An author’s innermost thoughts reflected in a walk on the beach. By a storm, a Great Skua and a puppy.
What are my innermost thoughts? My hopes, my fears, my pain, my tears. What do I hide from even those I love, and perhaps even from myself? Do they embarrass me, would people shy away if they knew? Or would I flee, consternation rising like bile in my throat, cold sweaty palms, rapid pulse, breath coming in short pants, a slight wheeze?
Are they so pure, so noble that I could shout them out, post them triumphantly on Facebook, tweet with hash tags and retweets by the score.
Or are they in cold reality simply boring? Not worth the telling or the writing. Certainly not worth the listening or the reading. Wrapped up in another failed story, lost in a long forgotten poem.
An author am I, a statement not a question. Do some of my innermost thoughts become the next tale or poem? Am I that dark inside, so full of anguish, that my characters scurry furtively from birth to death? Or are they so trivially superficial, so faintly drawn, they can simply be ignored?
A wintery day in Perth.
A fierce southerly roiling dark low clouds, seemingly skimming the ocean surface. Reflecting my thoughts. Troubling, ominous. Their dark grey, closer to black colouring the deep swell pushing towards the shore. To break in imperfect surf, with a muted thump upon the sand. I pressed on walking at the junction of wet and dry sand, sometimes scurrying to avoid a breaking wave. One eye was on the rain shower, faint grey lines stretching down at an angle from a distant cloud. Less distant at every second glance.
The other eye was on the puppy, running here, sniffing there, throwing herself down to surf, to slide on her side amidst the sand. To her everything was new, exciting, exhilarating. Each new smell more intoxicating than the already forgotten last. There was no room in her teeming canine brain for dark innermost thoughts. Life was for living, a joy, simple fun.
Something caught my eye some two hundred meters away. Low down two or three meters at the most above the sand. It was a bird shaped like a gull, but much larger, its wing span close to a metre. Mottled grey brown in colour it flew towards me next to the steep low dune that marked the junction of the beach with the SAS barracks. Slow long sweeps of powerful wings, neither gaining nor loosing height. Majestic, domineering, frightening.
As it came closer I could see its long bill hooked at the end for tearing at its prey. A bird suited to the mood of the threatening storm; powerful, not to be interfered with nor taken lightly. A deadly bird. A reflection of my worst innermost thoughts. It flew past me perhaps only five meters away at the closest and continued south along the shore. Becoming smaller and smaller yet still imposing, still disturbing.
I shivered, a ghost scratching at my grave with wicked hooked beak and nail sharp talons. An ocean bird, perhaps born in the storm, it had come and gone in thirty seconds at the most. It’s memory would linger for much longer.
I glanced out to the ocean. Rottnest Island had disappeared behind the wet grey pencil lines of driving rain. It would be here in ten minutes at the most. Home was thirty minutes away, the puppy and I were going to get wet. Lightening flashed from cloud to cloud, from cloud to ocean. Thunder crashed in defiance, rumbled and grew silent till the next clap beat at my ears.
Soaking wet it turned out. The puppy ears lowered, no longer pausing to sniff at every other step, as keen as I to get back into the dry.
I towelled the puppy, warmed up with a hot shower and settled down with some black coffee at the light grey trellis table that served as my untidy desk. Two large bird books revealed the bird to be a Great Skua. Both described it as vicious. Savage, dangerous, barbarous were the words that sprang to my mind, unbidden save by dark memory filled with foreboding. The internet revealed little more, only that it was a very rare visitor to the shores of Western Australia and even more rare to the shores of City Beach in Perth.
I glanced out the window. We were between showers and the puppy was sleeping peacefully next to the window. Dreaming of the next game, the next treat, the next walk, the next run, the next smell. Melancholic memories did not exist in boisterous puppy land. There was no time for doubt. There was no time for anything save having fun. She lifted her head and noticed my watching her, immediately sitting up straight ears alert, eyes pleading.
I put aside my dark innermost thoughts, my haunting memory of the ocean bird and went outside to play.