Updated: Nov 12, 2018
Here’s a feeling I’d forgotten, a summer sensation with a twist of the mystic, not a thing at all maybe – but it brings a strange familiarity like something suppressed, a lopsided intimacy where it knows and I don’t. The world outside is potent. Everything is loaded green, grown dense with fattened plant flesh. The sky is undecided, hazy here and bright there, a day in limbo with fleeting sunshine now and a threat of rainspots next. Birdsongs – swallows, larks, stonechats – and an irregular breeze to stir the leaves, these are important, and stalks and rushes head-heavy lurch about in a woozy dance. A red kite puppets about, keeping the small birds on edge. This feeling, you know, of everything teeming with life, most of it silent or beyond human hearing, curling leaves and bark, down the roots into the soil where worms and beetles are busy on their own agendas, running neat economies in the humus. Everything striving with a slow fury, a desperation that underlies the tranquillity of my word-bound perception. This potency is incommunicable, a Peter Pan’s shadow made of shifting shapes stacked far apart – it is not meant for translation. Why try? I’ve fallen into language – too far gone, down through generations of steady detachment from seasonal rhythms, the visceral reliance of everything on everything else, the real capillaries of life. Bitch to new, forceful logics. I’m at a silent disco without headphones.
"Pathetic now, hemmed in by warm, radiating granite walls, a mischievous ocean beneath my feet ... only demons dancing on the swell far below." Jules Lines
The sandy bottom of the zawn is comforting, for no good reason. If it all went wrong, a perfect storm of freak gear failures (the sort of scenario that plays out in my mind on exposed belays all the time), you would be better crashing into deep dark water, coming up gasping and heavy and wriggling furiously with a deadly metal weightbelt and ropes like tentacles wrapping your legs, than crashing in ankle deep to send your shinbones through your shoulders. The sandy bottom is comforting, nevertheless, turning the water bright turquoise in the sun, painting over the fear in calming colours.
The fear is irrational. Do I trust that cam? Yes I do. Is there any way that nut is coming out? Not really, no. So relax, do your job, hold the ropes. Placate the chimp, out of its box and teeth-baring as the wind buffets you off balance, or the waves resound in deep holes, primal sensory threat alarms. This is half the beauty in the game, getting into places you don't belong...
By a quirk of the zawn's shape on the first weekend of August, I can stretch a hand out behind me into the sunshine for a couple of minutes, and then it is out of reach for the duration of my stay. I watch it blaze a slow path westwards below the zawn rim, backlighting a thin haze of seaspray that hangs untouchable with gull echoes in the void. I watch it make a slow wipe of a face to the left, where Ferdia's shadow springs Peter Pan-like out of temporarily Ferdia-shaped features on the rock into cautious movement, and fades out again with passing clouds so I can only wonder what is happening up there. I get cold.
Coldness brings a familiar delerium, juddering through strange tunnels where snatches of song take me a turn around an eerie dancehall with my doubts, a whirlpool of words recirculated from godknows where. Do a little dance...make a little love...Ombindi, Ombindi, leader of the Empty Ones, Ombindi...all the elements are here, I the gnome among sylphs and undines galore, doing a swing number...the salamander in a backstage role, earlier, in the little heap of used toilet roll blackening and curling in a secret place...can't deny the mundane and the crude even, there's nothing wrong with taking pleasure, nay celebrating, the purgative delights of a well-taken wild poo on a bright summer's morning...and the ocean sings the blues, uncool as only the cool can be, with rushes of white noise that's pure jazz in the soul, patterned only in its patternlessness, flicking white splashes and churning up sand.
A jerk on the rope crosshairs you squarely back in the now, and wow, what a now...my friends laugh and fail to copy the curvy awkwardness of my naaaaouuuw, well that's fine, it's all mine...no listen, be sensible, this is the real deal. Soon, fella, you'll have to try real hard...