17 July 2005

Floating at sea



The mercury had climbed steadily all day. By mid afternoon the shrunken shadows offered little refuge. Minor effort brought fresh beads to my forehead so I sat out the heat-storm and waited. Wafting a shimmering CD case I shut my eyes and thought of cool deep water.

By 5pm the intensity reached its peak. I peeled off my shorts and tee and wandered onto the patio in briefs. My verdant garden paradise was slumped under desert heat. Leaves hung lifeless, anticipating the sweet relief of evening dew. I should go now. I pad back through the house and step into swimming shorts. “See you, I’m heading for the beach...”

No reply so I kick on sandals and shut the door. My old Ford is an oven inside but I squint against the sensation and gun the motor onto the open road. Oakleys shield my eyes from the savage sky and I settle into the rhythm of the thirty-mile drive. Green Day crashes from the stereo as I roll the windows and feel that blessed blast of fresh air.

“Don’t wanna be an American Idiot...” screams Billie Joe to the pedestrians as I cruise onto the cliff top for an empty bay. I swing into one and kill the engine. Deafening silence descends and I buzz the windows up leaving a cigarette-paper gap. Opening the door I step back out into the furnace of the early evening.

The sea sparkles invitingly as I stroll the beach path, my eye taking in the sandy sweep of the bay and distant, miniature white sails. I chuck my sunglasses, mobile and car keys in the little bag with my shorts and drop it on the sand near a young family. Now I turn and run, splashing and jumping until depth slows me and I drop into the waves. The icy water slams around me and siezes my breath momentarily. I blow out a spout of salt water and start kicking lazily away from the shore, ducking my head through the breakers every few seconds and relishing the delicious cold.

After a couple of minutes I tread water and look back, rising and falling in the swell. The beach is one hundred yards off and the children’s shouts are lost. I swim slowly parallel to the beach. Rolling onto my back I close my eyes and feel the sea breeze across my face. The water is deep here and its solid, flowing mass feels powerful beneath me. Vaguely I consider razor teeth and black, soulless eyes fixed on my paddling feet from the depths... Gently I change heading and backstroke in slow motion towards the beach. I glance between the cobalt sky and the glittering horizon, feeling nature’s heat on my closed eyelids and her chill beneath my back.

My feet touch the seabed and I wade back through the shallows. I unroll a soft, blue and white towel on the burnished sand and pull my Oakleys from the bag. The lowering sun dries me in minutes as I stretch out and feel my tired muscles softening from the exercise. Two hours have slipped comfortably into the past and soon I must guide my old Ford back home.

16 comments:

transience said...

you described your day out so vividly. now i miss those days when there was nothing but sea, sand, stars. nights out at sea are postcard-perfect for me.

Kimberly said...

It was like I could feel the cold water take my breath from me as I read it. How I miss the beach, looks like I'll have to plan a trip soon.
3 hours to get there :(

Perfect Virgo said...

Transience - I have taken the night ferry across the English Channel several times but it doesn't have the romance you describe. I'm not sure there were any stars...

Kimberly - that water was soooo cold at first! Luckily we are very close to the coast for walks etc and the best beaches for swimming are only half an hour away. Over here high temperatures are rare even in summer so we take full advantage when the mercury rises.

Patry Francis said...

We all need more days like that. Thanks for the vicarious experience.

Also wanted to let you know that I found some Marmite in a specialty store. Though I haven't tried it yet, I am SO excited.

The Flea said...

What can I say Virgo? I think you just made everyone want to go to the beach. Although, looking at your photo makes me realise just how good Australian beaches are by comparison to our Anglo ancestor's.

Still sounded lovely though.

The following line spoke volumes: "The beach is 100 yards off and the children’s shouts are lost". Beautiful!

Perfect Virgo said...

Patry - glad you came with me on that trip, those days are like pure gold aren't they? Everything falls sweetly into place and you are left with only good memories.

Delighted you tracked down some of our salty brown paste (Marmite) best of luck with it, I recommend spreading it thinly at first!

Flea - this narrow strip of sand may look busy now but earlier in the day the bodies would have been shoulder to shoulder. Much of our coastline is rocky so the occasional sandy bays fill up quickly in July and August.

Thanks for picking out that phrase, I wanted it to convey the sense that peace exists not far from the busy shoreline, you just have to put in a little effort to find it.

Faith said...

Beautiful, as always. You make me feel like I'm there...a very good thing in this case!!!

Trudging said...

Wow, great picture and great writing.

Perfect Virgo said...

Faith - I think you would like it there. It's quite peaceful later in the day when most of the crowds have drifted off.

Trudging - thank you. There are a couple more pictures on my "Through the Lens" site.

RuKsaK said...

Give some of that right now - this frigging city is clogging the arteries to my soul.

Dionysius said...

I spent last week in Pittsburgh and it was hotter than a two dollar pistol. It is the humidity that pulls me to the dirt. The only bonus was enjoying seing the odd young female with a nice summer dress. I wish the women in this country would wear more skirts and dresses instead of those doggone pants. I loved the mini-skirts also back in the 60's.

Perfect Virgo said...

Ruk - sun, sea and sand. A calming cocktail for a Sunday afternoon. Give those arteries a re-bore.

Dionysius - that humidity is like breathing steam, choking. A pretty girl to turn the head is surely not too much to ask for!

yours truly said...

Night-swimming, hell, even day-swimming, is the best. That photo makes me wanna close the office and go to the beach even though it's freezing over here.

Anyway - I've been quiet lately and just wanted to say hello.

Perfect Virgo said...

YT - I see you as I night-swimming" sort of person. Thanks for dropping in, glad you like the beach pics and yes, shut down that office, break the ice and jump in!

finnegan said...

I remember you telling me it was hot that day---that you were heading out to the beach. The way it sounded, you seemed ready to swim the channel to Normandy, or else leave a what- the-hell-was-that? wake with your waterski-converted dragster bike.

Instead, a good old-fashioned tarmac to sea beeline cruise, reminding me of those endless summers heading to Zuma and Malibu.

My head felt like a bell being rung with a chunk of ice when I hit the ice water. Delicious!

Perfect Virgo said...

Finnegan - just imagine that creamy wake stretching like an arrow across the bay! Bound to attract the water police...

I swam out a long way last weekend, further than I usually feel comfortable with but I was escaping inner demons and deep water took my mind off love and life for an hour.

Wow that day was hot and the water was beautifully frigid. If the weather holds this weekend I may just do the same. I am trying to calculate how far your nearest beach would be. Other than lakes we must be talking 250 miles to Nice?