Sea Watching

Grey waters, vast
                       as an area of prayer
that one enters. Daily
                      over a period of years
I have let my eye rest on them.
Was I waiting for something?
but that continuous waving
                             that is without meaning
              Ah, but a rare bird is
rare. It is when one is not looking
at times one is not there
                                  that it comes.
You must wear your eyes out
as others their knees.
               I became the hermit
of the rocks, habited with the wind
and the mist. There were days,
so beautiful the emptiness
it might have filled,
                          its absence
was as its presence; not to be told
any more, so single my mind
after its long fast,
                          my watching from praying.

I grew up by the sea. The same sea the poet watched. I came to know its moods. Days I would walk along its paths over to the promintory where I would look out and see what I could see – and what I could not. Somewhere beyond the curve of the horizon was Ireland, and beyond that, the Americas. I knew they were there. I’d even been to them. But I could not see them. What I saw depended – on me, on the time of the year, on the weather; north Walian weather changes swiftly. Many were the days when I’d step out and be glad I’d taken my Barbour – because when it rains, it rains.

I could see the gulls fly against the slate-grey sky, hear their calling each to each – but they did not call to me. Instead, on other days, I’d grip my beret, because even though secured by hairpins, the wind was strong enough to blow in – and sometimes me – into the sea. The rocks below were not a place to be.

Then there would come those days in high summer when all that was needed was a light summer dress and some sun-cream (red-heads burn easily). Knowing where to walk, I could avoid the day-trippers and set out to my favourite place, the end of Europe, out to where only the rocks remained. I would stare out. I would pray my Rosary. I would sit for ages. Then I’d see him, a gull, I never bothered to find out what sort, he was my gull, and names defining him somehow diminished him. He’d fly in an arc I came to know well. But he came when he came. I could watch and wait, and some days he never came. It was, it turned out, a good preparation for dealing with boyfriends. But I loved the waiting, and came to appreciate what it gave me. When the gull came, that made it perfect.

But at other times the sea was threatening, like the sudden storms on Lake Gallillee, the winds could whip them up into a frenzy. Best not be there those days. But the quiet days of early autumn, when exhausted nature began to sink into her rest, were my favourites. The sea, those grey waters, stretched out endlessly. I remember going there for the last time before I left for another coast and crying. I would miss my gull. But you know, when I got to that other coast, there was another gull – I waited, he came.

So, as we come to the end of Week 1, we move on. But with, I hope, a heightened sense of the value of that waiting. He will come. He always did.