Looking towards Dartmoor

Family groups have mostly stayed down in the bay, reluctant to haul picnics and infants up here to the cliff top. Gulls hang over us in light air currents, dipping, vying with crows for anticipated leftovers from our supermarket sandwiches. Their wing beats whip audibly through the stillness. Beyond this headland another ribbon of beach stretches, littered with fallen rocks the sugary brown of crumbled fudge. Nothing interrupts our view across the broad Sound, towards Dartmoor.
We gaze out, silently chewing, passing binoculars and bottled water between us, allowing last night’s party images to ebb away. A long drive back to the city lies ahead.
- What’s your diary like for this week? I ask, knowing at once that I have spoiled the moment.
You sigh, reluctant to give it thought. I persist, trampling on what is already broken.
- Alan and Lynne want to meet up. We owe them dinner.
I don’t wait for you to finish your mouthful.
- Shall we check dates? I could call them from the car, set an evening.
You swallow and lie down.
- Darling?
You are waiting for me to hear myself; I know this because it has become a pattern with us. Between the traffic chaos that drags us to weekend parties and the ill-humoured hangovers that follow; amidst the gatherings for marriages, admiring babies, marking feast days, burying relatives, or just keeping in touch, we sometimes come to these small clearings, and I immediately start to plant these precious gardens of time with fears and fretting. I hear myself, but I don’t stop, not seeing any choice but to continue battling, disturbing us both with the white noise of our life, not letting the peace in. I cram these spaces with comparisons of diary windows, reminders about birthdays, invitations, bills and visitors. If not planning, I am predicting, trying to second guess the future by scanning events in the papers, or pressing you for your opinions: house prices, climate change, wars, elections. I dread shifting down a gear, I fear missing out, missing a beat. What disaster is it that I hope to avert? And when did you gain the ability to snatch these moments of stillness, to dive at will beneath the foam of things and float, trusting in some unseen undercurrent? Is it a gift, or was it simply a decision?
I try to count the many boats scattered across the Sound, fidgety bread crumbs bobbing on a glassy surface; the rising numbers in my head displace anger that cannot justifiably be aimed at you, or anyone.
The white noise will keep coming, that is our life, but it doesn’t belong here. I stop counting the boats and pull the energy this takes back into myself, reclaiming it. Then I lower myself beside you on the coarse, cliff top grass, letting the wing beats right into our airspace. Closing my eyes, I listen to the confident, eternal swell of the sea.

Looking towards Dartmoor

claireobrien

Joined January 2008

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