Hiraeth

The sea calls to me, it’s true. Because it’s the only place where the other call quiets and peace crashes in.

A fear lives within, coiled deep. The eighteen year old kicking. Kick, kick, kicking. Idle as a child with a foot against a desk leg while a cloud pulls his eyes skyward. Ignored, becoming frantic like a dog left in the yard, dust settling. A howl caught in my teeth like a cough.

There’s a word for it, that homesick feeling. A heartache in your chest while you look at your family around the dinner table. Hiraeth, longing for home while sitting in the house you sweat for every week. A feeling deeper than sense and harder to explain.

Here though, I am still. Lying on the sand with my hand dug in. Cradled in the whirl of a seashell, the kicking ceases. I resist as long as I can. My eyes draw a line between the snapping red flags, hand tunnels deeper into the sand. The exquisite anticipation. Flick my gaze away as it hits the foam behind the closest wave. I know it feels like a spa, right there in the sweet spot after the crash.

Heart pulling forward in my rib cage. I know, I know. Wait. Sand fleas rising, tick against me. Wait, wait. A whif off acrid cigarette smoke stings. Don’t look where the butt lands as it’s arcs, flicked from brown fingers. Run.

Toward the sea, the laugh spat out, teeth white behind cracked lips. No flinch, legs high, skipping now. Finally a wave takes my knees and I’m diving into the foam behind it. Biting cold as I rise, the whoop hidden all winter. Clear and loud here, in this place.

A strong incoming tide pushes. I dig in, turn sideways into the next wave. It’s time for under and over, a favourite since childhood. Each one inching me closer, closer, until my feet don’t scrape the sand on the intake for the next wave. Finally. Laughing now, with waves big enough to thrill, my head ducked low with a nagging, ancient fear of surfboards. Past my comfort level, almost past caring.

Turning to look, the sand castle being slapped into place beneath my children’s hands now tall. Hidden rocks through the middle. Whoever kicks this one will hurt their spiteful toes.

Their pull is stronger than an ocean. I duck low under the next one, let it thrum along my legs. Turning, arms windmilling, I make the next one take me in. A song in my heart as they lift their heads. Mummy’s back! I’m a rock star touring home.

We turn away from her, reclutance stilled by the promise of salty chips in paper. A long hot drive home, the breathless dust as we get closer. The stink of concrete rising off the driveway.

I don’t linger in the car or rest my head upon the wheel and I don’t feel homesick as I walk into the hall, our smell smacking me in the nose. I breathe in, the salt lingers and I am home.

Brine

My son has the brine of the sea on him. I can smell it as we lay curled together on the hard bed in this borrowed house. I like it here. I have laughed more this day than I have all holidays.

I like the salt in the air, the waft of it left in the well of the sink, caught in my sunscreened elbows. I like the sand too. Gritty under my feet on the floorboards. Preferable to the trudging mud of home.

I like the drive. Windows down, all of us straining to get the first glimpse of blue as we crest the hill.

I see it! I see the ocean! There mum!

My daughter’s round nosed face always turned towards it like a beacon. So much like me, her curls whipping around her face. Smiling into the breeze, with grit in her teeth.

Sometimes I wonder if it would lose its magic, this restless beast, it we lived next to it all year round. I don’t think so. The crash calls to me. I want to walk into the sucking tide, just to see where it would take me. Roar my challenge to the wind and take a running dive. I used to just swim straight out into the sea when I was young, and the water makes me feel that reckless again. As though I am all heart, not trapped in this wide, painful vessel.

I was a lion once, I tell the sea as I pace its soft fine shore.

You could be again, it replies.