Sunday, October 21, 2007

Holywell Bay

Wednesday October 17, 2007:

Enfolded In the Rocks

We climbed the grassy dunes and sat down on the warm sands to eat our lunch. The sun was hot on my neck, the rocks warm against my back. The sea was still, the sky high. All was quiet.

Holywell bay on the North Cornish coast is a wide bay edged with dunes and cliffs. The Holywell, fresh water spring, drips down from the inside of a deep cave at the far edge of the bay.

In the cave, I stripped off, the better to climb the wet rocks. The water was cool. Smooth stones beneath my feet shifted as I moved across to the slippery rocks. I climbed up on hands and knees, at times squirming my way up the rock face, once, losing my grip and slithering down gracelessly with many shrieks of laughter, to the pool at its foot.

Now, the rocks were covered in a slimy weed, making safe movement across them almost impossible. I clung to the wall and heaved myself up to the next level.

I could go no further. The rocks were too slippery. I truly feared falling. I found a flat rock and shifted my bum up onto it.

Fresh water dripped from above me. Another trickle moved across the rock upon which I sat. I listened to the steady drip, drip, drip of the spring echoing around the cave, merge with the whispering call of the sea outside.

Around me, the rocks were carved as though folded with the flow of the water over thousands of years. Grooves were cut in their surfaces, curves smoothed across them, dents - like natural libation holes - bored by the insistent water.

I leaned against the cool rock and tucked my legs decorously about me. Still and quiet I sat like a mermaid carved into the rock.

My companion began to sing – her voice bouncing off the high arches of the cave:

“One drop of love,
Flows like a stream,
Flows like a stream to the ocean.”

Our voices entwined in the simple melody, we sang to the water, to the sea and to the spirits of the place. And as we sang, the rocks whispered back, the sea beyond ebbed and flowed, and time moved on.

But then, the sea called. I slid down the rocks on my bottom, feeling with my feet, bracing with my hands lest my descent become too rapid. Eventually, I felt soft wet sand under my feet. I stood in the open air, the sun warming my shoulders, listening to the sea and the gulls.

We moved swiftly across the wet sand and into the water. The sea licked between my toes, wrapped around my ankles and seemed to coax my calves to move me forward. The sea bounded up to me like an eager puppy, its merry little waves breaking higher and higher onto my body. When I could no longer resist its touch, I took a deep breath and ducked under the water.

Surprisingly, its cool touch did not freeze. Rather, my body yearned to be totally emerged. I ducked below the surface again.

My companion, full of good songs began to sing to the sea:

“We thank you Goddess of the sea.
We thank you Ocean mother.
WE thank you for setting us free.
Ma ma ma ma ma ma”.
(Copyright Sally Pullinger)

Time to get out? Maybe. I moved reluctantly towards the shore, then braking free, I ran back and rolled in the sea, allowing myself to be tossed by the waves. I threw myself forward into the water again cackling like a mad thing, submerging then breaking free, letting the sea carry me forward till my belly was on the sand and I lay giggling with delight, feeling for all the world like a large beached whale.

Another wave came to shove me forward and I sprang to my feet and danced in the shallows. My companion sang:

“Webbed feet, I’m a Merwoman,
Seaweed hair, I’m a daughter of the sea.
Webbed hands, I’m a mermaiden,
Mother Sea, live in me.”
(Copyright Sally Pullinger)

The wind nipped at our web bodies, stinging and slapping, reminding us that it was time to move on. Emerging reluctantly from the sea, we dried and dressed and made our way back along the wet sand.

Under the cliff, sea caves curved their way back into the rock. I climbed in to what felt like a vulva shaped opening. Bent double, I pushed forward, edging my way into an inner chamber where I could stand. The rocks, curved and columned by the sea, laying folds all around me. I stroked the curves and bulges, protuberances and crevices. I was held, safe from harm amongst the rocks. But the tide had turned, the sea was coming back. We had to go.

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