11bWhen I woke up this morning, before my thoughts about the mundane had time to kick in, it just hit me how strange it is – this ever unfolding experience, what many call the passage of time. I mean, why and how does it keep unfolding? What propels it forward? Motion must have a cause mustn’t it? Are we what make it move? It could just as easily not move. It could just as easily be in stasis. We are kind of obsessed with stasis us human beings. We love to capture a moment in time. That is what art and photography is so often about. By capturing the moment, we are able to fully observe it and see how much we miss in the twinkle of an eye. Sports photography is particularly engaging in that paradoxically it captures motion and reveals to us the essence of it. The rippled muscles, the revealing expression of pure concentration and un-self-conscious effort. Sometimes it’s the devastation of defeat which in real time would just glimmer past but here it is frozen and palpable. It’s a cliché now in movies to freeze time except for the main character who has the freedom to walk around and inspect the statuesque and defenseless time locked creatures, even adjust them for amusement and their bewilderment. We are like that main character when we look at a photo.

But as I lay there not moving and not thinking that much, I could feel so acutely the passage of time. It was my experience. It had fabric to it. It was the very essence of my existence. If I were to die, this experience would die with me. Like the fallen rock stars, who are still locked into their 28th year. Forever young we might say. But what was this feeling? I was not moving and yet I felt motion. Unfolding is a good way to describe it but what is it that is unfolding? The witness of this experience almost seems like the movie star – outside of time – but it’s the mirror opposite – because the movie star is the only one for whom time passes – whereas for the witness of experience, it appears to be the one that is unmoving, outside of time, while all else around it is in motion.

It has been said that time is an illusion and merely a trick of the mind – in the same way that pixels flashing on and off on a screen give the very real illusion of movement. Could our experience be as illusory as that? It’s always interesting when watching a movie when suddenly you wake up so to speak and remember that you are in a theatre watching a screen. You look around at the others still caught as you were a minute before in their stasis of hypnosis. They do not exist for now. Their consciousness has become a channel for the stream of consciousness created by the movie. They are not the witness. It as if they have left their seat and climbed into the screen. That’s if it is a good movie, or what we call a “captivating” movie, a “spell binding” movie…”a rollercoaster ride from start to finish”. And when the movie is over, they walk out exhausted a little and slightly deflated and still perhaps feeling like one of the characters in the movie.

But when we do wake up during the movie and look around, we have added a dimension to our experience. Relative to the movie, we are outside of time, (even though we still have the movie of our lives going on). Is this perhaps what Einstein was pointing when he observed that time was in the eye of the beholder. Time may move differently depending on your point of observation.

And then there is the waking up from the movie of your life. The sudden gaining of a new perspective, entering a new dimension. Any time we are able to step back and observe experience, we have transcended it. So I can suddenly wake up and realise my life is a movie. I can then wake up again and realise that I realise my life is a movie and so on. I can know. I can know that I know. I can know that I know that I know….Is there an end to the transcendence? Is it possible that the whole endless loop of knowing can also be transcended. Is it possible that the witness, the knower, is also an illusion? Does that mean that the person who has climbed into the movie screen has by forgetting to exist discovered the secret of existence? The natural order begins with being lost in the movie – what you might call unconscious. The next stage is the waking up to the fact that it is a movie and you are the one watching it – what you might call self-conscious. Self conscious definitely transcends unconscious. The final stage is realizing that the movie and the person watching it are really not separate and are in fact co-dependent.

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Nada

cute-boy-playing-flute-3322Nada

A flower opens to the sun and then it closes again, but not silently. Its leaves fall off quietly yet audibly and dissolve into dust. Even the puff of minute particles that rise as the petals fall resound, to the surprise of passing ants.

Grist for the evergoing, churning, grinding fractious mill

Earth turned into morning, beams brightly for awhile, sings its tune in a blaze of colour and enthusiastic rustling as its many hands reach for their glory. It leaves its sonic signature and then is gone to night. The ebb and flow of luminescent waves into caves, playing touch with crabs who scuttle up and down in tentative and involuntary synchronicity, sometimes caught too slow and carried along half gargling half giggling to find their feet again. The ocean dances unseen to swaying and impassioned orchestras of kelp and coral and backing vocals of whispering barnacles.

All echo and morph together in each and every shell scattered on the shiny midnight beach

The moon shines brightly in its trajectory gazing upon the sun at its own peculiar angle and reflecting its shapes and shadows back to the mottled orb whirling mechanically in its humid shroud of gas and steam. It sometimes sits there silently in the dark and we think it’s gone. But then it rises again and optimistically shines on us below as if our trivialities did not exist, or perhaps because of them.

Teardrops make ripples on the shiny black lake

We walk with heads lowered to the ground and miss its bright calling, the filigree of sounds that vibrate the bones of our ears shimmering them but gently as a butterfly’s wing might brush the cheek of a baby whose wet and gusty breath starts and falls in erratic intersections but whose sleep remains undisturbed.

Murmurs to visions of baby Krishna

Then we listen, we meet with it and like a chorus of cicadas we wonder how it was not deafening us. And then as we attend some more, we harken to the whistle of a flute or the sad call of a stone conch. And then myriad forms emerge: a cacophony of eternal moanings, purrings, sonic whispers, talking drums and chanting elders. Ancient stories of dreamtime, ancestral tellings, and longings, accumulations of galactic winds and the resonance of exploding stars.

Encryptions of the heartbeat of the universe

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Silhouettes

sil2Shapes between the shadows, sillhouettes. Always the fall of light on foliage or the orange glow of dimly lit streets. Sweet interludes. Mottled sensations of pain and pleasure that paint by numbers the mortal frame. The in-between, the gaps, the blur that confounds and confuses the processes of the mind, unsettles, bemuses them in this twilight of flux and flow.

Nothing solid ever to be found and that’s ok. It’s in the contrasts of motion and flow that springs the Tao. Right down to the inner process of breathing: small obstacles within the wider expanse of sensation, concentrations of density and intensity, implements to pure bliss more so in being ungraspable, transparent, infinite.

Sunset that needs the backdrop of night to reflect its nuances. A radiance of warmth in icy cold that can never be experienced in the heat of summer. The sublime coolness of chilled waters on a hot day that can never be replicated in the cold of winter. Light is not the same as day. Heat is not the same as radiance. Cold is not the same as cool.

We play with our pain and pleasure. Like dervishes we dance and in the centrifuge we forget which is which. All differentiation transcended; all opposites reunited in the black hole of potentiality, source and destination both. The reflex of Brahma’s great respiration.

But the solar infusions, the interludes and silhouettes know nothing of this. They glow and reflect and sublimate all in their uncurious existence.

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Toshi

dog streetToshi

Shadow dancing
The light spattering the river bank
Freckles of shade on stone
Fronds erratically catching solid air
Lifting like kites and sleeping again
Between draughts, warm and still
The air laced heavily with the scents of earth and water

Cool injections, inhalations
As if the river was breathing
Drawing from an icy stream
Somewhere above the treetops
And then the expiration
A moist and heavy release

I thought of Lorraine
And the Littles
Imagined them leaping and plunging
Well Pepe anyway
Straight in up to his neck
Gracie, more tentative,
Just her calves and toes
The element of earth trumping the element of water

And then her looking skinny fat
Tiny slicked up legs
Accentuating caramel creamy mane
Pepe hauling himself up over slippery rocks
White dreadlocks dripping
Performing the dog shake hula
Centrifugal spray, soaking us all
Lorraine just her toes as well
Or maybe a foot
And me not even there for myself
Empty of all but a pure vision of them

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The Gentleness of Sincerity

06-David-Lazar-Two-Friends-PlayingWhat is it in a voice that convey’s gentleness. What is it in an ear that hears gentleness? The voice is soft and low and trembles slightly in a breathy kind of way. The listener detects this kindness perhaps even physically in that soft tones are truly gentle and vibrate finely on the bones of the inner ear. Whatever it is, there is a union.

Perhaps an echo is the better way to understand it. The voice’s vibration resonates on the ear and transmutes the feeling behind the voice. And so we as humans can pass a feeling tone one to the other. What a miraculous occurrence when you really think about it. People often scoff at telepathy and yet we sentient beings communicate that way all the time. It is the unspoken that speaks volumes, the nuances, the tones, the body language. Just a slight turn of the head or a lowering of the eyes. We think our inner feelings are concealed from all but ourselves but these signals are seen most of all. The words are also revealing, not just for the directness and purposefulness of the communication but for their possible inconsistency with the other signals.

When listening to words being spoken we are often just checking that the other signals are being picked up correctly. When all is in unison, we can then allow the free and direct value of speech to infuse our understanding without the extra effort of trying to “read between the lines”. When the words do not ring true, we are often forced by social custom into an acceptance of the lie and before long everyone is praising the Emperor’s new clothes and no one is speaking about the ‘elephant in the room”.

How do we feel internally when we speak differently to what we really feel? It’s not necessarily that noticeable but when we compare how we feel when we speak truly, the difference is clear. When we speak truly, we feel a clean flow of energy and a wholesomeness as if our body and mind are one. That is called sincerity. When we speak insincerely or “with a forked tongue” we feel divided and feel weak.

It is commonly believed that the word sincere comes from two Latin words – sine ‘without’ and cera ‘wax’. There are two explanations for how ‘without wax’ came to be an important claim, both involving craftsmen, who during the Republic of Rome, would generally have been slaves or foreigners. Some think that marble workers would cover imperfections in the stone with wax, much as modern homemakers or unscrupulous antique dealers might rub wax to hide a scratch in wood. Another idea for the origin of sincere has more ominous consequences. Since cement was more expensive than wax, unscrupulous brick layers would sometimes employ it , at least that’s the story. When it melted, bricks could shift and structures collapse. So the claim that something was sine cera would be an important guarantee. This latter idea reminds one of the words attributed to Jesus: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

It is more likely however that the term “wax” mentioned above refers more to the growing quality as in the waxing moon. Thus the Latin word sincerus “sound, pure, whole,” means literally “of one growth” (i.e. “not hybrid, unmixed”), from sem-, sin- “one” + root of crescere “to grow” . In other words from one root – not a hybrid. Not something that is added on like the way a flowering plant is grafted onto more basic and less ornamental root stock. Not a gilding of the lily perhaps (as Shakespeare is often famously misquoted).

Whatever, the etymology of the word, the idea is the same – that to be less than sincere is to be double minded. There can be nothing more exhausting and more stressful than living a double life. Saying one thing while meaning or doing another. On the other hand, life is simple and satisfying when body and mind are in unity.

It is an irony that we often deliberately deceive others because we think it will somehow make life easier for them and for us. For the person on the receiving end, to be tricked or forced to believe a lie will ultimately cause them suffering. It may mess with their mind so that their innate sense of what is true can be skewed and they may cease to trust their own instincts causing them confusion and self-doubt. For the person being insincere, they must by necessity sever the connection with that other person. They must begin to try and conceal the other physical signals and must therefore cut off and turn away, avert their eyes in shame.

By contrast, the revealing of a hard truth will ultimately bring liberation and connection back into the relationship. While there will inevitably be a period of suffering for both parties, this can only be considered a healthy wounding that will with the right treatment be able to be healed – as opposed to the cancerous disease that lies will foster – which will in the end bring the relationship into dysfunction. There is no guarantee that the relationship will survive either way, but at least with truth it has the opportunity to bear the fruit of sincerity – forgiveness, healing, peace and gentleness.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger…The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15: 1 and 4

One final point can be made. The art of listening is not passive. Sincerity will only flow freely where there is a receptive ear. The old “shoot the messenger’ syndrome will more likely kill the message. As the Roman historian Tacitus once said: “Fear is not in the habit of speaking truth; when perfect sincerity is expected, perfect freedom must be allowed; nor has anyone who is apt to be angry when he hears the truth any cause to wonder that he does not hear it.”

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The Shadow

sienashadow
Mindless botherings seem insignificant when put down but afterwards seem loaded with meaning. Is it possible that something deep can bubble up and yet not be heard until much later? Its impression is all that needs to be captured. It will linger and form; like a worm in the dust might reveal itself through movement. Stillness of the waters and rivers flowing without ceasing. It’s all the same still or not, silent or not, moving or not. Motionless silent lingering meandering in between alleyways of dreams and misunderstood nuances of this or that communication with who knows who. Just keep going. That’s all that matters is the keeping on. If it was at all possible to click into a theme as a bullet might suddenly slip into the breach; that would in itself be enough reason for keeping on. It’s a continuous flow of lava that when cleared will release the earth’s great jewels. Of course wanting the jewels is almost a guarantee of not getting them. It’s like the three wishes a genie gives – they always end up being the wrong wishes and the genie always refuses to let you take them back. And so the granting of wishes can and should seen as a hostile act. Getting what we wish for is about the worst kind of damnation there is. Jung tells us for every good wish there sits in its shadow the hope of something evil and therein lies the problem with wishes. There is always the shadow . Whenever we get what we want we also get the shadow of what we want – and the kinder the wish, the more sinister its shadow. The road to hell paved with good intention for sure. This transcendence he speaks of , where the opposites are reconciled seems wise but why is it like that? Why do we begin as opposites in the first place? Is it because dualism is the valley of death, the dark night of the soul, the chrysalis from which we all must merge? The original egg like the birth of a parasite that eats itself and only when it’s all digested can we be regurgitated as the transcendent butterfly or whatever? It’s a road of sheer torture – just what the Buddha said. He also saw that recognition of that state was a prerequisite to transcending it.

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Virtual Reality

tumblr_lsewagvr0f1qgh3a7o1_500Pixilated holograms of captured super positioned particles and waves. The immediacy of the shape shift is what produces the consistency of the illusion. Like sinking into a dream nothing makes sense but then a coherence emerges from the fog like a ship from the mist. You realise what emerges has been there all along hiding in the shadows of your eyelids just waiting like nocturnal animals to come alive. An internal light just like the creatures of the deep that make their own. Self made light is possible but where it comes from is a mystery. But then where does any light come from? Surely it is all a mystery and dreaming or waking makes no difference. It’s all just one great big mish mash, a melded collage of so called experience which is really just a word because what the hell is experience? Looking for meaning and explaining is “for the birds kid” as they used to say. Poor old birds. Why were they considered to be so flighty? Huh. It all comes out in the wash once the flow of it arises. It’s just getting it to roll, getting some momentum and most of all not giving a flying fuck whether it rolls or not and being the one to get it to roll is about as irrelevant a pursuit as you could hope to find. Honky tonk bars and roadhouses go by in the night and shadows drift past on the road. Finding their way into warm and dimly lit saloons just to merge into the paintwork like chameleons invisible. Visibility though sought is highly overrated. It’s the domain of the weak minded to want to be seen. To not exist at all is the greatest bliss and the lonesome barrier is nothing more than an entrance fee extracted at the gateless gate.

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Monk2I was impressed by a story I heard about the late Ajahn Chah a Theravadan monk in the Thai Forest Tradition who was and is still is respected as a master of that tradition. He had a favourite mug. He was one day questioned by one of his students whether he was “attached” to the mug – attachment being the root of all suffering according to the Second Noble Truth (as if some truths can be more noble than others – the Buddha would surely laugh!). His response was that whenever he looked at the mug he saw it one day broken. So the moral of the story is that the antidote to attachment is to ponder the impermanence of all things.

But what I liked most about this story was that the old monk enjoyed his mug. To me, enjoyment is the antidote to attachment. All of this came to me as I pondered a very pretty china teacup sitting in a construction site shed. It was an elegant shape decorated with a texture of dark orange and black resembling silhouettes against a beautiful sunset. I don’t know who owned the cup but I could just imagine how much sweeter their tea tasted when using it. How their hands would have been warmed as they held it. How their connection with the cup would have created a pleasant sensation in the belly. For a moment all was well when drinking from the cup.

This pure enjoyment leaves no room for attachment. Attachment always brings with it an anxiety – the possibility that thing will be taken away – that somebody might forget it’s “my” cup. But where there is unadulterated enjoyment, there is no space for this anxiety. There is no me and there is no mine. Ajahn Chah’s approach was to neutralize the anxiety by an acceptance of its inevitable loss. That works and it was a clever answer on his part but I bet mainly he just really enjoyed his mug (and probably thought damn cheeky student). I wonder what his mug looked like?

To put it another way there is a difference between connection and attachment. They probably look the same but one is a sharing whereas the other is a holding. One is a joining, the other is a separation. I always struggle with the inherent contradiction which can exist in Buddhism where attachment is seen as the root of suffering and yet many followers of the Way are attached to certain beliefs about the way things are. To identify as a Buddhist can be a form of attachment – where it becomes “my” beliefs, “my” practice, “my” sangha and “my” teacher. Wherever there is a “my”, there is attachment.

But it does not have to be attachment. It can be connection. I can be connected to the teachings, the teacher and the people without being attached. How do I know whether it is connection or attachment? Enjoyment!

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The reunion of belonging

07-descent-565x445

There is something extremely potent and poignant about raising one’s head to the heavens with an earnest plea for connection. It is probably irrelevant with what or to whom we wish to connect. That will by necessity be a projection. It’s the very act of reaching out that is powerful and cathartic, expressing as it does the loneliness of existence, the longing to be home, to be one, completely absorbed and integrated with the whole.

That is not to underestimate the part that projection has to play in this process. Our primeval connection with our parents is the source of our longing. From their blood and bones we were spawned, as if a chunk of them grew and fell off (which is not far from the reality), creating at once this gulf that separate existence must bring. From this loss came our prayer of Abba Father or Hail Mary. It is the cry of the created to be once again merged with the creator – to be uncreated even.

The myths of the father abandoning or sacrificing his son are the full expression of this desolation, this separation, this alienation, this desperate loneliness. “My God why have you forsaken me” goes to the very heart of the dissatisfaction that comes with taking human form.

Likewise the demonizing of the barren woman, the witch, the shrew, the harlot – whose raison d’être is seen to affirm this disconnection and reject maternity, a crime never forgiven in a woman. The ones who feel the sense of abandonment keenest, i.e. the most religious amongst us (not be confused with the devout) are the ones who most keenly despise these unholy wretches (Earth Mothers) and who reach first for the stone.

So our abandonment issues are what cause us to reach out to this or that for connection. Of course it’s not always to the heavens that we cry. More often, we turn to the world to bridge that gap, to plug that emptiness, or just to comfort and soothe our longing much like a dummy in the mouth of the baby substitutes for that essential sharing and union of the mother’s breast.

The most potent symbols of all are that of mother and father and from the beginning of time, humans have looked back to their source as a point of definition, to gain meaning and purpose. Perhaps because locked in the DNA is this kernel of unselfish (albeit self-interested) procreativity, this clue to separate existence, the equally primeval and deep longing to divide, to reproduce, to cast seed widely on the wind.

So pulled back to our origins we find there a pushing forth to our final expression. That which draws us also repels us. The mother bird pushes the fledgling from the nest, despite its longings to stay and be one with its mother. Although the child cries for staying the parent cries for leaving.

As the miser hides his gold in separate places, so the creator must hide from its creation in order to increase the collective odds of surviving. Eggs must be put in different baskets.

The push and pull of existence. The yearning to be joined, the yearning to be separate. The longing to be unborn, the longing to give birth. And perhaps most paradoxical of all is the fact that one leads to the other. From union comes separation, from separation comes union.

In Buddhism, the middle way is put out there as a place to be neither pushed nor pulled. But is this a form of mediocrity or escape from the sometimes harsh vissicitudes of life? Is it a denial of the ebbs and flows, the inhalation and exhalation of the universe, the see-saw of highs and lows, the polarities which create the magnetic attraction and repulsion which are our very essence: our incoming and outgoing nature? Like the equator where sun rises and sets at much the same time all year, where the pull of the poles is at its least, where we can ride the line of neither north nor south, where the weather is without distinct seasons; is this what is meant by equanimity?

Is this a denial of our instincts or the transcending of them? And is that the goal as Jung would have it – to transcend the polarities? Is it a goal or is it the inevitable order of things? As we enter our twilight years, our instincts will surely diminish. We are no longer child nor parent, not even male nor female.   The final re-merging seems more certain. The acceptance of that certainty (regardless of age) may signal the turn from longing to fulfilment. Facing towards the final destination…  no longer looking back to the source but forward to it in expectant homecoming. The prayer not now the primeval scream of frustrated youth but the transcendent recognition of golden dissolution, full circle we join the reunion of belonging:

Free at last, free at last, Great Gosh Almighty, free at last!

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha!

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Reluctant Inferno

taranaki surf
As always, when the big peak set in, I needed to get on the road. Like the tall old man who walked the streets of Whangarei, from one end to the other. The story we always heard was he was walking to stay alive. If he stopped walking he would die. Maybe we would all die.  And there he was: a towering figure with big, thick-heeled shoes, slightly stooped with suspenders on his baggy gray trousers, ruby nose and cheeks and kindly eyes covered by white thinning hair. His endless quest, long suffering penance,  Atlas carrying the weight of the world, and yet time for kindly smiles to children and crumbs to passing birds.

 And so, having said my goodbyes, I set off on my trip. Always drawn to her for solace, Moana my mother, my merciless siren beckoner. It was as if Maui himself, there in the shadow of great Taranaki, reeled me in on a long line kontiki. Tree-trunk thighs embedded on flat black rock, barnacle toes, ruby red petal locks casting perfect flecks of shadow; sun one minute an aura around translucent yellow-green foliage, the next distinct bites of diamond colour-cutting radiance penetrating between the leaves, into eyelids and entering dreams.

Drawn along, a captive to the drawing,  the endlessly stretching road beyond which the sea slices the long flat sky on the horizon somewhere in the indeterminable future. The dawn, holograms of pink-blue-purple-grey-green, rhythmically thronging with a barely audible hum, angelic purring, eternal moaning, universal waves of ah and om. Legs no longer alternating planks but shimmering fire-fly circles, buzzing stars and neon twinkles. Ambulating, rotating, rolling like electric tumbleweed down the hill, reaching at last the Te Henui stream. Crossing the small encrusted rust-iron bridge. Picturing where white and tan grandfathers once rolled up trousers and sleeves, skipped stones and whistled while aproned grandmothers dished out date scones and jam on the small patch of sand next to driftwood infused pebbles and rocks which lay scattered along the river beach. Tartan rug with tied off tassled edges, thermous flask, emerald green plastic plates, collections of gathered shells and yellowing newspapers.

Further up the beach, morning surf throbbing foamy white and shiny iridescent blue. Black sand not black at all but speckled with shimmering metallics, tans and swirls of volcanic ash, like the ashes of fires we used to light up at Waiwakaiho. Thawing out after a winter surf. Our lives entwined with nature, the long iron sand beach our boundary, our marker on the edge of the void. Old dry logs like the bones of our fathers, laying around in tortured slumber, fuel for our fires and hidey holes for our clothes. Petty differences like waves looming large perhaps, but the great volcano overshadowing us all.

Paddling into the howling-offshore tubes, icy spray stinging eyes, taking off blind, loud fizzle behind the break,  instant rain shower drenching those behind, straight away clearing to powder blue winter sky, long straight silver barrel wall. Going left at the Kumera Patch, steep fast section, speed wobbling, so close to making it …but not making it. Step off awkwardly, suspended in time, fearful chastisement, unforgiving wrath, no escape, Moana’s dark and choking hold. Eyes clenched shut, waiting for her frozen fist to fall. Already stretched breath having to stretch for who knows how much further, vice-cramping calf muscles added for further punishment,  crunching-instant-furious-electric-screaming-whiplash release of energy born who knows where. Antarctica by the feel of it.

Puniho was never so fierce. Moana’s  more feminine curvature. Leisurely flanks where as if controlled by strings we could wander to the edge of her field and then cut back in towards her supportive and kneading womb. And when at times she sprung up proud out the back, as if to remind us of her great power, we paddled maniacally toward the ever upward horizon, and even as her huge ramparts collapsed right in front of us, we could just let go the board and dive deep to volcanic boulders, silent refuge to hide until the motherlode washed over, leg rope tugging us along, popping up through the foam for an urgent breath and quick look to see if she was sending another one down. We could take two or three but if it got to five, the panic could creep in.

Out of the water now, hands paralyzed with cold so we could barely undo our zips, cigarettes lit with wetsuits still on, shaking uncontrollable, loud outbursts of teeth-chatter-baby-jibberish, our primeval conversation with the fire element. A summoning perhaps to get wet dead foliage, twigs and beach offerings of old cigarette packets and icecream wrappers to kindle. More smoke than fire but with persistence a tender flame would rise. A reluctant orange-headed orphan but a potential inferno nonetheless.

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