Saturday, 8 January 2011

The Wild Places

Domestic chores and a post Christmas clear out mean that i am not likely to get in the water this weekend so i thought I'd give you a wild swimming related page out of the book I'm reading, "The Wild Places" by Robert Macfarlane, he describes a dip in the drink, off the west coast of Wales -

"I dived in. Blue shock. The cold running into me like a dye. I surfaced, gasping, and began to swim towards the cliffs at the Eastern side of the bay. I could feel the insistent draw of the current, sliding me out to the west, back towards Enlli. I swam at a diagonal to it, to keep my course.
Nearing the cliffs, i moved through different ribbons and bands of temperature, warm, then suddenly cold again. A large lustrous wave surged me between two big rocks, and as i put a hand out to stop myself from being barged against them, i felt barnacles tear at my fingers.
I swam to the biggest of the caves. Holding on to an edge of rock, and letting the swell lift me gently up and down, i looked inside. Though i could not see the back of the cave, it seemed to run thirty or forty feet into the cliffs: cone shaped, tightening into the earth from its mouth. I released the rock and drifted slowly into its opening. As i crossed the shadow cast by the caves roof the water grew cold. There was a big hollow sucking and slapping sound. I shouted and heard my call come back to me from all sides.
As i got deeper in, the water shallowed. I swam breaststroke to keep myself as flat as possible. I was passing over dark red and purple rocks: the voodoo colours of basalt, dolerite. The lower sides of the cave were lined with frizzy green seaweed, which was slick and shiny where the water reached it, like wet hair.
Further back into the cave, the light was diffused and the air appeared powdery. The temperature had dropped, and i sensed the whole gathered coldness of the unsunned rock around and above me, pushing out into the air and water.
I glanced back over my shoulder. The big semicircular mouth of the cave had by now shrunk to a cuticle of light. I could only just see out to the horizon of the sea, and i felt a sudden involuntary lurch of fear. I swam on, moving slowly now, trying to sense the sharp rocks over which i was moving.
Then i reached the end of the cave, and there at its very back, and in its very centre, lifted almost entirely out of the water, sat a single vast white boulder, made of smooth creamy rock, shaped roughly like a throne or seat. It must have weighed five or six tonnes. I climbed awkwardly out of the water, slipping on weed, and sat on the rock, while the water slopped around its base and looked back down the cave to the curved rim of light, all that remained of the world beyond".

A cold afternoon at Dunraven Bay.

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