It shouldn’t be this hot.  The view is grey.  A fret rolls off the sea.  The piers are  blurry in the mist.  The sun is at my right shoulder, a bright disc among grey clouds.  It shouldn’t be hot, but the humidity is unbearable.  It shouldn’t be bright, but the sun lasers through the clouds to pick out highlights on the water.  In the empty space between the piers I see mirages, columns of white that might be the sails of ships or distant lighthouses.

The tide is in.  Children play on a narrow slice of beach.  Gulls float on the calm water and huddle on what is visible of the notorious black midden rocks.  The massive autoliner carrying cars passes as we arrive and small fishing boats trundle past.  We sit on a bench overlooking the sea, my wife and I.  It is our anniversary, 25 years since we got together and we’re having a celebratory lunch of fish and chips.  25 years seems an unbelievably long time.  If we have been together that long then surely we must be old.  But we aren’t yet.  Not quite.

Even when you feel that there is no movement, the years steam on, until you wonder how you got here so quickly.  Something has shifted in the last fortnight.  I’m moving again.  Perhaps it was our short journey south through fields of gold.  Perhaps it is the shift in the air that follows.  Dark grey clouds gather like a dome.  Winds whip up and rain comes.  But in the end storm Ellen only caresses us.  In the dene it still seems like summer.  The burn is only a trickle, the cascades choked with weed.  A flock of mallards faces off against a flock of moorhens on the pond.

The police helicopter is hovering, its attention focused somewhere north of here.  I’ve spent a lot of time this year like that helicopter, stalled and searching for something to focus on.  But what has often felt like drifting aimlessly has in fact been an absence of the old ‘to do’ lists and wishing time away.  As the world re-opens and structure returns, I’ve been reluctant to embrace the way it was before.

So I shift slowly.  I start to edit my manuscript.  I use my sketch of a woman and cello to create a painting.  I submit some short stories.  It’s a trickle rather than a flood, just like the burn, but it’s a beginning.  The helicopter still hovers, but three swallows are closer.  Like tiny spitfires swooping over the grass.  There is a hint of yellow in the linden trees.  Rosehips and blackberries fatten in the hedgerows.  These swallows are the last of summer, propelling me forward as the seasons turn.

141 thoughts on “Shifting

  1. Happy Anniversary! Ahh, fish and chips sound divine. We can get them here, but not like I’ve ever had when I’ve gone to England to visit family. The passage of time this year has been eerie in a lot of ways. On one side, I’m grateful for all I have, and that my family and friends are happy and healthy. On the other side, there’s so much anger and sadness and fear. I strayed from social media this summer because I couldn’t handle that negative aspect. I’m banking on things to be on the upswing now! 🙂


  2. What delightful prose Andrea. You had me from the moment ‘a sea fret rolled in’. And yes there is a shift – not just the year changing – perhaps bigger than that. I can feel it!


  3. First of all, Happy Anniversary! Things are moving in such different ways nowadays as you so aptly point out. It feels like we’re sitting still, and yet we’re shifting. I’m sure as you begin to “reopen” you’ll find new and wonderful gifts within, maybe that were germinating in the quiet all along. I always wish you every success in manifesting ever-changing dreams.


  4. A lovely gentle reflective piece Andrea… love your observations .and the creative resolution to them…and what a list of achievements !
    Yes, twenty five years is a milestone worth celebrating …especially with fish and chips – hope they were wrapped in a newspaper worthy of the occasion !!!


  5. You describe so well the journey that many of us have been on in much of 2020, Andrea.
    I am reminded that transitions are one of the toughest of times for human beings to manage. We want fixed destinations, firm mileposts and the reassurance that we will get there; we want to know there is an end in sight.
    For a moment, your post made me flash back to my young children in the back seat of the car, asking every so often: Are we there yet? Every time they went up a hill they recognized, or passed a house, pond or farm animals they remembered, it was reassurance that we were on our way to the family farm, but nothing compared to actually seeing our farmhouse just up the hill from the quiet country road. It was the fixed spot.
    Being an adult doesn’t change our need for some certainty, for wanting familiar symbols and milestones that tell us we are on our way to a good place — to that fixed spot, even on the foggy days.


  6. Another grand essay, Andrea, written with heart and relayed with elegance. I love the image of you and your wife celebrating your anniversary together, on a bench overlooking the sea. Fish and chips. The contemplation of time passing, life shifting, and the helicopters and swallows overhead is beautiful, my friend. My warmest congratulations to you and your wife.


  7. Happiest of belated anniversaries to you and your wife. A fish and chips celebration sounds wonderful! That a storm might only caress also sounds sublime. Happy to hear you are slowly shifting as the seasons turn…


  8. Happy Anniversary Andrea! How I’ve missed your writing and you. I decided to check today if you were back and saw that you’ve been around since some time. I have a lot of catching up to do. Am just glad that you’ve started writing again on worpress. I missed you. Its good to see youve started painting again. As always enjoyed reading your writing. Your painting is lovely.


  9. Twenty-five years, that is an acheivement. Fish ‘n’ chips is the only ways to celebrate. Did you get a wooden or a plastic fork? I think the meal tastes better with a traditional wooden one. I love how your journey to this point is countered by your journey of the day.


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