and the sea was very calm and smooth. I set off from the cottage in my swimming costume, a towel wrapped sarong-style around my waist and waded through the sea of marram grass to get to the beach. When the tide is out, the sand is firm and gently ridged like the palate of a yawning cat. I left my towel and sandals on a rock and walked over a huge expanse of sand to reach the water’s edge. The beach here slopes so gently (at least at first), that you feel as if you could walk to the horizon and still be only thigh-deep in the sea.

I don’t like swimming in warm seas — something feels deeply wrong about it — but the seas around Wales don’t let you down in that respect. The water was sharp and cold. I know that the best way to get into cold water is to submerge yourself immediately and get it over with, but I’m not that brave. I tend to wade in slowly until the water is near the top of my thighs, and then wait for the waves to come and cover more of me. Once I’ve got over the gasping-with-shock phase1, I dive in properly.

The shallow water was beautifully clear, and I could see the sand on the bottom illuminated by golden ripples of light. As I performed my signature slow and stately breaststroke with a slight screw-kick, I watched my wedding ring flash in the sunlight under the water. I thought about its brother, The Lost Ring, and wondered wryly if my ring was signalling to its counterpart, wherever it is in its snug bed of soil. I find that I can smile about it now. There’s still a residual tinge of sadness, but it’s the kind that sharpens the focus of happiness.

As I swam, the exercise began to warm me a little, but the water was still cold. The sun’s warmth on the goosepimpled skin of my arms and back was wonderful, and I revelled in the delicious contrast of temperatures. After swimming for a while, I played in the little waves, body-surfing and letting the movement of the water roll and turn me. I floated on my back and stuck my toes out of the water, so that they became small pink sails on the horizon.

Eventually — reluctantly — I got out. I usually feel a bit self-conscious wearing my swimming costume, and scurry for my towel to cover up. However, for some reason this time it didn’t bother me at all. I pulled myself up to my full Hobbit height and walked slowly up the beach, beaming ecstatically at everyone I passed. I was a tiny figure on a huge expanse of sand and sea and yet I felt as tall as an Ent, with my roots in the sand and my crown in the sky.


  1. I tend to wait until the ninth wave, just because I like Kate Bush so much.
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