Strong winds always make me restless and fuel a visceral desire to go and feel them blasting around me. Combine that with being close to the ocean and the combination creates an irresistible pull in me.
This particular afternoon I had just finished reading a book by Gore Vidal and needed a break between putting that one in the book case of the flat we were staying in for a week. My wife declined the invitation to join me so I donned my North Face jacket, put on a decent hat that would resist efforts by the wind to whip it away and set off from the flat to Ballard Point.
Ballard Point drops 164 metres into the English Channel at the eastern end of Swanage Bay. At first the shore is sandy which is easy to walk on. Then the sand is replaced by shingle which makes walking just a little bit harder. The beach was littered with seaweed, driftwood and worst of all plastic in various guises. Parts of fishing nets, shards of plastic bottles, parts of toys and complete drums that once held cooking oil or chemicals. The wood will biodegrade and no one will suffer but the plastic, it will last for thousands of years.
I walked past cliff faces that had been re sculpted by landslips. Gorse plants clung valiantly to what were once cliff tops whose sands were slowly being eroded by each wave that washed into them. Soon the gorse bushes would be flotsam dragged out by the tide and then teasingly returned to the shore whence they came only to be dragged away again. I could hear rocks rolling in the surf. The wind pulled at my clothes as if they were sails on a boat trying to push me into the base of the cliffs. It was visceral to say the least.
The shore became to narrow to walk all the way to the base of Ballard Point so I turned for home from a point where passers by had started to build a cairn of stones. I added my two or three as my signature to this record of visitors. Hoping the wind would be behind me but alas ‘no’. Like the smoke from a bonfire this wind was determined in its own inexorable way to follow me, blast its way through my clothes and into my very soul.
My Aunt Rachel used to live on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and I thought of her as I was attacked by the wind and getting stung by the ocean spray. She too loved to drive out to the coast when there was a storm blowing and just feel the wind and the spray assault her senses. It might not just be a desire in my family’s DNA and genes that crossed oceans and continents encountering a series of biological collisions that resulted in me standing on a windswept beach in wonderment at the raw power of nature. It might be something in all of mankind’s primeval makeup?
“I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.” (John F Kennedy,1962.)
I was alone with my thoughts. What would I read next when I returned to the flat? Will it be warm? Could I enjoy a warming drink by the fire? I enjoyed reading Gore Vidal’s book and was sad to have finished it. I think I had a Hemingway to read but that was fiction. Gore Vidal’s book was autobiographical. Hope the car starts alright tomorrow for our visit to Clouds Hill. A hundred and one thoughts came and went as if pushed along by the wind not allowing me the luxury of dwelling on one for too long. Concentrate on the walk home and enjoy that. Live for the moment. Just like the spaniel chasing his shadow across the wet sands as he carried his ball. He didn’t care about the wind, the surf, his next meal; all he was worried about was someone throwing his ball for him.