I don’t have a photo that can illustrate this post. I find myself wanting to describe something that I haven’t actually seen in real life, but it’s an image that is so vivid and powerful that it comes to me again and again, and I find myself carried away by it every time. Bear with me and I’ll try to describe it – but it needs some introduction, and some pictures to serve as a backdrop.
A friend of a friend of mine lives in the south east of England not far from the coast where the sea on a good day is the colour of dirty bathwater, and is often more like the run-off from a pottery workshop. The waves are opaque, and beige.
As children my father took us sailing in the Thames Estuary where I remember grey mud, cold water, and wet feet. It was not something I enjoyed, but later I came to know the sea around the Isle of Man, where the water was so clear I could peer over the edge of the sailing dinghy and see right down to the seabed many metres below, past waving forests of weed. Later still I discovered the extraordinary colours of the meditterranean, turquoise and cerulean, ultramarine and purple and hundreds of variations in between. One hot summer in the Bristol Channel I watched seals from only a few feet away while clambering over rocks on Lundy island, and gazed in awe from the top of the cliffs at a huge basking shark languidly making its way along the coast in water as clear as air.
This friend of a friend (who I have never met) recently spent a holiday in Orkney. It was the first time she had been there and the sights and sounds, the smells, the whole experience of the place filled her with such overwhelming delight that she came home filled to overflowing with vivid memories. The weather had not been all that good, she said, but that didn’t matter; she was out every day. The islands are positioned just where the Atlantic and the North Sea meet off the north west tip of Scotland and the coastline could not be more different from her southern home. She talked of the colour of the sea, and watching seals swimming in the surf. “The waves are like green glass” she said, “and I saw a seal, under the water, right inside a green glass wave”.
I can’t explain why when I heard this it was so immediately present in my mind. It couldn’t have been more real to me if I had actually seen it for myself, and it’s stayed with me now for more than a week, washing through me like a sensory memory and transporting me into realms of pure pleasure.
I know I’d feel differently if this were a real memory, something I had experienced and seen, because part of the wonder of it is that I’ve been given it as a gift, and it’s extraordinary that it’s possible for this to happen. Even more special is the fact that it’s come to me from a distance, not at first hand or even second, but from a third, so I know that at least one other person has been carried along on this wave just as I now am – a Mexican wave that’s visible only to those who feel it.
My best wishes to everyone who will be celebrating Thanksgiving later this week, and thanks to all the writers, photographers and artists who give me so much pleasure through their WordPress blogs with images and ideas every bit as powerful and memorable as a seal in a green glass wave.