Saturday, 1 January 2011
Shells, Stones and Mermaid's Purses
Shells on a beach lying between pebbles banded with quartz, others the colours of jade or garnet, embedded in gritty sand, infused in some far-distant geological event, worn smooth by the tides ebbing and flowing across a beach that was once a forest and before that a salt marsh, changes in the ebbing and flowing of the land itself through the relentless tide of time seeming to flow one way only but bringing with it changes that turn sea beds into mountains and wash away even the highest mountains.
Yet on this beach now, lying next to fragments of ancient rocks, are these shells, new-formed by comparison but discarded, their inhabitants digested by the oystercatchers foraging in the sea's edge. And here, too, the empty egg case of a dogfish, its hard casing and vetch-like tendrils obsolete on this beach where it attracts the name 'mermaid's purse', an apparently more fitting identification for so durable an object than one that assigns its purpose as a container for the eggs of a fish. So fact and fancy dwell together in the combination of the name of the object and what we know it to be in this blink of time's eye, though two blinks ago it would have been otherwise.
So as the the Sun in the northern hemisphere begins, gradually, to strengthen (as from the standpoint of this beach it appears to us)and we turn our calenders to day one of our arbitrary reckoning of a new year, these shells, this mermaid's purse, these ancient stones - all fragments of time's relentlessness - lie in witness ( lie in witness?)to what was, to what is, and await with deceptive stillness the flux of what will be.