Dips and Hollows and Wishing Stones

      I’m standing and looking down, into glassy waters. The pebbles beneath the surface cling together forming a cobbled floor beneath the undulating surface. The air between the cobbles seems to have become liquid, seems to have gained an ethereal solidity, hovering between invisibility and a solid impenetrable mass. It moves and as it does so it moves the light which plays around the stones, glinting off at curious, unnatural-natural angles. I like it. I put a booted toe in to see what my foot will look like as a part of this world. My boots are dirty and a small cloud of earthy dust, dark and invasive, fluffs out around the leather. I take my foot back out. The dust settles down through the solid glassy air around it, floats down to hide in the crevices around the domed stones. So all is returned to still crystal quiet. The clarity returns as though undisturbed, the ripples on the surface continue to distort the light once again. 

      The tide is neither in nor out. The swells in the depths cause the shallows to gently move inwards and then outwards. In, towards the dry pebbles, out again leaving a hissing bubbling trail behind it. Enough to fill the dips and hollows with quiet twinkles before sucking gently back into the darker depths leaving damp deeply toned stones behind. Whenever I look at wet pebbles, round, perfect, each a gentle pallet of shades, Dove, Payne’s Grey, Slate, Heron, Steel, Osprey, I want to take them home, to keep the bands of those colours, to keep the deep glossy rounds to look at. But if you take them, put them in your pocket, where they dry, dampening your coat lining into a gritty, uncomfortable, slightly sodden cling, they are disappointing. When you retrieve them they have turned a light chalky grey. The deep tones fade, they become commonplace as though taking them away from the sea has somehow taken the life from them. Even if you soak them in the sink at home, or in a bucket by the shore, they never take back that deep sharpness. 

      The ripples are mesmerising. I watch them glitter and suck before noticing that the stone at the water’s edge is layered in delicate mauve and dove shards. I am reminded of elephant skin, but the tones are too delicate. Seal skin maybe, folded like a Selky’s discarded pelt, delicate and soft awaiting the sea maiden’s return. I rub at the smooth flat stone to remove the grit and tiny stony flecks that spoil the illusion but the water playfully scatters them back again, into the folds, into the corners, mischievously refusing to reveal the silvery purple skin I know would emerge if I could clear the grits. These layers are flat, horizontal, hinting at the way in which they grew over time, layers of fine sediment crushed into brittle sheets which can be separated if you have the right tools, the right skills, the right knowledge, the sensitivity.

      Further back behind me I notice that these flat layers have been twisted, pushed into curves and round hollows. The stone is different here, the pockets look like their interiors have been too soft, not hard enough to cope with the sea, the wind, the tide, the pebbles, the storms. They have literally caved under pressure, caved in to the hurly burly that has been hurled at them over the years. They have lost their substance and disappeared revealing the void that they were filling, surrounded by harder rock, hard stone that simply caves more slowly. Millions of years have passed since this hard stone was forged, but it too will one day become sand and be dispersed, changing  the coastline, changing the shape of our world, narrowing our boundaries. I push my fingers into the holes, enjoying the smoothness, the gentle curves of the hollowed space, the negative form beneath my fingertips, I remember throwing clay forms on the wheel, I remember the feel of the hard clay after firing, how the finger marks would shrink and feel uncomfortably alien to your hands after they had been heated and turned into stone. 

      In my mind I turn the layers and twists in front of me into cloth, I weave the turns and dips, I imagine them in the wool, imagine the feel of them around my neck. I think of the hard cold rock and then the warm pulsing flesh of my neck. I am not like the rock and the rock is not like me. Yet one day I will cave, I will become ash and leave behind a cave, the void of that which I was. My gritty remains might be thrown into this water, the sea I love so much which hugs my landscape, my homescape. I feel myself as a warm, living thing, I touch my hair and feel my heart beating. I’m still here. My boundaries are still here, I have not yet caved. 

      On the walk back from the beach I see a banded rock lying amongst the seaweed. Such ringed stones are hard to find, especially one with such perfect bands. All along the length and then one more over the surface, lying in complete opposition to the layers beneath it. I rub at the white circle, convinced it must be a mark on the surface, but no, it is the surface. And as I hold the rock in my hands, cold, round, wet, I notice that it sparkles. I dry it slightly, thinking the sparkle must be an effect of the light and water, but no, the sparkle has become a golden glitter. Quartz? No. More like Pyrite. Fine, tiny particles of Iron Pyrite in the rock and a Quartz geode, now ground into itself. Stones like this are known for their magical properties. Wishing stones. If you wish into the bands your wish will one day come true. I am happy, I am home, I have nothing to wish for. I put the heavy stone into my coat pocket and decide I will save the wishing for later. I hold the stone enjoying the rounded firm form. It feels like the opposite of the caves I have felt in the rock, the opposite of not being, the opposite of death and I feel it warm beneath my touch. I am alive, I am here. My boundaries have not yet narrowed.

[Kathryn was with the Gremlins]


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