Monday, 20 August 2012

A Shape-Shifting Place

A walk to a beach through pinewoods - the untroubled home of red squirrel,

Across the inconstant sand-dunes - like trying to walk during an anxious dream,

Jumping the waves and then taking off into the sea-coloured skies.

The huge fish skeleton washed ashore is not quite as she seems.

So long since I last saw you,

I glimpse your shimmering peaks and troughs from under an umbrella.

Back through the dampened forest,

One last look.
It is wonderful to read a book so vivid and beautiful that you feel you have actually left the armchair and then reappeared only once the final sentence is read. Then you look around yourself and wonder what is next. 'Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach' by the poet Jean Sprackland was just such a book for me. After four years too far from the emptiness of a coastline, hemmed in by London suburb after suburb, this book took me far away and walked with me hand-in-hand along the Sefton Coast. I was a beachcomber again, finding curious alien creatures washed ashore; ship-wrecks hundreds of years old that rise up from their sandy graves only to disappear for another hundred years and five thousand year old footprints of humans and their ancient forest-dwelling prey - glimpsed for the very first time and then covered again for eternity by the shifting black pre-historic muds.

Today a train, not a book, took us to the very same coastline and I walked through the pages with sandy feet.

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