wing's beat

Twice weekly I sit pool side as Joel swims into the early evening and those little pockets of time have become an unexpectedly pleasurable part of my week. Once I've thrown off all the layers I need in the world outside, and am better placed to withstand the throat-catching heat, I settle into my nook at the back of the stands and gaze on the activity around the pool.  

For a few minutes it's like watching birds flock and gather: all is flurry, noise and motion as busy chattering mingles with the slip-slurp of wet feet and the colour-flash of swimsuits as girls bend heads to knees to fold long hair into hats. The young boys laugh and wheel their arms in animation; their long limbs lengthened further by the monochrome stretch of knee-length lycra. The older ones hold their bodies awkwardly, watching the girls shyly from under still-dry fringes. Then groups begin to slip into the pool, stopping momentarily with the cold shock of water, before arms and legs start moving and the whole pool becomes alive with the grace of bodies in water. No longer boy and girl, in the water they become swimmer - athlete. Finally, as the air calms into the regular soothing rhythm of churn and splash, the busy hum of my mind calms and I reach into the chaos of my bag and pick out a book.

Over the last couple of sessions I've been reading Kathleen Jamie's intimate, weather-filled essay collection Sightlines. I close my eyes and think about the book. I think of wind, light, birds, sea, sky, home. Transience. A startling, poetic precision of language that sometimes made me shiver. But I can't separate my experience of reading of it from the sensation of itchy, chloriney heat and yellow light on blue water and the simple, touching pleasure of watching children determinedly ploughing back and forth. Watching, amongst others, my child. In the final paragraph of the final essay - Wind - she writes:

'There are myths and fragments which suggest that the sea that we were flying over was once land. Once upon a time, and not so long ago, it was a forest with trees, but the sea rose and covered it over. The wind and sea. Everything else is provisional. A wing's beat and it's gone. 

That wing's beat echoes in the arc and stretch of the young arms pulling through water in front of me as I read; pulling, striving, growing. Growing up and away. A wing's beat - and they're gone. 


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Reader Comments (13)

This was the perfect space I needed today. I imagined the seas rising and covering the land. Poetry.
March 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTracy
I'm glad Tracy. The cycle of earth and water - that ebb and flow over millenia - somehow reassures me.
March 17, 2013 | Registered Commenterlittle house
Just beautiful. I too needed this kind of serenity today.
March 18, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersally
Thank you Sally. Do you know, I was rather in need of that serenity myself today...
March 18, 2013 | Registered Commenterlittle house
"Everything else is provisional." I'll be thinking about that for a while. Sightlines is on its way to San Francisco. I'm looking forward to reading it. Thank you for the introduction.

This is a lovely post, Kate. If I could have added a book written by you to my order I would have done so in an instant.
March 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDenise | Chez Danisse
Goodness Denise, your words actually make me feel a little shy, but very happy! It means a lot to hear that from you, with your own word sorcery. I'll be interested to hear what you make of Sightlines. I'm reading Agua Viva on your recommendation...
March 22, 2013 | Registered Commenterlittle house
Oh no. I didn't end up loving Agua Viva. As you know, I did like parts of it, but I never mentioned not liking all of it. Sometimes I'm at the beginning of a book, I'll mention it in a post, and then I will grow tired of it and wonder if I should post again and say wait, maybe this book will not be your best selection. If Agua Viva is not for you, I apologize. I still feel somewhat stuck at Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety. I haven't loved a novel as much since then.
March 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDenise | Chez Danisse
Please don't worry Denise! I realise when I said 'on your recommendation' that was misleading; rather I was was intrigued by the mention in your post of an author and a book that I'd never heard of. I'm not sure I'll love it in its entirety, but there are few books I can say that about I realise. The Stegner is on my list now ;) Isn't it wonderful to find a book that makes us feel that way?
March 22, 2013 | Registered Commenterlittle house
Thank you, Kate. I feel better now. Yes, I do cherish those extra special books. Cheers to us both finding more.
March 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDenise | Chez Danisse
I'm really enjoying Sightlines. I just finished the moon essay. Wonderful. So happy you introduced me to this collection.
I'm so glad to hear that Denise! Sometimes a book just connects very personally and that doesn't translate to other people. Yes, that Moon essay is wonderful. I'm going to read it again.
May 4, 2013 | Registered Commenterlittle house
Its the details of our lives I think that in some respects make the impact. Its only once in a while the big picture matters. I loves these photos of the details
July 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commentertoko baju muslim
Its the details of our lives I think that in some respects make the impact. Its only once in a while the big picture matters. I loves these photos of the details
July 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commentertoko baju muslim

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